Posts Tagged ‘St. Vincent de Paul Society’

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.

“We got nothing,” He said. “We’ll take anything you can give us.”

Friday, January 4th, 2013

By Jeanne McGettigan, Catholic Charities Director of Emergency Food Services

On New Year’s Eve, Catholic Charities Emergency Food Services Department enlisted our Mobile Food Pantry staff and volunteers to distribute 6,000 meals in Midland Beach, a Staten Island neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Three staff and four volunteers rose early in the morning to pack bags at our delivery location in the Bronx, while another staff member waited for 26 cases of frozen chickens to be unloaded at the distribution site in Midland Beach, St. Margaret Mary Church.  In addition, one staff member stopped by our Staten Island office at Anderson Avenue to pick up 100 children’s books to distribute to children who stopped by. By 11am, the Mobile was parked in the lot of the parish, at 560 Lincoln Avenue.

A steady stream of residents arrived. Some had heard from their pastor, others from fliers given out at the nearby Restoration Center.  One woman said that she had just gotten a small electric oven, and she would cook her first meal in it with some of the items.  Residents who were still not able to cook were glad for ready-to-eat items such as apple cider, tuna, cream cheese, bread, romaine lettuce, and oranges.

Jim Reagan, head of the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society, offered to drive staff around to some of the still-devastated areas to check in and offer help.  It was sad to go block after block and find so many houses empty, their former residents staying elsewhere.  However, when we did find occupants at home, they were very grateful for assistance.

One man invited us into his humble bungalow, stripped down to the studs.

“We’ve got nothing” he said.  “We’ll take anything you can give us.”

Another family of six sent their two teenagers out to carry in armfuls of food.

One resident said, “I’m ok.  Give it to someone who needs it.”  A few minutes later, he was back. “I have a friend I can bring this to.  I’ll take a bag.”

By mid afternoon, over half of the bags had been distributed and the numbers of recipients had slowed.

Staff then contacted Tony Hall, of STAR (Small Town America Recovers) with a restoration hub set up at Midland and Kiswick.  Tony has been running a grass roots effort since the earliest days after the hurricane.  He agreed to take the remaining food and distribute it from his tent.

By the time we arrived to do the drop-off, a line had already gathered.  There was a family there: mother, father and child who had lost everything and were so grateful for the food that they received. They let me know that they had to abandon their home for the time and were living with their father in-law. A home of one suddenly became a house of four and food and money were scarce so they were happy to take some of the ‘burden’ from their father, if only for a few meals. When we checked in with Tony a few days later, he confirmed that all of the remaining food had been distributed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to residents of Midland Beach.