Julie Walters, a single mom, and her daughter had experienced a troubled relationship for many years. When she discovered Catholic Charities Multisystemic Therapy program, where therapists support the family in the home and are available at all times, she was able to positively transform the relationship with her daughter.
Julie explained, “Jackie (my therapist) was like a lifeline to me. She was the support system I never had. While many of the suggestions she made were common sense, her support gave me the nerve to implement them. And to my amazement, things slowly began to improve.”
Additionally through the program, Julie’s daughter was able to remain drug-free and able to influence her friends to do the same.
“The truth is, life isn’t perfect in our house, but it is one thousand percent better than before I met Jackie,” she said. “And for that, I am truly grateful.”
Coming Full Circle
Arlene Gonzalez was looking for a fresh start after relocating to Kenmore four years ago from Orlando with her three young children, Arianna, who was 5; Jacob, 3, and Joseph who was 3 months old. After learning of Catholic Charities from her sister and brother-in-law, Arlene sought help through the WIC program in Kenmore.“The staff at the WIC program helped me out a lot,” said Arlene. “I was breastfeeding my baby, Joseph, at the time and they found that his iron was low. So they suggested foods that I could include to improve his iron level.”
The staff also showed Arlene a scale of how her children were growing and gave her advice on food, including the appropriate proportions for children and what kinds of food to be introducing at what time. The WIC program was able to link Arlene and her family with medical insurance, even filling out all of the paperwork, which made the process so convenient for the busy mom.
Arlene now works for the Catholic Charities WIC program, assisting other mothers and their children in all the ways she was helped by the agency. She is learning as much as she can and has been given the chance to train as a lactation consultant, helping moms in another way she was helped.
“Thanks to this opportunity my family and I are doing great, compared to how life was before I came to Catholic Charities,” said Arlene. “My children are in good schools where we live in Kenmore and they have been involved in all kinds of activities, like swimming, baseball, gymnastics, guitar lessons and soccer is next!”
The guardian of her now 18-year-old grandson since his birth, Sandy Simons is grateful for the assistance she received from Catholic Charities Kinship Caregiver Program, which provides support to relative caregivers through outreach to families in need.
Sandy came to the program in March 2009, initially seeking information on how to apply for food stamps and Medicaid for herself. Since then, the staff has been able to alleviate many other burdens for Sandy and her family including providing school supplies and Christmas gifts to her grandson.
“God has truly blessed me in this, as God has blessed this organization,” said Sandy.
Coping with Grief
A senior living in Allegany, Bill Glose came to Catholic Charities in grief after his wife died. The two were extremely close and shared their lives together. When she passed, Bill felt completely lost.
“For the first time in my life I found myself in a situation I didn’t know how to handle,” said Bill.
One thing Bill knew was that he needed counseling. He called organizations, churches and parishes and discovered that where he lives there is little help for a senior dealing with grief. He eventually called Catholic Charities, where he learned to put life back in perspective.
“I still have a ways to go with this, but Catholic Charities helped me to know that I was not losing my mind, that life was still worth living, and to start caring about what I did and how I did it,” he said.
Childhood wasn’t easy for Heather Lazar. Problems at home led to her placement in foster care, which moved her from home to home as a teenager.
“I never really felt like I belonged,” said Heather, “Until I had children of my own.”
But even after the birth of her first son, she found herself in very bad relationships and made choices that led to the loss of her son to the foster care system in Florida. She turned to drugs to drown her sorrows.
Nine months later, she gave birth to a little girl and thought everything had changed – she stopped using drugs and fought every day to be the mother she wanted to be. When her daughter was eight months old, her apartment caught fire and they were homeless. She turned to family who took her in, but after being stable for four months, they moved out on her. Later, while living with her boyfriend and caring for his ailing mother, Child Protective Services (CPS) showed up, interviewed the family and removed her daughter.
“I was devastated,” said Heather. “I turned back to drugs and to drowning my sorrows.”
In a last-ditch effort, she moved back home to Western New York with the help of her aunt, her mother and a friend.
She began to look for help and found Catholic Charities and the Incredible Years parenting training program – a 12-week program that provides parents with supportive guidance to help them develop nurturing and positive relationships with their children.
“The Incredible Years was just what I needed to get on the right track,” said Heather. “Here I am two years later, drug free with three beautiful children, with the best support team on my side. MY Catholic Charities!”
“They have taught me so much about what a great parent I already was, and how much more I had to learn. Without them, I wouldn't be the parent I am today – I'm more involved than ever with my children and I know that when times get hard, Catholic Charities is only a phone call away.”
“Without Catholic Charities I wouldn't be who I am today, and for that I am forever grateful.”
Last summer a struggling, elderly, deaf man came to the Batavia Catholic Charities office in hopes of finding an apartment where he could live with his long-time companion – his terrier. Communicating with staff through a pen and small pad of paper he brought with him, he explained that he had no income, a truck with a high-interest rate loan, and late fees piling up. As a result, he was homeless and living out of his truck.
Kelly Prattico, Catholic Charities’ Preventive Services Supervisor, called motels in the area, but no rooms were available. She made an appointment for him at the Genesee Independent Living Center, hoping they could use their community connections and expertise in disabilities to advocate for him and help find him a permanent place to live. She also gave him a gift card for food because he had nothing left.
Weeks later, on her way home from work, Kelly noticed the man parked in a dirt lot near Bennington. He was still living in his truck. One day, she and a co-worker stopped to talk with him and find out what he needed. He listed on scraps of paper a few items that would get him by – a loaf of bread, jelly, peanut butter and a cold Pepsi. She helped get those small things for him and also gave him some money for gas. But the best gift she gave him that day was an appointment with Catholic Charities.
For two months, Kelly worked with the man and eventually, found him a suitable apartment. The staff has not heard from him since October, leading them to believe he is right where they left him, safe in his apartment with his companion.
No Longer a Victim
Patricia suffered as a victim of violence and abuse from her husband for years. She was mentally disabled, and suffered from epilepsy and schizophrenia. Her husband isolated her from her family, and stole her disability checks to spend on his gambling and alcohol addictions.
Catholic Charities’ Pam Gefell worked with Patricia to find a way out of the dreadful situation she was in. Many interventions took place to help stabilize Patricia and get her away from her husband. The staff had many worrisome moments about her well-being and worked hard to remove her from her dangerous situation at home.
Thanks to a collaborative effort between Catholic Charities, YWCA Domestic Violence Program, Genesee County Mental Health Clinic and Adult Protective Services, Patricia’s story has a happy ending. Today, she is living in a safe and secure environment, where her husband can no longer hurt her. Catholic Charities continues to work with Patricia to ensure she receives the best treatment possible.
A Memorable Second Chance
Julio, left, with friends at graduation from ITT Technical Institute in Amerst.Five years later and the success story continues for Julio Figueroa, who participated in the Tomorrow’s Youth Today (TYT) Program in Buffalo. When Julio came to Catholic Charities in 2004, he had no job, no high school diploma and a lack of hope for his future. Through the program he received his GED, obtained a job as a security guard and enrolled in ITT Technical Institute in Amherst, where he graduated with honors.
While attending ITT in 2005, Julio spoke on behalf of Catholic Charities at the annual news conference that kicks off the Appeal. At that time, he spoke of the impact TYT had on his life.
“When I look back to where I started, I didn’t have anything,” Julio said. “Now, I have a job, I’m going to school and there are so many doors open to me – and it’s all because of Catholic Charities.”
Tomorrow’s Youth Today Program is an education and employment program that offers several services to out of school youth ages 16 to 24 throughout Erie County. The program is administered through Catholic Charities' Department of Education and Workforce Development, which has been providing General Educational Development (GED) preparation, educational instruction, job readiness skills, employment assistance and life skills training to Erie County residents since 1975. All of the GED instructors are licensed and certified New York State public school teachers. The TYT program served nearly 1,396 youths in 2009.
Recently, Julio reconnected with Catholic Charities’ via its Facebook page and he updated us about his journey since 2005. After completing school he obtained a position for a medical simulation company named METI in Florida in which he is putting to use his computer electronics technology degree. METI is a worldwide leader in medical simulation and educational software. With hard work and dedication he received a promotion last year as a regional service manager for the west coast and now resides in Arizona.
Julio has done very well, but he hasn’t forgotten Catholic Charities and he still credits the TYT program.
“There were times that I wanted to give up, and Jim and the program gave me that support that none of my parents gave me,” said Julio. “You give people like me a second chance and don't give up on us.”
Turning Over a New Leaf
A sample of Kari’s artwork from the Journey Forward Resiliency Enhancement ProgramAt the beginning of their relationship, Kari* thought her husband’s obsessive behavior was just his way of showing affection. But, like most abusers, he was merely preying on his victim - breaking her down physically and emotionally.
In their marriage Kari was treated like a child. She wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without permission, and when she was allowed to go out, she had a curfew and had to frequently call to check in with her husband. She wasn’t even allowed to have the keys to her own home. The mental abuse she suffered was worse than any physical abuse ever could be. He put her down and belittled her accomplishments and finally, after 10 years, their marriage ended.
Luckily, through a friend, Kari discovered Catholic Charities. There, she worked closely with a counselor who specializes in domestic violence. It was the first time she had spoken to anyone about what she had endured. She began to recognize that what she experienced was indeed domestic violence and that it was not her fault.
In addition to having a counselor, she participated in the Journey Forward Resiliency Enhancement Program with her son. The program allows mothers and their children who were affected by domestic abuse to come together to heal from the trauma of domestic violence, participate in creative arts, and learn the skills necessary to interrupt the intergenerational cycle of abuse. After completing the program the families have an option to attend a weekend camping experience to create new memories and traditions.
“It is an indescribable feeling to know that someone I don’t really even know can care so much to help me rebuild and change my life forever and I am very thankful,” said Kari. “I may carry the scars of the abuse I suffered, but I know now I can heal properly with the help I have received at Catholic Charities.”
From Homebound to Helping Others
Suzanne Kelly was an unhappy, mentally unstable person struggling to get through everyday life. She suffered agoraphobia (fear of leaving her home). She says she rarely had a feeling of well being and felt ashamed, cutting herself off from the outside world until she was in her 40s.
Then 15 years ago, she discovered Catholic Charities. The organization helped her receive counseling after being referred by Dr. Richard Wolin, who diagnosed her with a serious panic and anxiety disorder. She was prescribed the proper medication by her doctor and engaged in regular counseling sessions with Catholic Charities which, along with her faith in God, helped her begin an amazing transition from an emotional cripple to a stable and functional human being.
She was even able to travel alone to New Jersey to be with her family in 2008 when she lost her mother.
Suzanne’s counselor and mentor, Kathleen Hall, helped her develop the methods essential for her to grow into the person she is today.
“After 15 years, with the support from Catholic Charities, my biggest accomplishment is that I am able to finally help my neighbors. May God bless Catholic Charities and everyone who supports it.”
Helping a Mother Turn Her Life Around
A dedicated mother, Sharon Santos, is greatly appreciative to Catholic Charities. Her story is an inspirational testament for people struggling to get back on their feet.
After living in Buffalo for 10 years, Santos went back to Puerto Rico. After five years of living there she realized her family needed a change.
“Buffalo offered me and my children the environment we wanted. Here, it’s about family,” she said.
Santos moved back in June 2009 and sought help from Catholic Charities because she remembered how wonderful their assistance was in the past. She walked in to meet with a social worker at the 525 Washington St., Buffalo site for guidance and direction. As a result, Catholic Charities assisted her family with food, clothing and even bus tokens so Santos could have the transportation to find full-time employment. And eventually, she did.
Sharon Santos is now helping other women who are facing the same struggles she once faced, working as a nutrition services assistant at a Buffalo site for Catholic Charities WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). WIC provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income women, and children up to age five who are considered to be at nutritional risk.
Santos says, “Now I am doing what makes me very happy, I am helping other people. It’s not just a job but it is how you can make a difference for people. I’m continually thankful to Catholic Charities for the help you gave me when I needed it and I am thankful that I can now be on the other side giving help.”
Strengthening the Lives of Children and Families
Catholic Charities’ Multisystemic Therapy (MST) program is an intensive, family focused intervention, serving families with delinquent youth who are at risk of being placed outside their home. With the help of MST therapists who are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, families are empowered to solve the youth’s own behavior – they are the most influential part of the youth’s life.
These are just a few of the many success stories from parents who credit MST for helping put their children back on the right track:
'Catholic Charities was my Guardian Angel'
When Shatwan Bolden was referred to Catholic Charities, she knew she needed help. She found the help she needed in the MST program, and appreciates everything that Catholic Charities has done for her and her family.
A mother of four, Shatwan Bolden became a parent at a young age. She tried in every way to be a good parent to her children and to set a positive example for them - she avoided drugs and alcohol, and participated in parenting programs.
Shatwan became ill and was hospitalized. Even before, her children began acting up. Her oldest son, 17-year-old Marquell, was missing school and being disrespectful and her 10-year-old son, Jeremiah, started having discipline problems. Even with her illness, she was going to work and trying to deal with her sons’ behavior problems - at home and school - all on her own.
Eventually, Shatwan turned to Catholic Charities MST for help. When the therapist arrived at their home, she helped Shatwan find better ways to work with her children so they would listen to her and follow her rules.
“When Amanda came to our house, she was like my new best friend,” said Shatwan. “She was always there to help me.”
With the help of MST, Shatwan has noticed a change in her sons’ behavior. Now when her children are acting up, she calms down, thinks about how to handle the situation and responds in a calm and assertive manner. Her younger son also meets with a counselor at school through Catholic Charities’ Closing the Gap program, to check in each morning and check out each afternoon and talk about what is happening in his life. Her older son is on schedule to graduate now.
“The MST Program was like a guardian angel to me,” said Shatwan. “I have really learned to appreciate the program - it was a very good learning experience. It may not be something that you really want to do at the time, but they will help you get stronger and better as a parent.”
A Safe, Stable Place to Call Home
Last year, Marino Faliero’s 11-year-old granddaughter appeared on his doorstep with a garbage bag full of clothes. Her mother, Tina, no longer had any interest in caring for Samantha. Several of Tina’s boyfriends struggled with substance abuse and Samantha was regularly exposed to negative behaviors.
Marino had raised several children of his own, and knew that he could be a positive influence in Samantha’s life and a good caretaker. Catholic Charities’ Multisystemic Therapy (MST) program stepped in to help him develop guidelines and a rewards program that would help eliminate Samantha’s verbally aggressive attitude. She attended counseling sessions twice a week for six months to help her deal with the situations she faced while living with her mother.
Catholic Charities wanted Samantha to have a safe, stable place she could call home – and they found that home with her grandfather.
“Samantha’s behavior has gotten much better and she completes her homework on time, thanks to the rewards program instituted by Catholic Charities,” said Marino.
'I didn't know what to do ...'
When Craig Abelson’s son came to live with him after his mother could no longer handle him, Craig knew there would be problems – but Catholic Charities was there to help.
Craig’s son moved from Erie, Pa. to live with him and his wife in North Tonawanda. Craig thought his son had settled into his new middle school fine, but within a few weeks he began to receive daily calls from the principal due to consistent tardiness. Things were getting worse at school - his son was skipping detention, not doing his homework and on separate occasions, he brought a lighter and a knife to school.
Craig began reaching out to different people to find some help. His son would not listen to anyone. He was even caught trying to buy an iPod with a stolen credit card, but there were no legal consequences which only served to escalate his son’s negative behavior. Craig sought the help of law enforcement and his son was eventually put in Juvenile Court, but even that was too lenient.
Finally, Craig heard about the MST program at Catholic Charities in Lockport and contacted the office.
Kelly was the MST therapist who worked with Craig and his family. She taught him to give his son consequences and to stop and think before yelling at him. As a result, his son has learned to listen and communicate better with his father which has made their relationship stronger. They now have a father-son night, his son is no longer late to school, he rarely gets into trouble there and he does his homework every day.
“I think all potential parents should take a mini-course of this program before they become parents - it teaches you how to raise your kids better,” said Craig.
With the help of Catholic Charities’ MST, the Abelson’s now have the tools and resources to deal with their son’s behavioral problems and to lead happier, more peaceful lives.
Easing the Burden for Seniors
William Copeland - Senior Day Catholic Charities' Senior Day Program offers individualized assessment and plan of care, supervised group activities, nutritional snack and noon meal, limited showers and transportation, along with assistance with mobility, eating, toileting and hygiene for qualifying seniors.
One special senior who has made a significant difference in the lives of his peers is William Copeland. William has been attending Senior Day Program for the past three years. He suffers from bi-polar disorder and seizures and his wife, Ruby, required additional help when caring for him. She found that help from Catholic Charities.
William participates in the program three days a week where he has the ability to express his artistic talents through painting, drawing and singing. The program also includes regular exercise routines. He has been a big help to his peers who have mobility issues, and his supervisors have commented on his contagious positive outlook.
Through the Senior Day Program, William has been able to continue to live at home with his wife, and they recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Click here for more success stories from years past.
*Names are changed to protect confidentiality.