Archive for the ‘Supporting the Physically and Emotionally Challenged’ Category

Cardinal Egan

Friday, March 6th, 2015

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Today we say adieux to Cardinal Egan.   While we will miss him greatly, we wish him well in his new heavenly home.

Much has already been said and much more will be written on the occasion of his death yesterday at age 82.  Let me share a few items from the perspective of Catholic Charities that may not have been captured elsewhere.

My words are understandably biased.  Cardinal Egan appointed me as Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York shortly after the tragedy of 9/11.  I was privileged to work together with him.   Here are some of the reasons I think he deserves  appreciation for the time he served as Archbishop of New York

He visited our Catholic Charities agencies and programs, meeting regularly and consistently with the people we help and those doing the helping.  Because he was warm and caring with them, all left feeling uplifted and supported, both with the difficult lives they lived and the difficult work they did.   Thank you, Cardinal Egan.

He built the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities,  a dedicated and generous group of New York leaders who undergird  and oversee the support we provide New Yorkers in need.  To attract these talented individuals he passed on his role as Chair of the Board to John Phelan, the former chair of the New York Stock Exchange.

In multiple ways Cardinal Egan encouraged generous philanthropic support for Catholic Charities.  One of his key initiatives involved his own Cardinal’s Committee of the Laity that he intentionally renamed the Cardinal’s Committee for Charity.  He directed the focus of this group of New York business and civic leaders to provide Catholic Charities with financial resources and counsel to amplify the services we provide and the number of people we serve.

To support partnership between the government and the charitable work of the Church he interfaced with officials in a quiet sophisticated way apart from the limelight.  When issues arose that could have damaged this partnership his efforts were effective in preventing actions that could have hurt poor and vulnerable New Yorkers of all religions.

It is also worth noting on this 50th anniversary of the equal rights march from Selma to Montgomery Cardinal Egan’s  presence during the tumultuous sixties in sharing our Church’s vision for the common good.   He was a regular participant with clergy in Chicago, one of  America’s major urban centers, as they worked to overcome racial and social injustice.

In short, Cardinal Egan effectively supported, blessed and encouraged growth of the fair and charitable work of the Church. During his tenure, the 90 affiliated agencies of the Catholic Charities federation grew from providing $500 million to $750 million of services, support that provides help and creates hope for all New Yorkers in need.

And so, again, adieux, fair well, and thank you.  Cardinal Egan, please keep in mind in heaven the needs of those of us still here below – especially, those for whom Catholic Charities provides help and creates hope.

- Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Catholic Charities Lobbies Albany in the Front Rooms, Face to Face

Friday, February 13th, 2015

albanyselfiesBy Alice Kenny

Battling nearly a foot of snow, Catholic Charities New York representatives organized a show of force in Albany on February 9 – 10 to persuade state leaders to expand Governor Cuomo’s proposed plan to combat poverty.

They joined local Catholic Charities affiliated agencies along with the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors that represent all eight dioceses across the state.

The troops maximized their strength on these two frigid days by meeting with every human services chair person in both houses of the legislature and with representatives from the governor’s office.

Their goal, to battle back inequality, was overwhelming.  But their plan to fund it was simple.

New York State received more than $5 billion in recent settlements with banks accused of misconduct.  Surely, they reasoned, a significant percentage of this windfall should be earmarked for the one out of five impoverished families in New York State.

Catholic Charities requests included:

  • Amplify the Governor’s proposed program to target investments in capital projects to improve the quality, efficiency, accessibility and reach of nonprofits serving New Yorkers
  • Provide adequate funding for vulnerable populations including foster children served by Medicaid Managed Care
  • Increase funding for post adoption services and child welfare agencies
  • Address soaring rates of homelessness and hunger by increasing funds for supportive housing, homeless prevention services, emergency food and outreach programs
  • Raise the minimum wage and expand the Unemployment Strikeforce to help the unemployed find work
  • Push back recent cutbacks in services for the physically and emotionally challenged by providing significant funds for permanent and supported housing
  • Help undocumented immigrants become taxpaying members of society by enabling them to apply for state college tuition and education tax credits; expand the Office of New American Opportunity Centers that provide immigrant services and increase funds to help unaccompanied minor children seeking to reunify with family members.

“Thank you for assisting all of us to give voice to the needs of those who are poor and most vulnerable,” Catholic Charities Diocese of Buffalo Director Sr. Mary McCarrick said to Luz Tavarez-Salazar, Catholic Charities NY’s Director of Government and Community Relations who helped organize the event.  “Now we pray those voices will be heard by our New York State government.”

Check out these event photos on FaceBook.

Blizzard May Trap Elderly

Monday, January 26th, 2015

By Alice Kenny

CAUTION:  Snow’s already falling sideways before Winter Storm Juno — scheduled to slam New York City by 1 pm and predicted the worst blizzard in the city’s history — has even started:

Catholic Charities is here to help.

Are you a homebound senior trapped inside by mountains of snow?

Catholic Charities, partnering again with the NYC Snow Removal Initiative, can pair you with volunteers to clear your driveway.

Important Precautions:

  • Commuter Heads up:  Metro North and the Long island Rail Road might shut down before Monday’s evening rush, Governor Cuomo warned in a recent statement.
  • Highways could close
  • Check out NYC Hazards: Winter Weather web pages for tips and information about how to prepare.
  • Get updates from the NYC Severe Weather website.
  • Get emergency alerts by signing up for Notify NYC.

Disabled Son & Abused Mom on Path to Self Sufficiency

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

 

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Wheelchair bound from the severe brittle bone disease he was born with, Edwin Zabala, 10, shares a single room with his mother and younger brother in a shelter for domestic violence survivors.  Edwin is about three feet tall with a round head nearly the size of his torso; his arms and legs are bent inward from frequent breakage.

His younger brother, Jorge, 6, acts as his protector during the rare times, other than school, that their mother feels it is safe to walk with them on the streets outside their shelter.  It is not that she is an overly-cautious mother.  It is that she knows, after witnessing Edwin’s bones crack again and again when they experience the slightest pressure, after seeing criminals hanging out on the tough streets outside and after enduring 11 years of abuse from their father, that the world outside their room for them is a dangerous place.

Thankfully, Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, a Catholic Charities affiliate, has made it safer.

Read their New York Times Neediest Case now.

 

Mother Gives Autistic Son Special Party

Monday, January 5th, 2015

andrewsEvery available surface of what, an hour earlier, had been an empty housing project community room had been decorated in the colors and likeness of Jamel Hunter’s favorite superhero, Spider-Man. There were Spider-Man balloons, cupcakes, a spider made of frosting on the birthday cake, even a homemade pin-the-tail-on-Spider-Man game.

The night was part party and part prayer, for it was a first for Jamel, 8, and his mother, Phyllis Atwood, 46, wanted it to be perfect.

Jamel has autism, and slight variations from his routines can be jarring, sending him into screaming fits or silent retreats to his own thoughts. The party was a huge leap. The volume of the music, the rows and rows of trays of barbecue and soft drinks and desserts, the brightly colored balloons — it was as if Ms. Atwood were making up for lost time, throwing him three or four parties at the same time.

Ms. Atwood, a single mother, is disabled from Blount’s disease, a condition in which the upper shin bone stops producing bone tissue; and failing kidneys that require she undergo dialysis three times a week. She had loaded her wheelchair with party supplies before making her way from their apartment to the party.

The family receives support and services from Kennedy Child Study Center, a Catholic Charities sponsored agency acknowledged as a leader in educating and supporting children with intellectual disabilities.

Read their full story published Christmas Day in The New York Times.

Christmas Hope for the Mentally Ill

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Decked in Santa caps, plates brimming with food and Christmas carols ringing in the background, mentally ill adults served by Catholic Charities Beacon of Hope Division celebrated the holiday season last week at the annual Beacon of Hope Holiday Party at the Epiphany Parish Hall on East 21st Street.

Some spoke and danced, some rocked and observed and nearly all chuckled as Cardinal Dolan showed off his Irish step-dance moves.

Beacon of Hope staff joined with Catholic Charities board members and volunteers from the national consulting firm, Deloitte, to celebrate the event. The Beacon of Hope Division of Catholic Charities Community Services is a residential program for approximately 436 individuals at 10 sites primarily in the Bronx, and on Staten Island.  Those served are seriously and persistently mentally ill adults; the program strives to enable them to live as independently as possible in their community.

“Beacon of Hope… taught me everything I need to know to basically live … on my own,” says Angela in this holiday video of the event.

Looking for a great way to kick off the holiday?

Watch this video now.

Opening Her Home to Disabled Children: A True Thanksgiving

Monday, November 24th, 2014

rodriguezLucky for the 40 abandoned New York City children that Josefina Rodriguez took in during recent decades and raised as foster children, this now 61-year-old woman loves children.  This is also lucky for Ms. Rodriguez’ oldest daughter, Hanny Casado, 40, who was born brain damaged and still lives at home.  It is lucky for Mia Rodriguez, 8, who Ms. Rodriguez took in as a foster child and later adopted.  And it is lucky for Natasha Rodriguez, 12, who Ms. Rodriguez also took in as a foster child and adopted regardless of the autism and mental retardation that make Natasha a more challenging child to raise.

Thanks to a wide array of support provided by Kennedy Child Study Center, an affiliate of Catholic Charities that assists children with developmental delays, this financially and emotionally stressed family continues to thrive.

“These are not real problems,” Ms. Rodriguez says when questioned about pressures she navigates every day.  “Problems are grave illnesses, when someone you love dies.  I have commitments, not problems, commitments to take care of my children.”

Read their story in The New York Times.

Young and Rubicam Teams Up with Developmentally Disabled

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

With breakaways, drop kicks and punts, eight volunteers from the international marketing and communications company, Young and Rubicam, teamed up with 20 developmentally disabled adults at Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Memorial Center gym earlier this month for a day filled with soccer drills and games.

Organized by Catholic Charities Director of Volunteer Services Staci-Jo Bruce, the event enabled volunteers to provide a meaningful day for the developmentally delayed adults, all passionate soccer players, served by Catholic Guardian Services, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

Attacked & Blinded, Former Cab Driver Struggles to Care for His Family

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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After fleeing ethnic persecution in Guinea, K. Arafan Koita was brutally attacked three years later while working as a livery driver in New York City.

Mr. Koita lost his vision in the attack, New York Times Reporter Corey Kilgannon reports in this just-published Neediest Case, but partly regained it after being hospitalized.

These days, Mr. Koita finds sporadic work delivering African art with a friend from Guinea, and hopes to get off public assistance so he can support and be a role model for his children, he said.

Left legally blind, he is haunted by a feeling of powerlessness when it comes to supporting his wife and three children.

Mr. Koita, who speaks French, also sought out the Catholic Charities Guild for the Blind, to improve his English, and for help resolving complications in getting social service benefits. He registered for computer training and for help finding a job.

The children share a tiny bedroom crowded with sagging beds that make sleeping uncomfortable, and the apartment has been without heat and hot water for two months. The landlord has been slow to respond, Mr. Koita said as he stood over a hot plate in the kitchen, where the family often heats large pots of water for bathing.

“I need to be strong,” he said. “For them.”

Read Mr. Koita’s full profile in The New York Times.

Help us help the Koita family and fellow courageous New Yorkers.