Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Catholic Charities’ Benefit Dinner Shines Light on Organization’s Efforts as ‘the Hands of Christ’

Benefactors and attendees of Catholic Charities’ annual “Hands of Christ Creating Hope” benefit dinner on Tuesday, April 30, received a first-hand look at the ways in which the organization’s programs are changing the lives of the people it serves.

“We are the hands of Christ creating hope,” Kelly Gollick, Executive Director, told the nearly 150 attendees who gathered in support of the event at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg.

“At Catholic Charities, we use our hands to lovingly dispense diapers to refugee mothers through our Empowering Women for Success program. Our hands dig soil with our students at Paradise School to teach them about horticulture. We teach fathers how to console their child who has a behavioral problem. With outstretched arms, we share the love of Christ when the vulnerable among us are in need.”

The annual dinner shines a light on the work of Catholic Charities in helping people in need in our own communities, and raises much-needed funds to help support its critical programs. The event featured a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres hour, a silent auction, dinner and remarks about several of Catholic Charities’ programs.

John Sherman, Chief Development Officer of CatholicVote, was the guest speaker for the evening, and underscored the civic responsibility to vote.

“I’m grateful to be here to rally around such a great cause as Catholic Charities,” Sherman said. “I firmly believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the most honorable force for good on the planet earth…. It has done more to lift people up and to improve their quality of life, spiritually and physically.”

The mission of CatholicVote is to inspire Catholics to live out the truths of the faith in public life.

“It is us, the faithful, who work every day in the private sector and the public sector, who are called to witness to what we believe on a daily basis,” Sherman said.

Pointing to the precarious, divisive and often volatile times in which we live, Sherman said now is the time for Catholics to be a light and a voice for good.

“Up until recently, when we disagreed politically, we disagreed on how to achieve a particular end or a good. We would disagree about the means by which we should go about achieving it. What’s different today is that we are now increasingly disagreeing about what is a good and the end we should be pursuing,” he said. “We’re more divided now then we have ever been, and I believe the biggest reason for that is that a large number of people in our country now no longer believe in God. They no longer follow the tenets of the Christian faith. When you stop following the tenets of faith, you can literally come to believe and do anything.”

“Our goal during an election season is to get Catholics to vote,” Sherman said, noting that during any given election, 30 percent of the Catholic population does not cast a ballot.

“We want to constantly and consistently remind Catholics of their civic responsibility,” he said.

Changing Lives, Creating Hope

In a powerful first-hand account of Catholic Charities’ life-changing services, Joel Martin shared the ways in which his family’s lives have been changed and uplifted through the Lancaster Intensive Day Treatment program.

The program serves at-risk youth ages 9-15 who have significant emotional and behavioral health needs. It provides a therapeutic environment to help children and adolescents improve their social skills and enhance their education.

Joel and Jen Martin sought out the program to help their daughter, Jasmine.

The Martins first met their daughter when she was six years old and in foster care after suffering horrific neglect and sexual abuse.

“The trauma in our daughter’s life is very, very deep. When she came into our home, she was in first grade, and generally responded well to be in a loving and stable home,” Joel Martin said in remarks during the dinner. “Things began to change, though, when she hit adolescence and transitioned to a more independent environment in middle school, with far less accountability and structure.”

She was anxious and afraid, wondering who she could trust and fearful of who might hurt her. She started to lash out, biting and kicking when her emotions ran high.

“Things approached a very dire situation. We wondered if she would need a residential treatment facility, and whether our home was really the place where she could stay. We knew she needed a loving, nurturing environment with Jesus at the center, but we didn’t know what else to do,” Martin said.

That’s when the Martins were connected with Lancaster Intensive Day Treatment, a year-round program that works one-on-one with students and families and provides education through the Lancaster Intermediate Unit 13.

“From the moment we walked through the door, life and grace and change started to flow,” Martin said.

“I saw that our daughter felt safe and her anxiety started to melt away. Healing did not happen overnight, and it is ongoing, but Lancaster Intensive Day Treatment provided for her where other places could not,” he said.

“Our daughter has changed so much for the better…. Disagreements on the home front are handled without yelling and escalation, she is respectful and teachable. Instead of hurting others and lashing out, she is serving our church and taking care of children in Sunday School. She is developing healthy friendships and relationships in our church youth group and bible study,” Martin said. “There was once, and still is, a broken human being, but Jesus is restoring her and creating her so that she can likewise give as Jesus taught.

“We want to thank all of you who are supporting this work,” he told the dinner attendees. “To my knowledge, this is the only kind of program like this in the state of Pennsylvania, and we feel very privileged to have it in Lancaster. You are changing the very fabric of the next generation, one life at a time.”

The Lancaster Intensive Day Treatment Program is one of numerous programs operated by Catholic Charities to extend support and hope to people in our communities. From counseling and foster care programs, to residential services for homeless families, pregnant women and women in recovery from addiction, the staff of Catholic Charities works to be the hands of Christ to those they serve.

The annual benefit dinner is one way of raising awareness and critical financial support for the various programs that serve men, women and children in need of help and hope.

“We carry out the work of God through critical and impactful programs here in our Diocese,” Gollick said. “We are charged by Jesus with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless. We are helping children cope with difficult feelings and traumatic events. Our staff brings together families that have been torn apart by addiction, trauma and abuse. We meet people where they are and accompany them on this leg of their journey by providing love, compassion and support. We see the face of Jesus in every person who turns to us for help.”

“When we serve one another, we serve Jesus. When you support Catholic Charities, you are serving Him,” Gollick said.

For more information on Catholic Charities’ programs, upcoming events and how you can help, visit www.cchbg.org.

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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