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Old women with walkers shuffled towards the Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem last month through a foot of snow and ice. Moms with hungry children in tow herded towards its food bank.
Ted Staniecki, the center’s facilities manager, grabbed a snow shovel with Kennedy Center Director Rodney Beckford, fellow staff Hector Estrella and Jose Crisostomo, and dug and scraped until they cleared a path.
Times like these are what Ted says he likes most about his job.
It’s Ted’s low key, hands-on approach facing down hurdles that make him a hero among those who know him best.
“I don’t think enjoying my job is work,” Ted says, “so I haven’t worked a day in my life.”
The son of a Waldorf-Astoria doorman, Ted, before transferring his talents to Catholic Charities, worked his way up from middle school teacher and coach to Washington Heights Incarnation School principal.
This was “back in the days,” wrote a Daily News reporter “when the streets outside were so dangerous team members would have to dive to the sidewalk when gangsters pulled out Uzis.”
Challenges Ted braved were so extreme that news outlets across the city covered them. The Wall Street Journal wrote about how Ted, the founder, driver, assistant couch and all-around godfather of the Incarnation Angels girls CYO basketball team, brought them to city championship in 1997. Meanwhile, the team shared their home court, the Fort Washington armory shelter, with 1,400 homeless men.
The same year, The New York Times covered a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing public school teachers to provide remedial instruction to students in Catholic school classrooms. Sounds logical now, but for the prior 12 years, federal law forbid public school teachers from instructing students with special needs on Catholic school property.
So 200 of Incarnation School’s 520 students grades K – 8 would traipse out of the school for remedial help. They studied in three trailers parked nearby as drivers idled the vans for power and lights.
“We finally got some common sense,” Ted told The Times.
After retiring from Catholic schools, Ted worked as director of the West Bronx CYO Center. Then, five years ago, he came to Catholic Charities Kennedy Center.
Similar to its Harlem neighborhood, the Center, he says, needed reviving.
“Kennedy Center needed a paint job; it needed pictures; it needed people,” Ted says.
Deacon Rodney Beckford took over as Kennedy Center’s director, joining Ted and a host of supportive staff and administration to transform the once-sleepy center to one now exploding with activity. From sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, activities ranging from Harambee dance to gospel choirs, from basketball games to social service programs, fill the four-story building with song and action.
Harlem, in turn, is undergoing a similar revival. The famous Lenox Lounge reopened along with the Red Rooster restaurant. Congressmen Charlie Rangel lives across the street from Kennedy Center. Governor David Patterson and former Mayor David Dinkins live nearby.
“Kennedy fits in well helping the neighborhood heal from the tough times it’s been through,” Ted says. “Our staff is balanced – all nationalities – and people who come here just see someone who is here, who is going to help them, going to respect them.”
Join us as we celebrate World Autism Day.
Through a network of specialized services, Catholic Charities empowers and cares compassionately for the most vulnerable New Yorkers – non-Catholics and Catholics alike. The developmentally disabled child, the senior adjusting to recent blindness and the emotionally challenged adult need the intensive care and support provided by Catholic Charities to live with dignity and in safety.
“Do not fear people with Autism; embrace them,” says Paul Isaacs, a young writer with autism.
“Do not spite people with Autism; unite them.
“Do not deny people with Autism; accept them for then their abilities will shine.”
Are you or someone you know facing a physical or emotional challenge and looking for help?
Visit us at Catholic Charities and find out more.
Good Day Street Talk this week interviewed Grace Institute Executive Director Sherry Krull –who discusses how this Catholic Charities affiliate has been empowering women in the workplace through training and job placement – and Grace Graduate Phara Bernadin who shares her inspiring story.
“Women who are coming to us are incredibly hungry,” Ms. Krull tells Fox News. “They want to make a change in their lives.
“So it’s such a pleasure for us who are working in the organization to get 150 women all in one room from all different backgrounds, all different boroughs, all different experiences and nurture them, teach them the hard skills they need in terms of Microsoft Office, business communication and also the essential skills, the soft skills- conflict resolution, professional management.
“And also nurture their souls a little bit because they’re coming to us from having struggled.
“So it’s a combination of those skills for six months that …makes them incredibly marketable.”
Phara Bernadin, a recent Grace graduate, agreed.
“It did a great deal for me,” she tells Fox News.
“It’s like a family because you go back and the door’s always open.
“And the way my daughter looks at me and things that she says – ‘Mommy I’m so proud of you…and to me no amount of money or anything can compare to that.”
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. 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.
Are you an unemployed woman looking to brush up your skills and find a job?
Click here to learn more about Grace Institute and its tuition-free job-training programs for New York City women.
To watch the Fox News interview, visit the video site and click on Part 4.
The last thing Angel Rojas said to his mother was “hello,” reports the New York Daily News today, March 24, 2014.
Angel Rojas, the 39-year-old father who was shot dead by a gangbanger on the B15 bus in Brooklyn Thursday, was calling his mom on his way home from work that night as he always did.
… Then the phone went dead.
Kahton Anderson, 14, who aimed his .357-Magnum pistol at a rival gang member but missed, instead accidentally shooting Rojas, was charged with second-degree murder.
Left behind are Mr. Rojas’ widow, Maria Lopez, and their children, April, 8, and Saury, 12.
An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Mr. Rojas was working two jobs to support his family.
With Mr. Rojas gone, his widow said she can no longer afford their modest, second-floor Brownsville apartment on the meager pay she earns as a part-time home attendant.
Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan attended Mr. Rojas’ wake at Ponce Funeral Home in Brooklyn yesterday.
As the Daily News reports, you can help the family by sending a check to Catholic Charities, 1011 First Ave., New York, NY 10022.
Online donations can be made at CatholicCharitiesny.org.
So far, the fund has raised more than $6,600, including two donations by phone for $1,000 each. A total of 52 people have donated so far.
The numbers are shocking, writes Catholic New York in this recent editorial:
In just five years, the number of New York City residents who depend on food pantries and soup kitchens has shot up to 1.4 million. That’s 200,000 more than in 2008 and it accounts for one-fifth of the city’s residents
And contrary to popular perception, the vast majority of those battling hunger are not the homeless.
They’re older women, they’re working families, they’re children and they’re veterans.
The appalling statistics: 1 in 5 city children live in food scarce homes; 1 in 6 city adults live in food scarce homes; 11.5 percent of people over 60 don’t have enough food, an increase of 33 percent since 2008; 64 percent of people relying on the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens are women; 95,000 food recipients are veterans.
The hunger crisis, and it is indeed a crisis, was spotlighted in lengthy and detailed coverage this week in the New York Daily News, which also pointed out the strains placed on the charitable agencies, many of them Catholic groups, who run the city’s network of some 1,000 food pantries and soup kitchens.
Catholic New York
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of the Archdiocesan Catholic Charities, told the paper that people are turning to us for emergency help because it’s so hard for them to find jobs, or decent-paying jobs. Many, he added, don’t have enough to pay rent and to eat.
To lend an immediate hand and get personal insight he can share with legislators, Msgr. Sullivan is making the rounds, rolling up his sleeves and helping out at local food pantries affiliated with Catholic Charities. Last week he volunteered at St. Jerome’s pantry in the Bronx.
“It’s an astounding surge in need,” he said.
“It’s a quiet crisis,” New York Daily News reporters Ginger Otis and Barry Paddock write in this in-depth exploration of hunger in New York. “In a city of plenty,” they continue in this front page story posted Sunday in the New York Daily News, “a staggering number of people are struggling to feed themselves and their families.”
Learn what they find out when they interview experts including Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, visit Catholic Charities food pantries and meet those we serve:
“Nearly one in five New Yorkers, 1.4 million people, now rely on a patchwork network of 1,000 food pantries and soup kitchens across the city to eat.
That represents an increase of 200,000 people in five years — straining the charities that are trying to help…
Yet those working on the front lines of the hunger crisis say it’s still not enough.
‘It’s an astounding surge in need, and it’s because it is so hard for people to find jobs, or find a decent-paying job. They are turning to us for emergency help,’ said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, 63, executive director of 90 free food outlets run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
‘So many people, too many people, don’t have enough money to pay for rent and also eat.’
At (Catholic Charities’) Washington Heights Ecumenical Food Pantry, bags packed with milk, juice, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, dry beans and other staples fly off the shelves.
Located in a small church vestry, the pantry is open one day a week, serving a steady clientele of 275 people. It could easily help three times as many, if only it had the food, volunteers said.
From soup kitchens in the Bronx, to mobile food markets on Staten Island and in Brooklyn, to pantries in Queens, the story is the same: lines stretching longer and longer, people arriving earlier and earlier, even in the depths of winter.
‘Our Lady of Grace, in the northeast Bronx, saw the number of new households double in November — a 100% increase,’ said Paul Costiglio, spokesman for Catholic Charities. “Across the board, our programs are reporting a continued increase in the number of working people, unemployed and families.”
Too many New Yorkers, too many good hard-working people, too many children, too many elderly parents, lack the resources to put food on the table.
Too many cannot afford basic nutrition — bread, milk, a piece of fruit, a portion of vegetables, a slice of meat. The stuff of survival, not the stuff of fun or frivolity…
These are our neighbors, family members and friends.
This is not New York, city of limitless opportunity. This is a New York that must do better.