Need is up throughout the diocese, and just a few dollars can help out families struggling during a crisis.
That’s the message from organizers of the 2010-11 Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, which will kick off its 41st year shortly after Thanksgiving. Agencies that receive funds from the annual appeal include Catholic Charities agencies throughout the diocese and parish-supported ministries that help people with emergency needs.
Appeal officials say the sluggish economy may have led the annual appeal to fall short of its goal during the 2009-10 season. Contributions reached 84.2 percent of the $50,000 goal, which will be maintained this year.
The 2009-10 appeal raised $42,100.51, from 649 donors, an increase of seven donors compared to the prior year. The average donation was $64.86, down slightly from the prior-year average donation of $67.60.
Yet the head of diocesan Catholic Charities, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, said contributions of any size are needed now more than ever.
“Requests for emergency assistance in the 12 counties in the Diocese of Rochester have increased between 50 and 100 percent,” said Jack Balinsky, the diocesan agency’s director. “Given where we are now, more than ever we are helping people who have always been self-sustaining, but who through no fault of their own find themselves are in need of assistance and who are making the difficult choices between food and medicine.”
Donna Stubbings, appeal coordinator and circulation manager for the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Cat√≥lico, said planners are looking at ways to attract more donors to the annual appeal.
“I think the economy does have a lot to do with (the 2009-10 response),” she said. “If you just look at unemployment and the cost of living, there really isn’t a lot left over for a lot of people, but that makes it even more important for people to help those who have even less.”
In stories written by Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Cat√≥lico staff during the 2009-10 appeal, agencies highlighted how Christmas Appeal funds have been used in the past. For instance, Bridget Steed, executive director of Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler, noted last year that some of the agency’s former volunteers have been forced to seek emergency food assistance. The agency has used its Christmas Appeal funds for emergency food, clothing and prescription-drug assistance.
Ellen Wayne, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, said that most of the Christmas Appeal grants distributed by the agency last year were in $50 or $60 increments, which went for such emergency needs as prescription medicines, utility bills and gasoline purchases.
Such smaller ministries as food cupboards, soup kitchens and a bicycle-recycling ministry also were highlighted after they received funds from the appeal.
“If you see the small amount of money that helped people tremendously, something as simple as getting them a suit for a job interview, keeping their heat on, it’s just stuff we all take for granted,” Stubbings said. “Fortunately I don’t think many of us will be in that position that we realize how much help so few dollars could be.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty rose nationally from 2008 to 2009. In 2009, 43.6 million people qualified for its official measure of poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributions may be made payable to Christmas Appeal and sent c/o Catholic Courier, PO Box 24379, Rochester, NY 14624-0379. Please include your name, address, city, state, ZIP code, telephone number, and whether the gift is in honor or in memory of someone.