Grocery Cart Dinner – A Special Meal at the Men’s Shelter

Grocery Cart Dinner – A Special Meal at the Men’s Shelter

Above, two staff members wait by the back entrance to assist volunteers.

Many nights at our Men’s Shelter, hot meals arrive piled high in the backs of vans and cars driven by dedicated volunteers. The meals are provided by volunteers who generously donate their own time and resources to help our residents.

Last Sunday, dinner arrived not in the back of a car, but in a grocery cart.

The grocery cart was pushed by Miss Sandra and her three grandchildren. Miss Sandra, a local resident, called our shelter staff early in the day to ask how many men were staying because she wanted to cook them dinner.  She spent the day making enough for roughly 60 men. Late in the afternoon, she discovered that a family member needed the car she’d planned on using. Still determined to deliver, she found a shopping cart and loaded it up. She then rounded up her three grandchildren and together they pushed the cart half a mile through slushy city streets to the shelter.

The men's shelter during the day, awaiting arrivals
The men’s shelter during the day, awaiting arrivals

Last Sunday night was miserable. It was cold and snowing and the streets were a mess. This family still carried through with their efforts and they made a big impression on our residents, who thanked them profusely as Miss Sandra took charge of the shelter floor for the evening, shooing help away as she served out the meal.

We are always grateful for the generous support we receive from groups and individuals in the community. There are so many moments that are deserving of special recognition, but we know that’s not what motivates our volunteers to help. So, to all of our quiet supporters – thank you for giving, as Miss Sandra did,  so generously of your time and resources to help us serve the community. It is deeply appreciated.


Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Actions to Take to Assist Refugee Services

Actions to Take to Assist Refugee Services

On January 27th, executive orders were signed that severely restricted refugee resettlement in the United States. Since then, the status of the orders and the future of refugee resettlement has been in flux. What is clear to us at Catholic Charities is that we must stand firmly in solidarity with refugees, both those already living in Syracuse and those abroad who continue to look to the United States as a place where they might achieve a brighter future.

Below are actions we’ve taken, actions you can take as a support and links to statements made by us at Catholic Charities and our friends and partners at the Diocese of Syracuse and Catholic Relief Services.

If you have any questions about this developing situation or what you can do to assist, please email us at

Actions Taken at Catholic Charities

  • Internal
    • Instituted a hiring freeze and worked to reassign refugee resettlement staff in preparation for funding cut. Reduce staff hours by 5%.
    • Meeting with stakeholders to discuss solutions and responses.
    • Ongoing work with refugee community to reassure individuals of continued services.
  • External
    • Statements to media
    • Advocacy with elected representatives

Actions to Take as a Supporter

  • Contact your representatives and implore them to defend refugee resettlement programs
  • Be an advocate in your community and promote positive representations of refugees. This can be as simple as having a conversation with your neighbor or sharing content from Catholic Charities’ Facebook and Twitter!
  •  Volunteer
  • Provide financial support (indicate “Refugee Services” in memo)
    • Donate online at
    • Call 315-362-7579
    • Send a check: Attn: Donor Development, 1654 West Onondaga Street, Syracuse, NY, 13204


Catholic Charities’ Jan 27th Statement on Executive Orders

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham’s Statement in Solidarity with Refugees and Exiles

Five Things You May Not Know About Refugees

CRS Calls for Refugee Ban to Be Suspended

Catholic Charities’ Refugee Services in the News

Catholic Charities: Trump order halts 220 refugees approved for Syracuse move

Catholic Charities thanks Syracuse community for supporting refugees

Bishop Calls Faithful to Welcome the Stranger

Two Syrian refugee families arrive in Syracuse amid ups and downs of Trump travel ban

Statement on Executive Orders

Since 1923, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County has been committed to working for the benefit of the most vulnerable members of our community.  We are dedicated to the idea that all human life is of infinite value.  We serve people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, or any other consideration.

We are deeply troubled by the proposed Executive Orders on immigration and refugee resettlement policies.  Catholic Charities’ expertise and history of welcoming and integrating newcomers to the United States gives us deep familiarity with their needs and contributions. The Executive Orders cause us concern, mostly because they put forward an attitude and approach that first views immigrants as a threat and liability.  We view immigrants as an opportunity and asset.

Locally, Catholic Charities has worked with New Americans for decades.  We are familiar with the struggles of immigrants as well as being well-versed in their countless contributions. Syracuse is a city with a proud immigrant history that includes the Irish, Polish, Greek, Germans, Italians, Ukranians, and many more.  The integration of 21st century immigrants and refugees is a continuation of that history.

According to Executive Director, Mike Melara, “There are over 200 refugees that are currently in the queue to come to Syracuse.  They have endured years of persecution and, in some cases, torture, only to find their hopes of freedom dashed by the stroke of a pen.  This is a human tragedy.”  While the new administration wants to take 120 days to suspend all resettlements so it can examine the refugee vetting process, Melara contends that this information is readily available.  “The process for vetting refugees is rigorous and well documented.”

Catholic Charities reaffirms its solidarity with immigrants and refugees who come to this nation to make a better life for themselves, their families, and their neighbors.  This is particularly important in times of uncertainty and anxiety.  According to Melara, “Our best hope is that our government leaders will be touched by ‘the better angels of their nature’ as we continue our efforts to welcome those who are fleeing persecution and, in many cases, fearing for their lives.”


Contact: Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator,, 315-362-7527 

Statement also posted: 

Special Need: Parenting Programs

Special Need: Parenting Programs

Our Parenting Programs help local families prepare for new babies and care for young children. They provide crucial support in the first years of children’s lives to help set them on a path for success. And, right now, they’re in need of a helping hand.

Specifically, our Parenting Programs are in need of baby formula, personal hygiene products and household cleaning products. Can you spare a few minutes to pick some up on your next trip to the grocery store? Any contribution will go directly to the people we work with.

Thank you for considering supporting this important effort. If you prefer to make a monetary contribution, you can visit or give us a call at 315-362-7527.

Donations can be brought to:

Catholic Charities of Onondaga County Headquarters
House of Providence
1654 W Onondaga Street, Syracuse
Please bring donations to box behind reception


Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Congratulations Denise Headd, Chief Development Officer

denise headdWe are pleased to announce the recent appointment of Denise Headd as Chief Development Officer. Ms. Headd joins Catholic Charities with a decade of experience in community relations and fundraising for local nonprofits.  Most recently, Ms. Headd served as Director of Development for the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo where she provided leadership, strategic direction, management and coordination for all fundraising efforts including large donor recognition events.

Past positions include Director of Mission Advancement at Assumption Church, where she managed community relations and fundraising efforts including a community-wide benefit concert and a wine tasting event to raise funds for the church’s efforts. Ms. Headd also served as the Director of Development for Joseph’s House for Women in Syracuse where she was responsible for all fundraising efforts including major gifts, corporate donations, and managing the annual Gala and charity golf tournament.

Ms. Headd holds a Bachelors in English and Communications from Canisius College. She lives in Syracuse with her husband.


Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Family Photo Day at CYO

Family Photo Day at CYO

Above, two brothers take a look at their portraits with Kate Holmes, CYO staff member. 


Every holiday season for the last few years, our CYO (Refugee Services), has offered people the chance to get a family portrait taken. This year, we took advantage of the flexibility of MLK, Jr. Day to offer another opportunity. Several families came by in the morning to get their photos taken by Kate Holmes, BIA Rep and ONA Manager at the CYO.

“A lot of these families haven’t had portraits taken,” Kate said as she waited for another family to step up to her makeshift studio. “Or if they have, they’ve only been for documentation purposes. So they don’t smile. They’re very stoic. But they do smile when they see the results.”

The photos are printed, framed, and distributed to the families. For people who may not have had a place to call home for years, having a portrait to put on the mantel is a small but tangible indication of a new chapter.

Kate with a family.
Kate, staff member and photographer, with a family.
A family reviews their photo with staff member and photographer Kate Holmes.
Reviewing the photo.
Grandmother with two granddaughters.
Grandmother with two granddaughters.
Kate: Is Grandma saying she doesn’t like your hair in your face? -Yes. Kate: Do you like your hair in your face? -Yes. Kate: I guess we can leave it, then.
A young refugee, in purple, reacts in slight confusion to seeing her photo, while her family looks on.
A young refugee, in purple, reacts in slight confusion to seeing her photo, while her family looks on.
Two chairs and a backdrop await more subjects in the CYO gym.
Two chairs and a backdrop await more subjects in the CYO gym.


To support this and other programs,  visit our website.


Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Holiday Festivities at CYO and Vincent House

Holiday Festivities at CYO and Vincent House

This week has been full of holidaying happenings throughout our programs. Yesterday was a particularly busy day with present distribution at the CYO and a holiday party at the Vincent House Youth Center. CYO present distribution was made possible by Governor Cuomo’s regional office; OTDA Commissioner Sam Roberts was on hand to help kids make their choices. At Vincent House, staff, parents and supporters put together a party with activities, dinner, presents and gift bags after school.

Thank you to all who help make the holiday season brighter for the people we serve. Because of your support, over 400 families were supplied with Christmas presents for their kids, more than 220 turkeys were distributed, our centers were able to hold special events and much more. Your generosity is a true show of the spirit of the season, and we are deeply grateful.

Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator