My daughter, who is majoring in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Scranton, recently sent me an article by Rachel Remen. I thought to myself, in my most condescending voice, “How cute of Juliana to send me this article.” And then I read the piece. And I was humbled. Not by any significant revelation. But more by the fact that the article describes how our staff, my staff, work every day at Catholic Charities. Remen says, “Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, but service is the work of the soul.”
We serve over 20,000 people every year at Catholic Charities, ranging in age from infants to senior citizens. We work with those members of our community who are most vulnerable and in greatest need. But it is the way we work with them that matters the most. Remen nails it when she states,
“Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. From the perspective of service, we are all connected. All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequity.” In the process of “helping” we may diminish the other’s self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.
At Catholic Charites, we share the same humanity as the people we serve. We recognize ourselves in them. Service is a relationship between equals. And our service strengthens us as well as others.
Three unusual boxes spent some time last month in the corner of an office at our headquarters. They awaited pick up for three days, and prompted smiles from staff the entire time.
The boxes contained a special set of donations – 20 care packages put together by a local girl scout troop. The girls made the care packages as an empathy-building project. They stuffed them full of goodies for the kids who stay at Dorothy Day House, our shelter for homeless women and their children.
The packages are bright and cheerful. They contain snacks, toothbrushes, kid-friendly shampoo, coloring books, stickers and more. The girls wrote their own notes to accompany the car packages, wishing their peers happy days.
Across the U.S., about 2.5 million children are homeless every year. This historic high is about 1 in every 30 kids (http://www.air.org/center/national-center-family-homelessness). As a poverty-stricken city, Syracuse has many struggling families. Their struggles are thrown into even sharper relief by the aproaching holidays. A season that shoud be about celebration and loved ones can instead be a reminder of what parents aren’t able to provide for their families.
Assistance from concerned neighbors like this girl scout troop and our numerous other supporters helps make a difference for these struggling families. Our Christmas Program supplies gifts and toys to over 400 families every year. Will you join the effort to make the holidays brighter and the next year more hopeful for people who are struggling? Any contribution helps.
Our thanks to all who took part in making our Salt City Shaker a great event! Thank you for coming out to learn more about our work and to get to know other movers and shakers on Central New York. Our congrats again to Camille Tisdel, Director of Web Services in the Office of Advancement and External Affairs at Syracuse University, who was honored with the Mover and Shaker award for her contributions to the community.
Barbecues are a cherished summer ritual, as are their counterpart, a hot meal enjoyed with friends and family on a cold winter’s night. Volunteers like the Galletta family are vital to making sure that the men who reside in our shelter on South Clinton St. don’t miss out on these happy moments.
The Gallettas approach service as a team. In mid August this year, six members of the family (Mary Jo, John Sr., Betty, John, Emma and Julian) representing three generations, cooked and served their annual barbecue for our residents in the shelter parking lot. This is part of a two-year-old tradition of supplying a barbecue in the summer and a hot cooked meal in December, at which the men receive toiletry bags. This is in addition to several other monthly and yearly breakfasts that Mary Jo helps coordinate.
The dinners and amenities the Gallettas supply are part of a community effort. The toiletries are donated by local dentists and teachers Mary Jo works with. Six local churches are involved in providing hot breakfasts once a month.
The Gallettas enjoy working with shelter staff on their visits to South Clinton St. They value working together to provide meals and small gifts for the residents. Their dedication has brought a lot of good to the shelter; we are blessed to have them contributing so generously of their time and resources.
The Gallettas are six of many standout volunteers who help make our work possible every day. Our volunteers are vital in many departments. They help refugees learn English, mentor at-risk youth, assist the elderly, support or shelter residents and much more. We are grateful for every single one of them. To join their ranks, follow the “Volunteer” link below.
True. Every day in our youth programs, we see how kids benefit from having their “village” support them. Kids have a better chance at success if they have access to supportive programs and positive mentors. These crucial aspects of their village have a significant impact on them.
Here’s a revision to consider on National Senior Citizens’ Day this Sunday, August 21st: it takes a community to care for the elderly. The elderly in Onondaga County, particularly low-income seniors, face many challenges that can make it difficult for them to participate in their community. Lack of adequate transportation, nutrition, home safety concerns and in-home services can combine to make it impossible for seniors to remain in their homes.
Our Elderly Services work with seniors and community partners to help ensure these needs are met. We support the elderly and their caretakers to enable the elderly to remain safely living in the community. We address concerns about access to services with our Neighborhood Advisors program, which organizes outreach to seniors who may be in need. Transportation is sought through Area North Transportation Services (ANTS) and referrals to other transportation programs. Concerns about nutrition are addressed through referrals to SNAP, Farmer’s Market Coupons, and the Senior Nutrition Site. Our maintenance program Project Fix is available to address minor home repairs, such as replacing locks and installing grab bars in showers. Personal care, housekeeping services and case management are provided through the EISEP program or through referrals to the Long-Term Care resource center. (For a full overview of programs, visit our site.) This comprehensive suite of programs enabled us to address needs for over 2700 seniors in Onondaga County in 2015.
This is an age group that gives back, too. We work with 340 senior volunteers through our Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). They work with 50 different community agencies that concentrate on hunger, companionship, disaster preparedness, and transportation. Their support is vital to the success of many programs.
So on this National Senior Citizens’ Day, we’d like to share our thanks – a thank you to our seniors, our senior volunteers and the donors who help raise up all members of our “village.”