Catholics throughout the Diocese of Rochester have been responding to the needs of their neighbors through the Catholic Courier/ Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal for nearly 50 years, and this year will be no exception. The 49th-annual appeal begins at Thanksgiving with a goal of $45,000.
“Our staff is very pleased and honored, once again, to sponsor this annual appeal on behalf of Catholic Charities,” observed Karen Franz, general manager and editor of the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico. “Thanks to the volunteer efforts of newspaper personnel, donors can rest assured that virtually every penny they donate goes to those in need.”
Indeed, Franz noted that the Christmas Appeal is a small-money campaign, in terms of the sizes both of donations and of the grants it supports. “We’re actually quite glad to receive those pennies, as well as other gifts big and small,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”
Each year the Christmas Appeal raises money for the emergency funds of various Catholic Charities and affiliated agencies throughout the 12-county Diocese of Rochester. Proceeds from the appeal played an important role in allowing diocesan Catholic Charities agencies to provide emergency assistance to more than 30,000 people in 2017 alone, according to Jack Balinsky, diocesan director of Catholic Charities.
“It’s heartwarming to go to our different agencies and see people with real needs being helped,” Balinsky said, noting that Catholic Charities agencies help those in need in a variety of ways.
In 2017, for example, various diocesan Catholic Charities agencies helped 5,000 families who needed clothing and distributed more than 10 million meals, according to Balinsky. People turn to Catholic Charities when they’re in urgent need of food, clothing, housing, transportation or financial assistance, all of which are part of what collectively are known as social determinants of health, he added. Defined by the World Health Organization as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, these conditions are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources.
“The Christmas Appeal money goes to address those social determinants of health, and to be the foundations and pillars upon which families and kids can build better health,” Balinsky said.
Those foundations and pillars are built a little bit at a time.
Caseworkers at local Catholic Charities agencies say they use proceeds from the appeal to help them meet their clients’ immediate needs. In previous years caseworkers have used Christmas Appeal funds to help a client make a one-time payment to catch up on rent, for example, or to repair the automobile he or she needs to get back and forth to work.
Funds from the Christmas Appeal are extremely valuable to caseworkers because they don’t come with a lot of stipulations and red tape, according to Balinsky.
“This is more flexible than other funding sources that we get,” he explained.
For example, funds from the federal Home Energy Assistance Program, known as HEAP, may only be given to clients whose circumstances meet a very specific set of criteria. In addition, HEAP grants may only be given in certain amounts and only during certain, limited times of the year, Balinsky said.
“With Christmas Appeal funds we can customize funding to meet individuals’ needs because they don’t have these restrictions,” Balinsky said.
Contributions to the appeal, which last year raised $40,938, will be accepted through February 2019. Individuals also may contribute to the appeal on Nov. 27 through ROC the Day, an annual, communitywide online fundraiser in the Rochester area. To donate through ROC the Day, visit http://bit.ly/18CPfsI.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributions made payable to Christmas Appeal may be sent to the Catholic Courier, PO Box 24379, Rochester, NY 14624. Please include your name, address, city, state, ZIP code, telephone number, and whether the gift is being made in honor or in memory of someone.