Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

It Takes A lot to Humble Yourself

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Lizzie  Sister ShyneBy Alice Kenny

Moms and children hungry, struggling and embarrassed by their need: these are some of Lizaura German’s earliest memories.

Lizzie practically grew up at the Catholic Charities food pantry  in Washington Heights.   Her mother, the site’s longest volunteer – 36 years and counting – brought Lizzie along when she was just past kindergarten age to help out in their neighborhood center.

Those served felt comfortable sharing their fears and tears with the then-little girl.

“It takes a lot to humble yourself to let people what know what you’re going through,” Lizzie says, recalling what she learned from an early age.  “There is a lot of pride involved because people want to fix things themselves.  When people finally express their need you don’t want them to lose hope.

“A food pantry,” she adds,  “is not just a bag of food, it’s a doorway for helping clients.”

As program manager for Catholic Charities Feeding Our Neighbors program, Lizzie enters this doorway daily, sometimes seven days a week.  She oversees nearly half of Catholic Charities food pantries plus three soup kitchens – more than 30 all told – commuting from the Catskill mountains to Staten Island along with the Bronx, Manhattan and, of course, Washington Heights.

The job, she says, relies nearly as much on diplomacy as it does on knowledge.  Most food pantry staff are volunteers including retirees from Wall Street. So while they are committed to helping their community, these volunteers are also accustomed to taking charge.  Lizzie makes sure volunteers feel appreciated while guiding them to listen to those on food pantry lines and make sure they connect them to the breadth of services Catholic Charities offers.

“Clients come in for a bag of food,” Lizzie says as she exchanges smiles with an elderly woman entering the food pantry.  “But meanwhile, their lights are being turned off or they’re being evicted.  We need to make sure the client feels comfortable enough to express that to the volunteer.”

With a masters degree  in public administration from Baruch College, a background that includes a stint at the United Nations, and a dad who works as executive sous chef at the famed Carmine’s restaurant in Greenwich Village, Lizzie could likely land a job almost anywhere.

But her commitment, she says, is to those she serves at Catholic Charities.

“My job is to be the voice of the client,” she say, “because there is nothing worse than losing a client or knowing that a client was not fully helped.”

Nonagenarian Celebrates Birthday Volunteering

Friday, August 1st, 2014

DSCF4004By Alice Kenny

Nonagenarian. What’s that?

And what kind of way is that to celebrate a birthday?

Well, for Virginia Suppies, our nonagenarian — AKA – she just turned 90 — volunteering at the Catholic Charities Ulster County Food Pantry was the perfect way to celebrate her big day.

Similar to Ms. Suppies – and her birthday party choice — the food pantry is special.  Located at 6 Adams St. in Kingston, N.Y. it is a full “Client Choice” food pantry.  Clients comb the aisles as if they were shopping at a mini grocery store, filling their carts with everything from canned goods to fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry.

Volunteering at the food pantry is Ms. Suppies’ way of giving back, she says.  An added bonus is the friends she has made.

On her big day, the entire Ulster County Catholic Charities staff joined to wish her a happy birthday, share her ice cream birthday cake, give her a house plant and cheer as she tried on her newest gift and fashion statement, a Catholic Charities jacket.

“Virginia is one of our many dedicated volunteers that come to give their time and energy to help feed more than 1800 families in need, says Catholic Charities Ulster County Regional Director Tom Kelly. “She does it with care and compassion to everyone.”

Fordham University Teams with Catholic Charities to Bring Art to Those in Need

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Photo Credit: Fordham Notes

“Staci Bruce remembers seeing the pictures in a hospital some years ago,” reports Patrick Verel this week in Fordham Notes, Fordham University News and Media Relations Bureau news blog. “Pastoral scenes, animals, still life, all created to lend a sense of peace, calm, and comfort to an otherwise stressful environment.”

Why, she wondered, couldn’t clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York also benefit from brightly colored artwork in its facilities?

So in 2013, Bruce, the agency’s director of volunteer services, began soliciting artists’ designs for therapeutic art that could hang in its various facilities.

Artists Olivia Servais and Mackensie Leigh answered the call, and on July 17, members of Fordham’s Office of Development and University Relations (DAUR) paid a visit to Catholic Charities’ offices to help replicate their work. After tracing the outlines of the art on to square wood-and-cloth canvases, DAUR members used watercolors and sharpies to fill in the blues, reds, yellows, and greens of the collages.

Bruce said the canvases will be hung in facilities that are home to Beacon of Hope, an assisted living facility for 400 adults with severe mental illnesses; Catholic Guardian Services, which provides foster care services; and Incarnation Children’s Center, a nursing facility that provides specialized care for children and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS.

Beacon of Hope, she said, was the first to receive art, and the response was so positive that organizers at other programs began asking for pieces as well. In addition to the assembled canvases, Bruce has arranged for traditional outdoor murals to be painted on-site at the Incarnation Children’s Center.

“It’s an easy, fun way for groups to get together and contribute to the program,” she said.

Check out the full story in Fordham Notes.

Click here for more Catholic Charities volunteer opportunities.

Can You Tell a Story?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

03_Guild for the BlindCan you tell an exciting “story” just by using words?

Xavier Society for the Blind provides books and periodicals on audio CDs for those who cannot read Braille or who prefer to listen to materials.

Work on your own schedule, out of your own home, any time in the day or night.

As a volunteer, you read books aloud using their home computers or personal digital recording devices with a headset microphone.

Materials and a style sheet will be sent to you. Programs and equipment (headset and microphone) can be supplied if needed.  Our IT Director will work with you to make sure the programs are properly installed.

Skill Needed:  Strong command of the English language.

Find out more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Health Ambassadors and Queens and Kings for a Day

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

kennedy_centerBy Alice Kenny

On June 6, one hundred and sixty volunteers from the national consulting firm Deloitte fanned out to more than a dozen separate site locations affiliated with Catholic Charities. Below is the fourth installment in a series about their adventures and a glimpse at the large amount that together we can accomplish.

Hobbling on walkers with shopping carts dragged behind, 60 low-income elderly men and women served by the food bank and senior center at Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem were turned into health ambassadors and Queens and Kings for a Day.

At this Healthy Food and Fun event, 15 Deloitte volunteers pitched in with Catholic Charities staff to convert the Kennedy Center auditorium into a health fair and fitness center.  There were exercise stations, hands on cooking presentations in Spanish and English and, best of all, a luncheon feast.

“This is outside the box,” said Catholic Charities Division Director Dianne Johnson as she helped stuff participants’ goodie bags with colanders, cutting boards, vegetables and more.

“Today was not just talking about nutrition but experiencing it.  It ties together everything we do.”

Join us in Feeding Our Neighbors.

Through Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble, Immigrants Learn How to Spell “SUCCESS”

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

DDAY Monopoly International CenterBy Alice Kenny

On June 6, 160 volunteers from the national consulting firm Deloitte fanned out to more than a dozen separate site locations affiliated with Catholic Charities. Below is the third installment in a series about their adventures and a glimpse at the large amount that together we can accomplish.

Who was the murderer, Professor Plum or Colonel Mustard? And who was the winner, the guy who kept passing “Go” to collect $200 or the luckless fellow sent straight to jail?

Thirty recently arrived immigrants faced off against 14 Deloitte volunteers with Monopoly, Clue, and fellow board games favorites to find out. They played for four hours straight — barely breaking for their catered lunch — motivated as much by winning as by the chance to polish their English and learn about American culture.

For just $250 — the cost of six board games and lunch — plus invaluable time donated by Deloitte staff, Deloitte underwrote a day of play at Catholic Charities New International Center, a day that broke down barriers and a day that few who were there will forget.
Located at 80 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan, the International Center offers job readiness, English language and educational enrichment opportunities.

Lean In

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

impactdaycollageBy Alice Kenny

On June 6, one hundred and sixty volunteers from the national consulting firm Deloitte ventured away from their offices and fanned out to more than a dozen separate site locations affiliated with Catholic Charities and its social service programs. Below is the last installment in a series about their adventures. It offers a glimpse at the large amount that together we can accomplish.

At Catholic Charities Alianza Division in Washington Heights where per–capita income is half the New York average, Deloitte volunteers staged mock interviews with students, provided resume-writing one-on-ones and offered personalized job skills training. Meanwhile, low-income women who study at Grace Institute, a Catholic Charities affiliate that provides tuition-free job training took advantage of similar mock-interviews, career panels and networking opportunities thanks to Deloitte volunteers stationed there. “I volunteered here today because this is something I’m passionate about,” said Deloitte Consulting LLP Director Oliver Siodmak in the once grand but now aging George Washington High School auditorium where the student program was held.

“Everyone has potential.” Help people meet their potential. Share your talents, time or voice.

Blind Immigrants Tour Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

On June 6th one hundred and sixty volunteers from the national consulting firm Deloitte ventured away from their offices and gathered at more than a dozen separate site locations affiliated with Catholic Charities and its social service programs.

The combined effort of so many volunteers at so many different locations in a single day made a visible impact on those we serve. During the following weeks we will offer a glimpse at their adventures and at the large amount that together we can accomplish.

Blind, poor, many fleeing oppression from another nation and most barely able to speak English, 12 adults huddled around the red granite sarcophagus of Usermontu, the First Prophet of Muntu, and gasped.

“Oh, I love this,” said Lordina Osei–Ofori as a Metropolitan Museum of Art museum guide encouraged her to feel inside the 4,000-year-old coffin and search for inscriptions.

Most of the tour participants had never before been inside a museum. Yet here they were in the largest museum in the nation, the 10th largest in the world, thanks to Catholic Charities Guild for the Blind and navigational support from six Deloitte volunteers.

Watch our slideshow as together participants master city streets, subways and art.

 

With Palettes & Paint Volunteers Transform Traumatized Lives

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

MDB_0974By Alice Kenny

Seventeen employees from Deloitte, a national business consulting firm, traded in their desk jobs on June 6, 2014 to transform a drab waiting room wall at Catholic Guardian Services’ Parenting Resource Center in the Bronx into a fantasy playground filled with smiling children swinging from trees.

“The murals are a way for people to see that we care about them,” says Catholic Guardian Services Executive Director Craig Longley as he steps back to admire the new mural, “that we’re there  to promote healthy family relations and help them heal.”

Today one of the largest providers of foster care services in New York State, Catholic Guardian Services stretches back to the turn of the nineteenth century when members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society established it as the first agency in the United States to place orphans in homes rather than institutions.  It now includes four New York City satellite offices with rooms for family visits, foster family training and therapeutic services.

“Everyone who comes here is traumatized, whether they are children, parents or caregivers,” Mr. Longley says.  “To be separated from your family for even a day is traumatizing.”

That is why, he adds, that when he learned that as a Catholic Charities sponsored agency he could have volunteers at his disposal, he jumped at the plan to paint this mural.

This is not the first time Catholic Guardian Services teamed with volunteers provided by Catholic Charities to transform a room into a fantasy and hopefully, Mr. Longley says, will not be the last.  In January, volunteers from FINO Consulting spent the day painting jungle scenes on interior walls at the agency’s office on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx.

Despite their artsy appearance decked with pallets and paint, most of the volunteers readily admit to felling more comfortable in suits than painters’ aprons.  Similar to the waiting room, the volunteers’ work-a-day lives are transformed thanks to prep work by true artist volunteers whose mural design is projected on to the agency’s freshly painted sky-blue wall.

The volunteers just follow a basic paint-by-numbers design and -voila! – the walls are made over into a Disney-like dream.

For the corporate volunteers, the day offers a chance to stretch their talents and help those in need.

And for those served by Catholic Guardian Services, the donated art serves as an uplifting reminder that people, many of whom they never meet, care enough to brighten their lives.

“This is a place of healing for traumatized people,” Mr. Longley says, “and this joyful art fosters that process.”

Artistic or not, you can make a difference.

Check out our comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities.

Come join us. Sign up now.

Catholic Charities Marches with Puerto Rican Day Parade

Monday, June 9th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Cheered by NYC Hispanic Society Sanitation Department members seated atop a sanitation truck, serenaded by DJs blasting salsa music and wedged between Goya and Coca-Cola floats, Catholic Charities joined the National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 8, 2014 to celebrate Puerto Rican pride, drum up support to feed our hungry neighbors and promote the vast array of services we provide those in need.

As hundreds of thousands of marchers and onlookers packed Manhattan’s 5th Avenue, Catholic Charities staff distributed prayer cards, fans and memorabilia complete with Catholic Charities phone numbers to draw attention to the growing hunger crisis and let New Yorkers know how to contact us for help.

Like the Puerto Rican community, Catholic Charities is part of the fabric of New York City.  For more than 100 years, Catholic Charities has helped solve the problems of New Yorkers in need, non-Catholics and Catholics alike.  The neglected child, the homeless family and the hungry senior among those who rely on us for help.

But with poverty up and food stamps (now called S.N.A.P.) down due to recent federal cuts, lines are growing at Catholic Charities food pantries across the archdiocese.   Hunger has exploded throughout New York; one out of nearly every two children in the largely Hispanic community of East Harlem lives in poverty.

Our Feeding Our Neighbors Campaign is fighting back with a goal of raising enough funds to provide one million meals for the hungry.  The Goya Corporation made a significant dent in this goal, splitting a donation of 5,000 pounds of rice, beans and specialty foods between Catholic Charities St. Cecilia’s food pantry in East Harlem and a food pantry run by Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

Find your friends in our Puerto Rican Day Parade slide show.

Join us in feeding our neighbors.

Do you need help?

Call

  • Our Catholic Charities Help Line at 888-744-7900
  • Our New York State (NYS) New Americans Hotline: 212-419-3737 or 1-800-566-7636 (Toll-free in NYS)

Find out more here.