Saturday, July 20, 2024

Inaugural Event for Catholic Charities Honors Agency’s Dedicated Donors, Volunteers and Employees

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Harrisburg assisted more than 2,000 people this year through its various services across the Diocese, from counseling and foster care, to residential and educational programs.

The numbers paint a hefty portrait of service to those in need, even at a glance:

  • More than 6,600 hours of counseling
  • 25,000 meals to families at the Interfaith Shelter
  • Connections with 67 statewide adoption network services
  • 161 students in English as a Second Language classes
  • Mental health services to 50 families
  • Education for 109 students at Paradise School

There is work to be done in service to others, and it cannot be achieved without generous and devoted donors, volunteers and employees. In a gesture of appreciation, Catholic Charities hosted its inaugural “Grace and Gratitude” event on Wednesday, October 26, at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg, an evening of celebration for the many hands who make their efforts possible.

“This night is truly a celebration of you: our dedicated staff, our passionate volunteers and our generous donors. You have no idea how important your contribution is to Catholic Charities. Every hour volunteered, every dollar donated and every prayer said fuels our mission to serve families in need across the Diocese of Harrisburg,” Kelly Gollick, Executive Director, told a gathering of more than 100 guests.

“Each day we stop and we look into the eyes of a baby, a child, or someone in pain, we see the face of God looking back at us and know that we are called to serve,” she said. “Because of you, Catholic Charities is able to spread the light of Christ.”

The evening offered a look at the impact that each dollar and every volunteer hour has had on the agency in the past year, and the vital and lifesaving services the agency provides.

Catholic Charities provides hope, help and support to thousands of families throughout the Diocese’s 15 counties each year, regardless of their faith. Programs include residential housing for homeless families, women in recovery, and women who are pregnant. The agency also provides counseling and mental health services, a foster care and adoption program, and comprehensive services for refugees. Most of its services are offered at minimal or no cost to those receive them.

“It’s one thing to be a support and to make your contributions, but your presence tonight says a lot about your commitment to be one with our work with Catholic Charities here in the Diocese,” Bishop Ronald Gainer told those gathered. “It is our privilege to serve the need. The is no question about the demand that our Lord makes upon us to love our neighbor and to serve all those who are in need.

“We have Catholic Charities here as the arm to reach out, to be the face of Christ, to be the hands and the feet of Christ. We could not do that without each of you who are gathered here this evening, and so many more who contribute to the mission of Catholic Charities,” he said.

The evening also offered a look at the agency’s goals and objectives for the upcoming year. Catholic Charities is embarking on a strategic plan to examine its impact throughout the Diocese, and has begun deanery meetings to examine the various needs in different areas of its 15 counties.

The agency is collaborating with Trinity High School in Camp Hill and plans to collaborate with Lancaster Catholic High School on a pilot project to bring outpatient counseling services into schools in an effort to better assess students’ needs and provide counseling and referrals.

The agency’s leadership is also meeting with community leaders and foundations to examine ways to engage in partnerships that benefit community needs.

“There is still much work to be done,” Gollick said. “I am excited about the future and the opportunities that lie ahead for Catholic Charities…. Our goal is to be more visible throughout the entire Diocese.”

“The most successful Catholic Charities across our country partner with both parishes and volunteers who want to be part of the mission to help those who come to us in need. We know that with the grace of God and the dedication of everyone here, we can transform our community, one neighbor at a time,” she said.

Recognition of Gifts

A number of special awards were presented to donors, volunteers and employees for their generosity and service. Nearly a dozen employees were recognized for milestone years of service; the longest-serving among them was Kelly Bolton, current Program Director at Catholic Charities Outpatient Behavioral Health Services, with 35 years of employment.

Special awards were also given in recognition of outstanding financial support, volunteer efforts and community service. Donor Frank Holzel was presented the St. Vincent de Paul Award for compassion, humility and generosity. Volunteer Maryellen Santanna was given the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Award for her compassion and dedication to supporting the annual Souper Bowl soup sale. Conewago Enterprises, Inc., was presented with the Catholic Charities Community Award in recognition of the company’s contributions through community service and philanthropy, and was received by Deacon Chris Livelsberger.

Holzel was humbled to be recognized for his financial support, and said his efforts are about the agency and not himself.

“I’ve been really fortunate over the years with having jobs and working for companies where I could contribute to Catholic Charities,” the told The Witness. “Being Catholic, it just makes sense to contribute to Catholic Charities. They are extremely efficient in how they use their funds, and that’s important to me.”

Among the employees applauded for her work with Catholic Charities was Georgette Cottrell of Evergreen House, which is a residential program for women in recovery from addition. Cottrell was a resident there 17 years ago, and has spent the past five years giving back to the program that empowered her to turn her life around.

I have a very big passion when it comes to Evergreen. The staff was very helpful and encouraging to me when I needed it, and there are staff members here today that were there 17 years ago – like Miss Wanda and Lydia. They gave me the tools and taught me how to live,” she said.

“When you’re living with addiction, you forget how to do little things for yourself, like bathing, proper hygiene, just even thinking things through. My son was 15 months old when I looked into his eyes and knew I needed to get help. I’m proud to say relapse has not been part of my story,” Cottrell said.

“I want people to know that the program at Evergreen works if you put in the effort when you’re there…. It’s important for me to be there and connect with the girls and tell them I sat literally in their same seats. The work is hard, but you are worthy of it, you deserve it. Evergreen helps you give yourself that chance,” she said.

Grace and gratitude abounded at the inaugural event, as employees shared success stories and donors and volunteers talked about the joy of giving and serving. Catholic Charities hopes to carry that momentum into the new year and into future growth.

Tonight was about pausing for a moment to thank God and to thank you,” Gollick told the crowd at the conclusion of the evening. “Tonight was an opportunity to reflect on all the gifts that each one of you have shared with Catholic Charities over the years. We also look to the future and how all of us can continue the amazing work of Catholic Charities.”

“Please keep us in your prayers. Pray for God’s grace as we do important work for this community that we so love. Please continue to share the good news of Catholic Charities, including the many programs and people that we serve…. And please continue to partner with Catholic Charities in giving of your time, your talent and your treasure. There is much to be done, and we would not be able to do it without you partnering with us,” she said.

For more information about the programs of Catholic Charities, and to see how you can volunteer or contribute, visit

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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