Archive for the ‘Agencies’ Category

Keeping Faith, Even When Home Is an Uncertain Place

Monday, December 9th, 2013

By John Otis

When asked to tell the story of his life and of the circumstances that left him homeless, Eugene Manu, 21, tripped over his words, his testimony stalled by moments of nervousness and trepidation, filled with false starts and constant backpedaling.

It is no wonder his thoughts could not find purchase. Mr. Manu’s meandering speech seems to reflect the fact that he’s never known any sense of stability or permanence. He is a young man who, despite a strong faith in God, and the guidance offered by certain family members, finds himself better acquainted with doubt and feelings of abandonment.

“I have never considered any place home,” he said.

Three months into Mr. Manu’s life, his mother, unmarried and barely scraping by at a minimum wage job, sent him to Ghana to live with his grandmother. He remained there for seven years before coming to the United States to join his mother in New York, where he would end up shuffled between an array of homeless shelters and foster homes, before he was returned to his grandmother’s care in Ghana at age 15.

Last spring, while living at Create, a Harlem shelter affiliated with Catholic Charities, he acquired his G.E.D. and was accepted at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. But at about the same time, he was hospitalized with pneumonia, caused by complications from the hereditary sickle cell anemia he was born with, and nearly died. “I felt like I was drifting away,” he said. “If it wasn’t for God, I would have lost my life.”

Read Mr. Manu’s story in The New York Times. Learn how Catholic Charities is helping him rebuild his life.

Growing Up Among Addicts & Gangs,Teen Finds Help

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

The journey from home to school is an effortless walk for Xavier Cruz, 14, who just strolls around the corner and down the block. But considering where he is going, he may as well be traveling to another world.

Since the sixth grade, Xavier has attended St. Ignatius School, an educational oasis in Hunts Point, a Bronx neighborhood known for rampant crime and grinding poverty.

Now, thanks to the school’s and Catholic Charities’ intervention, Xavier sidesteps the gangs that surround him. Instead he prepares for high school, then college and finally, he says, a career in computer technology to help him pull his family from these streets.

Read Xavier’s profile in today’s New York Times.

 

 

 

 

 

Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center Opens Its Doors

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center (ADCC) officially opened its doors to the community yesterday with an open house featuring performances by children from its classical and folkloric music programs, and from its partner organizations in theater and film. The Center has been operating since this past  September under the direction of Program Manager Altagracia Diloné Levat.

In addition to visual, performing, and literary arts programming, ADDC seeks to build and strengthen community
through the arts by providing capacity building support to small arts nonprofits and actively reaching out to foundation
and other private funders to bring desperately needed funding to the Heights. Housed in the beautiful Alianza Dominicana Triangle Building, ADDC will become a home for local artists committed to enriching the lives of the residents of Northern Manhattan through the arts.

In 2012, the Board of Trustees of Alianza Dominicana reached out to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York for assistance. The Alianza Board wanted to ensure that there was continuity of services and that the programming stayed in the Washington Heights community and not be lost due to the financial difficulties the organization was facing. Through negotiations with the City of New York and other funders, Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS) was assigned several contracts that maintained youth and cultural programs in the community for over 1100 youth in the Washington Heights and South Bronx communities.

“Catholic Charities is committed to ensuring that the community continues to receive, without interruption, the youth and cultural programs key to the Washington Heights area. It is important that the funding and programming stay in this community,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “Catholic Charities supports the decision of the Alianza board and looks forward to a continued collaborative partnership.”

Part of this collaboration included CCCS’ commitment to the development of designated space at the Triangle building into a Cultural Center as had been originally envisioned by Alianza Dominicana. Thanks to the support of Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, CCCS was able to get funding through the City Council to centralize the cultural programs that that had been part of Alianza Dominicana for many years, and to promote collaboration among the many cultural service providers in Washington Heights. This collaboration keeps the dream alive of having a cultural center providing art, music, and theater programming free of charge to the community.

“We are setting out to make 165th Street the cultural gateway to Washington Heights, with the Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center playing a major role in the ambitious project,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Our community has so much to offer in the way of music, art, literature, drama and dance, but too few spaces for which to showcase it all. That is why I was pleased to allocate $250,000 so a state of the art facility could house the great groups already doing amazing work in Northern Manhattan. We are keeping Alianza alive through the rich culture that blends so many communities together to make Washington Heights a beacon of the arts in New York City.”

ADCC’s 2013 – 2014 season is a testament to this commitment. For its premier season, the Center has partnered with several well-known cultural organizations in Washington Heights: the Association of Dominican Classical Artists and its Washington Heights Community Conservatory and Camerata Washington Heights, the People’s Theatre Project, KidCinema Fest and Dominican Film Festival, and the Conjunto Folklórico of Catholic Charities Community Services/Alianza Youth Services Division.

“This beautiful space was filled with children learning to make music and joyfully playing theatrical games while learning about healthy habits, all thanks to our partnership with the Washington Heights Community Conservatory and the People’s Theatre Project. These are just two of the many small, arts organizations in Northern Manhattan doing the work with little or no institutional support, said Altagracia Diloné Levat. “It is a great honor to have the opportunity to lead this effort to realize Alianza Dominicana’s vision for a multicultural center– with a focus on Afro-Dominican artistic traditions– in the heart of its Triangle Building. This new beginning would not have been possible without the support of Catholic Charities Community Services and for that, our community is deeply grateful.”

Alianza Cultural Center’s mission is to produce literary, performing, and visual arts programs; to support and strengthen community cultural programs and institutions in Washington Heights and Inwood; and to serve as a home to local artists committed to enriching the lives of Northern Manhattan residents through the arts. Alianza Cultural Center is a multicultural project, celebrating Dominican, Latino, and Latin American cultures, with a special focus on Afro-Dominican artistic traditions in our own programming. The Center’s physical space comprises the beautiful second floor gala/exhibition space, two performing arts studios and a large multipurpose space in the lower level, the lobby exhibition space, and the spectacular rooftop terrace.

A Coat of Paint, a Salad of Kale and a Birthday Wish

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Sometimes, all it takes is a coat of paint, a fresh salad or a birthday wish to make a big difference in a person’s life.  Just ask volunteers from Young & Rubicam, one of the world’s largest ad agencies, and Credit Suisse, the multinational financial services holding company.

They rolled up their sleeves in late October to team up with Catholic Charities and serve the mentally challenged, the deaf, the elderly and poor.

Eleven volunteers from Young & Rubicam painted 13 bedrooms plus a dining room at Catholic Charities Beacon of Hope House Terrence Cardinal Cooke Residence, a group home in the Bronx that provides supported housing for deaf and  hard of hearing, mentally ill adults.

Five more Young & Rubicam volunteers threw a birthday party at Catholic Charities’ Lott Residence, a home for the elderly in Harlem, to honor seniors with October birthdays and share the cake, lunch, dancing and festivities with fellow senior residents who have birthdays throughout the year.

Meanwhile, 17 volunteers from Credit Suisse sponsored a Healthy Living Workshop for 50 food pantry clients at Catholic Charities’ Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Community Center in Central Harlem.  Backing up a chef from Just Food, an organization that empowers people to eat better to lead healthier lives, the volunteers cut kale, pulled out pomegranate seeds and helped prepare fresh salads sprinkled with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  They topped off the day by distributing to the seniors goodie bags filled with the salad ingredients, salad spinners and other prizes.

“I was grateful not just to see how reinvigorated the seniors seemed from this attention but to see the change that happened in volunteers who were giving back,” said Feeding Our Neighbors Program Manager Lizaura German. “So many said they’d donated funds but never before got to rub shoulders one – on- one with those they serve.”

Feeding Our Neighbors Program Director Jeanne McGettigan said, “International finance and a Harlem food pantry are two very different, mostly separate worlds.  It’s hard to say who took away the most from this day, but I saw smiles all around and it felt great.”

Interested in making Quinoa Salad with Kale and Sprouted Mung Beans? 

Get your recipe here.

 

What You Need to Know About Hurricane Sandy One Year Anniversary Events

Monday, October 21st, 2013

By Alice Kenny

As the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches on October 29, Catholic Charities joins clergy and laity to celebrate survivors and draw attention to their remaining needs.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be the principal celebrant of a First Anniversary Hurricane Sandy Mass of Remembrance on Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. at Our Lady Star of the Sea R.C. Church in Huguenot, reports the Staten Island Advance.

The cardinal plans to honor the victims, survivors and the relief efforts of the Island’s Roman Catholic churches and Catholic Charities.

Meanwhile, the March of Dimes at its upcoming gala plans to honor Joseph Panepinto, executive director of Staten Island Catholic Charities, and San Diego Padres’ pitcher Jason Marquis with Humanitarian Awards for their work on behalf of Sandy survivors.

Read more in the Staten Island Advance about why Joseph Panepinto received this award.

Check out the Staten Island Advance for a list of upcoming Sandy One Year Anniversary events.

Donning Plastic Aprons and Delivering Pasta; Catholic Charities Teams with POTS with Their Recipe for Success.

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Donning plastic aprons and matching gloves, 12 volunteers, all staff from Catholic Charities, served 530 lunches last week to homeless, poor and working-poor Bronx residents in POTS community dining room.

“You get the feeling you’re helping people and find a new appreciation for what you have,” said one of the volunteers, Catholic Charities Accounts Clerk Santa Rivera.

POTS, short for Part of the Solution, provides hot, healthy meals to its “guests” seven days a week in a bright, airy space furnished with small tables that give it the feel of a neighborhood café.   The nonprofit organization serves as a “one-stop shop” that provides a wide array of assistance programs under one roof.  Its  goal and success comes from moving its guests from crises to stability and, ultimately, to self sufficiency.  In addition to the community dining room, POTS offers a food pantry, clothing program, hair cuts, health care, mail service, family club, case management services and a legal clinic.

Serving guests at the table as if it were a restaurant, Catholic Charities volunteers participated in POTS’ model of upholding client dignity.  When guests arrived, the volunteers delivered beverages and brought plates brimming with pasta and vegetables. Behind the scenes, volunteers sorted bread, prepped food and washed dishes with POTS staff. And after guests left, they cleared  tables, swept, mopped and took out the garbage.

Meanwhile, fellow Catholic Charities volunteers stocked the POTS Food Pantry, a grocery-store style pantry that invites those in need to walk its aisles and “shop”  for the produce, dairy, canned and packaged items they need to prepare balanced meals in their own homes.

Catholic Charities staff said their volunteer experience made lasting memories.

“We were able to see how great an impact our small amount of volunteering has on people’s lives,” said Catholic Charities Accounts Payable Coordinator Monica Parra. “And we saw how people were so grateful that we were there to help.”

Looking  for help or want to volunteer at POTS?

Click here to learn more.

North Bronx Social Service Agency is More Than Just

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

By Ben Ros

One Bronx nonprofit, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity, continues to make the news. Here it is, in case you missed it on PBS’s Metrofocus.

Part of the Solution (POTS) opened in 1982 as a standard soup kitchen but has since expanded their scope of services to provide not only food through their restaurant-style community dining room and food pantry, but increasingly, everything the homeless or working poor need. Their services range from case management and legal advice to hot showers, haircuts, clothing, and a mailing address.

The diversity of services offered stems from a holistic philosophy that is central to the community values that POTS fosters. For those starting from zero, some of these basic services make all the difference. The simple chance to sit down in the barber’s chair and tell your story, or be recognized by your postman can inspire the courage and confidence it takes to work through hard times.

POTS’s true value to those it serves is being a safe, judgment-free space to fulfill one’s basic needs while respecting individuals’ dignity. “Personal dignity is really the one quality that I think people need to take each next progressive step in their life,” said Chris Bean, Executive Director of POTS, a sentiment that parallels one of the central doctrines of the catechism.

To learn more about POTS and how you can help, visit potsbronx.org.

President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Catholic Charities Case Manager Tanya Thomas Share Stage

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Catholic Charities case manager Tanya Thomas, a gold star military spouse and the first graduate of Grace’s training program, part of a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to assist female veterans and their families, shared the stage with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the third annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting held in Chicago. The meeting drew together experts from across the nation to develop solutions that promote economic recovery, such as the Grace Institute training program that helped Ms. Thomas find work.

Hillary Clinton introduced Ms. Thomas and Jolene Varley Handy, Grace Institute’s Sr. Director of Strategic Partnerships. Ms. Thomas wore a palm-colored dress and jacket.  Ms. Varley Handy wore a black dress and green jacket.  And yes; Ms. Clinton wore a blue pants suit.

Ms. Thomas was the only client presenter at the two-day conference.  She shared in front of 2000 guests her story about how her life was transformed by Grace Institute and the Catholic Charities case manager job she landed as a result.

“Veterans often face difficulty matching civilian skills to civilian work and they can face health challenges such as post traumatic stress,” Ms. Thomas told the audience. “These obstacles affect not only our veterans but their families as well.

“My husband was a disabled vet and taking  care of him took me out of the workforce for eight years…Grace Institute was my beacon of hope providing me with resources to reenter the work force.”

Her experience at Grace Institute and its close connections with Catholic Charities helped her land her current job here.

Grace Institute, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, has been providing tuition-free job-training skills for women in New York City for more than 100 years. Through this commitment to action, Grace is now reaching out to serve female veterans and military families to assist with  the transition to life off base and the civilian workforce. The program includes intensive computer, business writing and career development classes.  It prepares students for interviews and draws on its extensive lists of employer contacts to arrange meetings and help the students find work.

Watch and listen to Ms. Thomas on “Together We Can:  Driving a Future of Shared Responsibility and Shared Benefit.”

Check out this recent interview with Grace Institute’s Tanya Lynn Thomas, as she speaks with Msgr. Kevin Sullivan on JustLove on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio.  JustLove airs weekly on Saturday at 10am EST on The Catholic Channel 129.

Are you an unemployed woman looking to brush up your skills and find a job?

Click to learn more about Grace Institute, its special program for female veterans and their families and all its tuition-free job-training programs for New York City women.

Excessive Heat Warning Issued

Friday, July 19th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Forecasting hot, humid weather today that will feel like 106 degrees, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning. This is the sixth day of a long and dangerous heat wave that threatens our most vulnerable residents. Catholic Charities is teaming up with fellow social service agencies and New York City to help keep you cool.

PLEASE JOIN US BY WATCHING OUT FOR YOUR NEIGHBORS IN NEED:

  • Check in on vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbors.
  • Make a special effort to support seniors, young children, and people with special needs to get to a cool place or medical attention if they need it.
  • Remember that free Cooling Centers are in and near your local neighborhood and there are many ways to stay safe during the heat.
  • Sign up for Notify NYC to receive Office of Emergency Management (OEM) notifications (call 311 or go to www.nyc.gov/oem)

FIND A COOLING CENTER NEAR YOU:

  • Call 311 or enter your address in the Cooling Center Finder on www.nyc.gov/oem.
  • Be sure to call and confirm the center is open before traveling in the heat.
  • Agencies providing Cooling Center facilities are:
    • NYC Department for the Aging
    • New York City Housing Authority
    •  NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Brooklyn Public Library
    • New York Public Library
    • Queens Library
    • The Salvation Army

 QUICK HEAT-BEATING TIPS:

  •  If possible, stay out of the sun.
  •  When in the sun, wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head.
  •  Use an air conditioner if you have one. Set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
  •  If you do not have an air conditioner, keep rooms well-ventilated with open windows and fans. Consider going to a public pool, air-conditioned store, mall, movie theater, or cooling center.
  •  Fans work best at night, when they can bring in cooler air from outside.
  •  Seniors and others who may be sensitive to extreme heat should contact friends, neighbors, or relatives at least twice a day during a heat wave.
  •  Drink fluids – particularly water – even if you do not feel thirsty.
  •  Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar. People with heart, kidney or liver disease, or on fluid restricted diets should check with their doctors before increasing fluid intake.
  •  Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
  •  Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car during periods of intense summer heat.
  •  Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun’s peak hours – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Cool showers or baths may be helpful, but avoid extreme temperature changes. Never take a shower immediately after becoming overheated – extreme temperature changes may make you ill, nauseated, or dizzy.

 WORRIED THAT YOU MAY BE SUFFERING FROM HEAT RELATED ILLNESS?

 Seek help if you feel these symptoms:

  • Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms, usually in the leg or stomach muscles, resulting from heavy exertion during extreme heat.

Although heat cramps are the least severe of all heat-related health problems, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble coping with the heat and should be treated immediately with rest and fluids. Stretching, gentle massaging of the spasms, or direct, firm pressure on cramps can reduce pain. Seek medical attention if pain is severe or nausea occurs.

  • Heat exhaustion occurs when body fluids are lost through heavy sweating due to vigorous exercise or working in a hot, humid place.

Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to vital organs to decrease. Symptoms include: sweating, pale and clammy skin, fatigue, headache, dizziness, shallow breaths, and a weak pulse. Heat exhaustion should be treated with rest in a cool area, sipping water or electrolyte solutions, applying cool and wet cloths, elevating the feet 12 inches, and further medical treatment in severe cases. If not treated, the victim’s condition may escalate to heat stroke. If the victim does not respond to basic treatment, seek medical attention. Heat exhaustion usually occurs when the heat index is between 90 and 105 degrees.

 Heat stroke — also called “sunstroke” — occurs when the victim’s temperature control system, which produces perspiration to cool the body, stops working. The skin is flushed, hot and dry, and body temperature may be elevated. In fact, body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. The victim may also be confused, develop seizures, breathe shallowly, and have a weak, rapid pulse. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and people exhibiting its symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.

  •  Hot summer weather can increase ozone levels.

Ozone, a major component of smog, is created in the presence of sunlight by reactions of chemicals found in gasoline vapors and emissions from cars and industrial smoke stacks.

WHAT ABOUT AIR QUALITY?

When ozone levels in the unhealthy range are expected, New Yorkers are advised to limit vigorous outdoor physical activity during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are at their highest.

If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, stay in an area where it is cool and the air is filtered or air-conditioned. Outdoor exercise should be scheduled for the morning hours whenever possible.

Children are generally more at risk to the effects of ozone, especially in the summer as children tend to spend more time outdoors.

People who exercise moderately (such as jogging) are also at risk, because breathing rate increases with exercise and the amount of ozone delivered into the lung per minute increases.

Additionally, ozone can have a dramatic effect on people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or those sensitive to ozone.

 Symptoms associated with unhealthy levels of ozone include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing & wheezing
  • Lung & nasal congestion
  • Labored breathing
  • Nausea
  • Eye & nose irritation
  • Faster breathing
  • Sore throat

High ozone levels can also decrease lung function, increase susceptibility to respiratory infection, and aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Schedule outdoor exercise and children’s outdoor activities for the morning hours. Individuals who experience respiratory symptoms or chest pain should consult their doctors.

 To help reduce ozone levels:

  •  Avoid driving, especially on hot summer days. Use mass transit, walk, or carpool instead.
  •  Be careful not to spill gasoline and fill your gas tank during the cooler evening hours.
  •  Keep your car properly tuned and maintained.
  •  Seal containers of household cleaners, solvents, and chemicals to prevent evaporation of chemicals that can contribute to ozone formation.

 NEED MORE INFORMATION about heat safety and how you can prepare for emergencies?

Call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/oem

Tired of Red Tape?

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Faced with an eviction notice, the declining health of an aging parent, recovery from a flood, or other tough problems?  It’s easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed trying to navigate the very systems that are supposed to help.

Catholic Charities provides compassionate, coordinated help from high-quality, knowledgeable professionals.

Catholic Charities’ assistance can take many forms:

  •  a recent immigrant can be provided with legal services in order to obtain work authorization
  • an unemployed new mother can be enrolled in resume writing and interview skills workshops
  • a father seeking to reunite with his children in foster care can take parenting skills classes

And that’s just for starters.

We assist individuals and families deal with multiple, overlapping problems and negotiate bureaucratic red tape. Sometimes, this can mean the difference between getting the help needed and simply giving up.

To find a Catholic Charities agency that offers coordinating services click here.

If you need help in finding the services you need please call the Catholic Charities Help line at: 888-744-7900.