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by Kaitlin Jackson

Wed, Feb 7th 2018 08:00 pm

Sr. Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities diocesan director; David Gabamonte, Catholic Charities Maintenance supervisor; Rich Inserra, manager of Trader Joe’s in Amherst; Bishop Richard J. Malone, Diocese of Buffalo; and Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities chief executive officer.

Sr. Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities diocesan director; David Gabamonte, Catholic Charities Maintenance supervisor; Rich Inserra, manager of Trader Joe’s in Amherst; Bishop Richard J. Malone, Diocese of Buffalo; and Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities chief executive officer.

Nearly 80 parish volunteers, clergy, lay leaders, and Catholic Charities’ staff attended a volunteer training workshop following dinner today to help kick off the 2018 Appeal for Catholic Charities in Erie County.

The event was held at The Columns Banquets in Elma in preparation for the 94th annual campaign, which carries a goal of $11 million and officially kicked off on Jan. 10 with a news conference at the organization’s new WIC location in Cheektowaga. The patron saint for the 2018 Appeal is St. Clare of Assisi.

Today’s workshop was the second of two dates offered for training provided to Erie County volunteers; the first was held on Feb. 3 at Catholic Charities’ Montante Administrative Center in Buffalo.

Working under the theme “Love Your Neighbor” from the Bible verse Galatians 5:14, Appeal volunteers from Erie County will begin reaching out to individuals and businesses in the community to encourage their support of the Appeal, which helps fund Catholic Charities’ 70 programs and services across 61 sites in Western New York and a number of ministries through the Bishop’s Fund for the Faith.

Catholic Charities provided assistance which impacted nearly 153,000 individuals, Catholics and non-Catholics alike during the past year, including more than 108,000 individuals in Erie County. Donors from Erie County contributed $7.1 million to the 2017 Appeal.

During the workshop, a Hero of Hope Partner Award was presented to Rich Inserra, manager of the Amherst Trader Joe’s, for his collaboration with Catholic Charities’ Department of Parish Outreach and Advocacy to give perishable food donations to Catholic Charities’ food pantries.

David Gabamonte, Maintenance supervisor, who presented the award to Inserra said, “This past year, Trader Joe’s provided us with more than 100,000 pounds of food product valued at $178,000, all from the initial connection that started with the Food Bank of WNY and Trader Joe’s. Much of this has been possible because of Rich’s dedication to coordinating the store’s products that will benefit those in need served by our food pantries. We sincerely thank Rich and Trader Joe’s.”

Two important dates during the 2018 Appeal include First Report Sunday, March 18 and the culmination of Appeal Week on Palm Sunday, March 25. Although Appeal Week marks the strongest push for parish donations, volunteers will work to achieve the final goal until the conclusion of Catholic Charities’ fiscal year on June 30.

Among the other speakers at the event were: The Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo; Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, Catholic Charities diocesan director; and Robert Bennett, 2018 Appeal general chair.

Bishop Malone, speaking about the 2018 Appeal theme said, “The Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Galatians directs and empowers us to live as Christ’s ambassadors and instruments here on earth, stating the entire law is fulfilled in keeping with one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Regardless of our faith, we can all agree that treating our neighbors as we’d hope to be treated is a worthy goal and is certainly a fitting message for our 2018 Appeal theme.”

Bennett and members of the Appeal leadership team presented information about the 2018 Appeal, including what has changed, how to run a successful parish campaign and ideas for gaining new donors while also retaining previous supporters.

Bennett is chairing the 2018 Appeal along with his son Andrew Bennett and daughter Maurine Falkowski, who are serving as co-chairs. Other members of this year’s volunteer leadership are John and Ruthanne Daly, vice chairs; Rick Cronin, parish chair; and Jim Dentinger and Lisa Wardynski, corporate chairs.

During his remarks, Bennett expressed why he and his children selected St. Clare of Assisi as the 2018 Appeal patron saint and how her example fits into this year’s theme of “Love Your Neighbor.”

“We chose St. Clare because her life was dedicated to care and concern for the poor and those marginalized in society,” Bennett said. “She was born into a wealthy Italian family, but soon shunned this upbringing to embrace a life of piety and poverty. She was a beggar, but was so for those in need, always giving to others. According to St. Clare, ‘we are to become the vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.’ This is our inspiration and motivation as we carry out the 2018 Appeal.”

Of the $11 million goal, Bennett said, “This may seem like a very aggressive goal, but we feel confident that the dedication and commitment of volunteers and the generosity of Western New Yorkers will result in success, and that the mission of Catholic Charities will prevail. Though Buffalo gets the moniker of City of Good Neighbors, we know that title is really fitting of this entire region. We trust that Western New Yorkers will take up our challenge of loving their neighbors and give what they can to support those most vulnerable and in need.”

A wide range of services are provided in Erie County, including children’s services, older adult services, food pantries, counseling and comprehensive behavioral health services, immigration and refugee assistance, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program, and workforce and education services.

Catholic Charities operates out of 37 offices in Erie County, including 23 in the City of Buffalo and locations in Amherst, Cheektowaga, Getzville, Hamburg, Kenmore, and Lackawanna.

Catholic Charities has helped individuals and families in need since its founding in 1923. That need is varied and widespread – from emergency assistance to mental health counseling and treatment; and from specialized services for older adults to help with job training and education.

Catholic Charities empowers children, families and seniors to achieve meaningful, healthy and productive lives. In all situations, Catholic Charities delivers support to meet immediate needs, and then assesses clients for other needs to ensure long-term success.

An excellent steward of the contributions it receives, Catholic Charities earns highest-possible ratings from Charity Navigator for transparency and sound fiscal management and is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity. Catholic Charities also receives highest ratings from the Council on Accreditation for quality service.

To make a donation to the 2018 Appeal or for more information contact Catholic Charities at (716) 218-1400 or go to  Join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.