A $10.8 million goal, "Heart at Work" theme and a Harley-Davidson are at the center of this year's Catholic Charities Appeal, which was announced at a news conference in their Kenmore-Tonawanda office Friday morning.
Bishop Richard J. Malone announced the new goal while explaining that the 2014 theme signifies why the social service organization continues to do what they do.
"Catholic Charities works hard every day to help families and individuals who have nowhere else to turn," he said. "The need for our services is great and continues to grow greater, but so are the hundreds of skilled professionals who are 'heart' at work in the name of Jesus."
An unusual twist in this year's appeal was also announced. Recently somebody donated a 1998 Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle to Catholic Charities. The bike was customized with a Jimmy Buffett theme and will be auctioned off to help raise funds for the annual campaign.
"We'll have an eBay auction online ... in the very near future," said Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities. "Some day, somebody is going to win it and be in hog heaven."
Catholic Charities currently has 61 sites throughout the Diocese of Buffalo; several of them have been repurposed as service centers from shuttered Catholic schools and convents. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Walczyk said the site of the news conference was purchased by Catholic Charities in 2010 and currently includes services like individual and family counseling, preventative services, employee assistance and housing stabilization.
"The hearts at work at this Ken-Ton site embody and epitomize that value in everything we do," he said. "When we purchased this building, our goal was to establish a multi-purpose service center that could address a wide variety of human needs. I believe we have obtained that goal."
Sister Mary noted several of the success stories of Catholic Charities, including a gravedigger who went through the agency's workforce development program and received required clothing from Catholic Charities for his current job, and a hostile teenager who reformed after working with a therapist.
Michael and Maureen Pratt were named as this year's appeal chair couple.
"Maureen and I are humbled, honored and thrilled to serve," Michael said. "We were asked years ago to join the leadership team, and at that time, we honestly didn't know the scope and breath of the services Catholic Charities offered. After much due diligence, we found the more we learned, the more we grew to love Catholic Charities."
Michael Pratt said they would work to maintain the current donor base, including corporate giving, as well as reach out to younger people through social media.
"Catholic Charities is an easy sell, because we have a great product," Michael said.
"If you're not affiliated with a particular church or identify yourself as Catholic, we would accept and welcome any kind of donation you can give, no matter what size," said Maureen. "Many are not aware that over 50 percent of the people we serve are not Catholic; they are simply members of our human family."
This year's patron saint is St. Pio, who was born in 1887 and dedicated his life to God at an early age.
"Beatified by 2002 by Pope John Paul II, St. Pio saw the image of Christ in the poor and the suffering," Bishop Malone said. "He once said, 'Bring God to all who are sick; this will help them more than any other remedy.' St. Pio lived the Franciscan spirit of poverty, reconciling thousands of men and women back to their faith. Much like Pope Francis today, he espoused a detachment from self and worldly possessions, elevating the healing mission of the Church."
While the official Catholic Charities Appeal week is set for April 6-13, they are already beginning work to collect donations and will continue to do so until their goal is met or their fiscal year concludes in the summer.
"Although appeal week marks the strongest push for parish donations, our volunteers and all of us will work to achieve our final goal through the conclusion of our fiscal year on June 30, if needed," Bishop Malone said.