Catholic Charities and Bishop Richard J. Malone have officially begun Catholic Charities' 2015 appeal, with a $10.9 million goal and a theme of "Find Good Within." The announcement was made at a press conference Jan. 7 at Catholic Charities' A Gathering Place, an outreach program for seniors. The appeal funds 70 programs Catholic Charities runs in 61 sites throughout the eight counties of the diocese.
"We are so grateful, as an organization, for the annual appeal," Dennis Walczyk, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, said. "It provides so much support for us to enable us to provide services to the thousands of people we touch, and also help to improve their lives, across Western New York."
"It's always a great joy for me to be part of this wonderful moment when we launch, again, our Catholic Charities appeal," added Bishop Malone. "Sometimes it can be difficult to remember to look for the good and the blessings, but at Catholic Charities, we believe thoroughly that there is abundant good in the world, there is abundant good in each one of us, and that is regardless of our circumstances."
The 2015 appeal includes two important dates: March 22 will be First Report Sunday, and Appeal Week will culminate on March 29, according to Bishop Malone. Furthermore, while Appeal Week marks the strongest push for donations to Catholic Charities, they will continue until its fiscal year ends June 30.
Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, said this year, the appeal will have an updated website where donors may now make their contributions in several different ways. Donors may choose to make monthly or quarterly donations to make it easier for them to do so. "We try to make it as easy as possible for you to contribute to this good mission and good ministry," said Sister Mary.
Sister Mary also said the 2015 appeal directors, Jake and Katie Schneider, chose St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint of this year's appeal. According to Sister Mary, St. Francis of Assisi began his life as a pampered, wealthy young man who initially snubbed lepers, but later in life, he went out of his way to serve not only lepers, but also many others who were less fortunate, until his death at age 44.
"He lived among them, taking care of their needs for food, medicine, friendship and peace," Sister Mary added. "You can see why they chose St. Francis as the patron for the appeal, and for Catholic Charities all over the country. As Catholic Charities, we commit ourselves in that same spirit to provide food, shelter and medicine, always to provide friendship and peace to the 145,000 people who come to us. We come in Christ's own name, serving those whom we see so clearly to be the living Body of Christ."
Jake Schneider said when he and his wife were first asked to take on the responsibility of being the co-chairs of the 2015 appeal, they did not know the extent of Catholic Charities' ministry.
"Through the steady, gentle tutelage of Sister Mary and Dennis, we've come to know the breadth of the organization and what it accomplishes in the community. Without a doubt, we know it's the best work we do as a church," Schneider said. "Every year, this appeal faces unique challenges."
In spite of a struggling economy and shrinking donor base in Western New York over the last several years, as well as Buffalo's status as one of the nation's poorest cities, the Schneiders remain confident the appeal will be able to meet its goal of raising $10.9 million, as the appeals have met goals in previous years. He also said Bishop Malone has been "extremely supportive of everything we do."
"With Bishop Malone's steadfast leadership, with the help of our dedicated staff, our 2015 leadership team who we're very thrilled to be working with, and the vast number of parish volunteers who, each year, form the backbone of this appeal, we're confident we'll be successful," Schneider added.
Sister Mary said Catholic Charities relies entirely on the devotion and commitment of its team of about 700 volunteers. These dedicated individuals go out to corporations, businesses, individuals, parishes and foundations to ask them to support Catholic Charities in its mission to continue "bringing friendship and peace, along with so many other emotional supports, to people in need," Sister Mary said.
According to Walczyk, several years ago Catholic Charities decided to make what he called a "strategic decision" to reuse some of the existing church property, which, in turn, led to its decision to hold the press conference for this year's 91st appeal in A Gathering Place. Walczyk also announced plans for another satellite location for A Gathering Place this year, in Eggertsville on the St. Benedict Parish campus.
A Gathering Place is currently in the former school of St. Stanislaus Parish in Buffalo, which Walczyk recalled is the "Mother Church of Polonia" and an iconic, historic fixture of the East Side of Buffalo. In addition to A Gathering Place, Catholic Charities also provides a foster grandparent program, Project Hope and a comprehensive care and home visitation for seniors, headquartered in the same building.
Walczyk added, "As a whole, our older adult services are designed to support seniors in their need for safety, socialization, independence and the ability to remain in their familiar home and community. It also is a service that supports caregivers, their loved ones, through respite and education."