Archive for the ‘Feeding the Hungry and Sheltering the Homeless’ Category

Trading Places: From Food Pantry Recipient to Volunteer to Staffer

Friday, August 29th, 2014

IMG_6725smBy Alice Kenny

Once a food bank recipient, today a staffer at the same food bank, Margarita Peralta knows firsthand how much better it is to give than to receive.

“I remember as far back as when I was eight, when my mom would take me to the Catholic Charities food pantry in Washington Heights and, unlike at the store, they’d give us all this stuff for free. Then we’d go home and my mom would line everything up on the table – tuna, chicken, rice, beans.

“We were happy but still it felt weird. I wondered what it would be like to be on the other side, to be the one giving the food instead of getting it.”

Now she knows.

The first in her family to go to college, Margarita took time off from her junior year at SUNY Potsdam to nurse her dad whose health has been eaten away by diabetes.

To fill out her days, she volunteered at the same food pantry she and her mom used to visit. She helped Catholic Charities computerize its once manual food tallies, working so hard and so often at registering new clients that Catholic Charities recently offered her a full-time job.

Evolving from recipient to volunteer to staffer, she offers a special perspective on the benefits and challenges related to each role.

Her parents were hard working immigrants from the Dominican Republic who never wanted to ask for help, she says. But illness diverted their race towards the American dream.

Her mother, a home health aide, had to quit her just-above minimum wage job to regularly rush Margarita as a child to the E.R. for treatment for sickle cell anemia, a chronic disease shared by one out of every 20 Dominican New Yorkers.

Her father, meanwhile, once a supermarket delivery driver, had his vision and much of his kidney function stolen by diabetes, another illness that strikes 10-percent of New York state’s population.

“He was always a working man but lost his license because he can barely see,” Margarita says, grabbing a napkin to cover her tears. “It’s a shock to see him go from being so active to just lying in bed.”

She inherited her parents’ work ethic, donating more than 100 hours to the food pantry during the winter months.

“I like the environment, the way staff and people served are so close and friendly,” she says. “It feels like a big family.”

She likes it so much, she added, that she plans to transfer to a city college so she can continue working for Catholic Charities, complete her studies and care for her dad.

“It brings joy when I know that I’m feeding someone that can’t feed themselves. Because my mom, dad and I have been in that position, it’s interesting to now see how for others, also, a bag of food can make someone so happy.”

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.”

Shootin’ School – and That’s the Good News

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

shootin school 2014 picture 1st week

By Alice Kenny

It may be time for a new name – but certainly not a new focus – for the Shootin’ School, a program that partners with Catholic Charities CYO in Staten Island to help children perfect their basketball moves while encouraging them to rally around those in need.

Throughout the summer, children grades three through eight participated in four-day clinics to perfect their layups, free throws and all-round basketball shooting. Several of the children come from low-income families. They received scholarships so they could play with their classmates and peers.

Then, last week, on the program’s final day its founder, Anthony Passalaqua, provided the players with pizza lunch in return for food they brought to help replenish the Catholic Charities food pantry in Port Richmond.

Potential Pope Visit ‘a Blessing’ for New Yorkers

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

By Mike Vlensky

Wall Street Journal

“Catholic New Yorkers expressed high hopes after Pope Francis said Monday he might visit New York City, which would mark the first papal visit since 2008,” reports Mike Vilensky on August 20, 2014 in the Wall Street Journal.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, an umbrella organization that encompasses 90 agencies serving people throughout the New York Archdiocese, said the new pope’s messages on peace and inequality have spurred a renewed enthusiasm and commitment among donors and charity workers alike.

‘There are no plans yet,’ said Msgr. Sullivan of the possible New York trip, but the tradition has been that if a pope comes to address the United Nations, he usually also makes side trips into the community.

Among the projects on Msgr. Sullivan’s wish list: taking the pope to see children who have fled desperate situations in Central America, visits to homeless shelters and to meet ‘New Yorkers who struggle to have a decent meal at the end of the day.’

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

Catholic Charities Orange County Aces Golf Outing

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

timesheraldrecordgolf
The eighth annual golf outing held by Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County net $27,000, announced the agency’s Executive Director Dr. Dean Scher and the event’s Chairman Tom Larsen, Esq. Funds raised go directly toward supporting Catholic Charities’ programs and services in Orange County.

The outing, held at West Hills Country Club, a part of the Bonura Hospitality Group, in Middletown, brought in 109 golfers. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York was the event’s lead sponsor.

“The annual Catholic Charities outing is more than just a fun day on the golf course with friends and colleagues. It’s a way to lend a helping hand to the neediest in our community – the more than 24,000 people who access Catholic Charities’ programs each year,” said Larsen. “We are grateful for the support from our sponsors, golfers, raffle donors, committee members, and volunteers who generously donated time, talent, and funds to make our 2014 annual golf outing a success.”

Catholic Charities Community Services of Orange County, one of the human service agencies of Catholic Charities of The Archdiocese of New York, is committed to building a compassionate and just society, serving the homeless, the hungry, the emotionally and physically handicapped, immigrants, the marginalized and vulnerable of Orange County. It collaborates with parishes and non-Catholic and Catholic partners and helps people of all religions who are in need.

For more information, visit www.catholiccharitiesoc.org.

Why Amanda Weber Runs For Team Catholic Charities: No Joke…Well, Maybe a Couple

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Amanda runningBy Amanda Weber

I have been a long standing admirer of Catholic Charities, inspired by the work they have done for Catholics and non-Catholics alike in the greatest city of the world. From finding people homes, to providing care and job training, to helping our city recover from Sandy, the significant impact Catholic Charities has had is undeniable. I am thrilled to be a part of it.

This is my first year as an “adult”, and while my family has been involved with Catholic Charities New York for some time, I wanted to make my own contribution to the honorable cause. When the chance to run in the marathon arose, I knew it was the perfect opportunity.

What better way than to leverage my athletic prowess? But seriously to me it is the opportunity to use a sport that I love and has helped me through the stress of exams (always running away from homework), my ice cream addiction, and the post college sports slump to contribute to a cause I truly believe in.

I knew it was going to be a commitment when I decided to run, and it certainly has been. There have been some struggles—phone down, hurting knees — but on any of those days when I struggled my family (Mom, Dad, JB, John, and Aimee) helped me through. They have been extremely supportive and encouraging. And I’ve even nearly gotten over the embarrassment of having an earlier “bedtime” than my parents in preparation for those 4:30am runs #oldperson.

Training has been underway for quite some time, but the initial excitement has not warn off. I am so excited to be a part of such an incredible event for such an amazing cause.

Got to run,

Amanda

Check out Amanda’s Crowdrise page and help her raise funds for Team Catholic Charities.

Find out why Rusty McGranahan is running the NYC Marathon with Team Catholic Charities

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

20140622_135749By Rusty McGranahan

I have raced in a number of marathons and triathlons, including  two full Ironman races, but so far not one homeless person, research team, student or child has benefited from my narcissistic quest to stem the tide of middle age.

This year I am trying to be a little different and am proud to be running the New York City Marathon for Catholic Charities of New York.  I have always considered Catholic Charities to be a key part of the support system in all the cities they serve and the organization is a natural extension of my family’s active involvement with our parish and the Catholic schools my three children attend – St. Ignatius Loyola and Regis High School.

To up the ante, I am making two pledges to those sponsoring me in this effort:

1) I will personally match the first $1,000 in donations on my page, and

2) I will work like crazy to achieve one of my life time goals of finishing in under 3 hours.  (I have a lot of work to do on this one.)

I encourage all of my family, friends and colleagues to give something and give generously via the following link:

www.crowdrise.com/TeamCatholicCharities2014/fundraiser/rustymcgranahan

Pregnant and Sleeping in Parks

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

mocha-goodcounselBy Alice Kenny

Worn out, desperate and five months pregnant, Mocha slept in parks, shelters, subways – any place she could find — before she found her way to Good Counsel Homes, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

“I felt like I was the lowest of the lows,” she says, her brown eyes batting back tears.

Her experience is typical of women served by Good Counsel Homes, says its co-founder and Executive Director Christopher Bell as he steers a 2008 blue KIA minivan, dropping off donations of diapers, baby food and changing tables at Good Counsel Homes in Spring Valley, Harrison, Hoboken and the South Bronx.

“Women who come to us are all in crisis,” he says. “Their boyfriends told them to have an abortion.  Their moms threw them out when their babies were born.  Fewer than half have high school degrees.  Our job is to help them rebuild their lives.”

Counting Mocha, Good Counsel Homes has rebuilt nearly 6,000 lives since it began in 1984.  Similar to most, Mocha stayed there for nearly a year and a half.  She gave birth to her baby, worked two jobs, studied to become an electrocardiogram technician and learned how to be a mom.

“As soon as I stepped through the door I felt I had a home where I could get back on my feet,” she says.

Begun in a converted convent with a lot of help and little money, Good Counsel Homes now networks with maternity homes throughout the nation.

But, Mr. Bell says, it is caring for a single lonely mom and a single helpless baby that matters  most.  For Mocha, Good Counsel Homes gave her and the little boy she bore a chance for rebirth.

Today she and her now three-year-old son have a home of their own.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” Mocha says.

Meet Mocha in this video.

Do you know someone facing a crisis pregnancy?

“Anyone from anywhere for any reason at any age can call our crisis help line,” Mr. Bells says.

Call 1- 800-723 8331.  Call now.

Junior Board Rolls the Dice for Charity

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

At their signature fundraising event of the year, the Catholic Charities Junior Board hosted close to 200 guests for the 6th Annual Junior Board Gala at Battery Gardens on June 12, 2014.  The evening’s theme was a Masquerade Casino Night.  Guests enjoyed playing casino games and posing at the photo booth while raising both money and awareness for the St. Nicholas Project.  Fundraising efforts surrounding the Junior Board Gala brought in more than $47,000 for the St. Nicholas Project.

Through the St. Nicholas Project, Catholic Charities helps nearly 4,000 individuals annually by providing them with essential items to help them stay warm throughout the winter season as well as job training classes, computer literacy classes, food from one of our many food pantries, and school supplies throughout the rest of the year.

The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Junior Board introduces young professionals to the varied programs and works of Catholic Charities through volunteer opportunities, social gatherings, faith-based events, and philanthropic support. The Junior Board helps cultivate the next generation of leaders committed to Catholic Charities and serving those in need in our community.

To learn more, please visit the Junior Board web page and Facebook page

Little Jocelyn Farms for Food & Freedom

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

jocelynBy Alice Kenny

As a light breeze brushes freshly tilled soil, Jocelyn, 5, picks up a hammer to help her dad build a family garden.

It’s a magical moment for her family, a time when Jocelyn, her mom, dad, and big brother Steven, 7, think about working the soil and enjoying the sun, about picking tomatoes, peppers and beans.  Best of all, it’s a time when they don’t think about growling bellies or the daily search for work.

Jocelyn’s father belongs to Obreros Unidos de Yonkers, a group of approximately 300 day laborers in the Yonkers area served by Catholic Charities.  Here they learn about employment rights to prevent their exploitation and abuse, receive assistance collecting unpaid wages, get help accessing healthcare services, participate in English and computer skills classes and receive emergency food to supplement their gardens’ bounty.

Most importantly, Catholic Charities helps Jocelyn and families like hers become independent.  The community garden on Oak Street in Yonkers where Jocelyn helps her family is one of two community gardens maintained by and for day laborers.

The land, donated by the Greyston Foundation, an integrated network of programs that help families move toward self-sufficiency, had been littered with plastic bags and rotting garbage.  The laborers tossed out the garbage, built a fence to keep out future litter and are hammering together 22 boxes so that Obreros Unidos de Yonkers  families can  reap the harvest from  their own plots of land.

This community garden is one of two maintained by Obreros Unidos. The second, tilled right in front of the Catholic Charities offices on Hawthorne Avenue in Yonkers represents a joint effort between Catholic Charities Community Services, the Greyston Foundation, YMCA of Yonkers and Habitat for Humanity of Westchester.

“The gardens enable families, many who worked as farmers in the South and Central American nations where they were born, to share this tradition with their children while teaching them the importance of hard work and community,” says Catholic Charities Day Laborer Organizer Janet Hernández.