Meet Ted Staniecki, Catholic Charities’ Unsung Hero

April 3rd, 2014

By Alice Kenny

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.”

Read more about Ted in the New York Times.

Read more about Ted  in the New York Daily News.

Celebrating World Autism Day – and the Differences That Make Us Special

April 2nd, 2014

By Alice Kenny

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.

Need more poetry in your life?

April 1st, 2014

Check out Open Mic Night to hear original work by inspired teens participating in Catholic Charities Community Services Alianza Division.

When:  Thursday, April 3/2014

Where: Alianza Cultural Center, 530 W. 166 St., 2nd floor, NYC 10040

Time:  5:30- 8:00 p.m.

Why:  It’s National Poetry Month — And there’s no better way to celebrate!

Alianza Cultural Center is a multicultural project celebrating Dominican, Latino, and Latin American cultures with a special focus on Afro-Dominican artistic traditions.

The Center’s physical space comprises a second floor gala/exhibition space, two performing arts studios and a large multipurpose space in the lower level, the lobby exhibition space, and a spectacular rooftop terrace.

Meet Laddie, Our Latest Volunteer

March 31st, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Catholic Charities Staten Island Senior Center just hired Laddie Boy, our latest and likely best-ever volunteer.

The therapy dog passed a stringent interview process, correctly responding to a demanding series of Q and A’s:  “Sit” (and Laddie sits); “Down” (and Laddie lies down); “Stay” (Well, you’ve got the idea.)

Highly trained and a real people ..err.. dog person, Laddie is part of the Angels On A Leash program,* clocking in his hours at the senior center.

Staff members Marni Caruso and Lisa Harrison say they enjoy getting to know Laddie – as he literally sniffs things out — to make sure he is a good fit.

Needless to say, it was an amazing experience watching him meet clients, they added.  The positive energy and excitement generated make them sure he is the perfect for this group.

Moreover, they look forward to consistent visits…and Laddie looks forward to consistent pets and treats.

*Angels On A Leash

Somos El Futuro – We Are the Future – Conference Rallies for Dream Act

March 28th, 2014

Mateo Tabares and two dozen other students chanted “Education not deportation” and similar slogans Saturday morning as they rallied at the Somos el Futuro conference on Saturday, March 22, 2014 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany,” reports Steve Barnes for TimesUnion.com.

They were shouting their support for the DREAM Act, a measure that would allow access to state financial aid for New York college students who are undocumented:

 

The bill likely would mean the difference between Tabares, an 18-year-old from Queens, being able to go to college full time or having to work 40 hours a week to pay tuition for only part-time classes, thus delaying his education, he said. Tabares was among a group of young people who traveled upstate to advocate for the DREAM Act during this weekend’s Somos El Futuro conference, a gathering of Latino lawmakers. The DREAM Act would benefit an estimated 8,000 students, proponents say.

Defeated in the state Senate on March 17 by a 30-29 vote — two short of the 32 needed for a majority — the bill is the subject of continuing negotiations. Supporters are pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include it in the state budget, which is due April 1.

(TimesUnion.com)

 

Msgr. Sullivan joined students, members of the state Senate and Assembly, labor leaders and others to discuss the DREAM Act and other key policy issues at the annual spring conference of Somos el Futuro, the New York State Assembly’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task force dedicated to creating opportunities for Hispanics through participation in public policy.

Read the full story in the Times Union.com.

Check out the New York State Catholic Conference’s New York State DREAM Act Memoradum of Support:

 

MEMORANDUM OF SUPPORT

Re: A.2597 Moya / S.2378 Peralta In Relation to New York State DREAM Act

The above-referenced legislation would create the New York DREAM Fund Commission and would provide opportunities for immigrant students who meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial aid to assist them attend institutions of higher education.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the New York State DREAM Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

The bill is an attempt to allow young people who have demonstrated a commitment to education and who are of good moral character to access financial aid opportunities without regard to immigration status, and would create a mechanism to raise money for college scholarships for the children of immigrants. Other states have passed similar legislation and New York State, with its history of welcoming immigrants, should be at the forefront of these efforts to support immigrant populations who have contributed so much to the vitality of our state. The chance to earn a higher education degree will allow these immigrant students to realize their potential and make a greater contribution to our economy.

Currently immigrants receive elementary and secondary education without regard to their immigration status. Many of these children have lived in this country from a very early age and know no other country as home. However, once they have their high school diplomas in hand, they are often blocked from continuing their education for financial reasons. The Commission established by this bill would raise funds to provide scholarships to deserving students who would be required to have taken steps to regularize their immigration status. These students would also be eligible for other awards and scholarships that would advance their educational opportunities. Parents and family members of students would also be eligible to participate in the NYS College Savings Program with an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

The Catholic Conference has long advocated for a comprehensive immigration reform package at the federal level that includes an earned legalization program, secure borders that reduce risk to individuals and change in the immigration system that promotes family unity. In the interim there are steps that can be taken at the state level to improve the current situation. This legislation is one such effort.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the New York State Catholic Conference have voiced support for the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Likewise, we support this legislation that we believe will afford deserving young immigrants an opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.

Mommy, I’m So Proud of You

March 27th, 2014

Fox News’ Good Day Street Talk television show celebrates Women’s History Month, tracking amazing women who are breaking barriers and changing the world.

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.

Family Man Angel Rojas Gunned Down on Bus Ride Home from Work

March 25th, 2014

DEBBIE EGAN-CHIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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.

Learn more about the Rojas family in this Daily News video.

Catholic New York Editorial: More Feeling Hunger’s Effects

March 24th, 2014

Msgr. Sullivan at St. Jerome’s food pantry

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.

Read the full editorial in Catholic New York.

 

Good Shepherd Services Middle-Schoolers Chat with Mayor de Blasio

March 21st, 2014

A group of 21 middle schoolers enrolled in Good Shepherd Services’ afterschool program, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, visited the inner sanctum of City Hall this week, sitting down with Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray in the bullpen where senior staffers work, reported Annie Karni this week, Tuesday, March 18, 2014 in the New York Daily News.

 Mayor De Blasio spent 20 minutes quizzing the kids from Good Shepherd Services about the program.

 Good Shepherd Services serves more than 20,000 program participants annually.

 This Catholic Charities affiliated agency seeks to address the needs of children and youth growing up in some of the highest-poverty communities of New York City.

 It targets youth ages 0-25 who are disconnected or at risk of becoming disconnected and who are academically, economically and socially vulnerable, lacking the resources, ability to cope and interpersonal skills to make a successful transition to adulthood

 Read the full story in the New York  Daily News.

 Learn more about Good Shepherd Services.