Agency honors three for works of love - Catholic Courier

Agency honors three for works of love

Brendan McGrath, Wendy Young and Jenny Haines all know each other because each works in the health and human-services field in the Auburn area. Now they are bound by another connection — each is a 2005 recipient of the Works of Love Award, which is given annually by Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes’ Cayuga County office.

Each year the Cayuga County office honors a handful of Cayuga County residents whose everyday lives have reflected God’s compassion, mercy and love. McGrath, Young and Haines were honored during the Works of Love Dinner that was held Sept. 13. The keynote address was given by Kathleen Cuddy, a member of Holy Family Parish in Auburn and deputy director for health services with the Cayuga County Department of Health and Human Services.

McGrath moved to Auburn from Connecticut nearly 18 years ago to become the associate administrator at Auburn Memorial Hospital. Since that time he has become involved in a number of community organizations and in July became the hospital’s administrator.

McGrath, who belongs to St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn, has participated on the boards of Hospice of the Finger Lakes and the Cayuga County chapters of the United Way and Big Brother, Big Sister. He is currently board chairperson for both Matthew House and the Cayuga Seneca Community Action Agency.

“The network of community organizations ties in very much with what I do in terms of my vocation here and my experience as the administrator of the hospital,” McGrath said. “Seeing the value in what you do and the ‚Ķ community that benefits from it is very satisfying. I’ve always felt that this is work worth doing.”

The Cayuga Seneca Community Action Agency provides services to individuals and families affected by issues such as poverty and domestic violence, McGrath said. Matthew House is a two-bed residential home for the terminally ill. It provides an environment where the terminally ill can be cared for, supported and comfortable in the last days of their lives, McGrath said.

“The value of life is recognized, (as well as) the dignity of the person in whatever stage of life they’re in, even if it’s the end of life,” McGrath said.

Young has worked as resident director at Matthew House for the past two years.

“If ever there was a work of love, Matthew House is it,” Young said. “It’s not a place so much to come to die as to have the best of living conditions until that takes place.”

Young’s first experience with hospice care came in 1988 when her grandmother was one of the area’s first hospice patients, she said. Watching her grandmother being taken care of in her home and surrounded by family as she neared death was an incredible experience. Young was sitting in her car in a parking lot at Welch Allyn, where she worked, several years later when she realized she wanted to become a hospice nurse.

“It was almost like a calling. I felt the pull of going into the field of nursing specifically to do hospice nursing,” Young said.

Young left her job, became a licensed practical nurse and worked at a local hospital for one year before joining the staff of Hospice of the Finger Lakes. She took to her new profession immediately.

“It was like a huge light went on, and I was in the zone,” Young said. “It was like I was able to do for (family members) what I was only able to observe being done for my grandmother.”

Young worked with Hospice of the Finger Lakes for nine years before coming to Matthew House. Young has enjoyed her involvement with hospice and learned many lessons at the bedsides of the dying, she said.

Haines has worked for the City of Auburn since 1993. She currently manages the Community Development Block Grant Fund and has been the chairperson of the Auburn/Cayuga County Homelessness Task Force since early 2004. The task force recently secured $447,000 through a grant from Continuum of Care — a project of Housing and Urban Development — and the task force submitted an application for another grant in June.

Money from the first grant will be used to fund a leasing program for people who are homeless and disabled, a case-management program specifically for homeless families and improved software for data collection. The second grant, if approved, will fund another leasing program and a case-management program for homeless individuals.

The Continuum of Care grant helped bring credibility to the task force and highlighted the need in the community, Haines said.

“Homelessness here is really different than what you would typically think of,” she said.

Since Cayuga County is largely made up of rural areas, one probably won’t see people sleeping on benches or under bridges, but that doesn’t mean homeless people aren’t in the area, she noted. A homeless person is someone who doesn’t have adequate, permanent housing, so a person who is staying on a friend or family member’s couch or spending the nights in motel rooms can be considered homeless, she said.

“It’s just phenomenal the volume of people that are dealing with this,” Haines said.

Haines, Young and McGrath each said they were honored to receive the award but emphasized the fact that they have not worked in a vacuum. Each accomplishment has been the result of hard work by groups of dedicated individuals, they said.

“This has been a team effort,” Haines added.

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