Earlier this year, a 53-year-old man was struggling to live off the $20 plus tips he made each day delivering food for an area deli. He’d heard about a better-paying chauffeur position, but in order to be considered for the job he’d have to renew his current license and gain additional certification. On his limited income, the deliveryman couldn’t afford to pay for the fees such a change would require.
Enter Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes.
Using funds from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, the agency was able to cover the costs associated with the man’s new license, thus opening up much greater employment opportunities for him and pulling him back from the brink of poverty.
In this case, a relatively small amount of money made a substantial difference in an individual’s life. Year after year, Christmas Appeal funds enable Catholic Charities agencies throughout the Diocese of Rochester to help struggling individuals and families get back on their feet, said Ellen Wayne, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes.
The 2008-09 appeal raised $43,398.73, and a little more than $6,000 of that total went to Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, Wayne said. That $6,000 went a long way, she noted, because most of the grants the agency gave out were just $50 or $60 apiece.
“Really, $60 is just out of reach for the families we’re dealing with,” Wayne said.
Wayne said she understands $60 is a lot of money in today’s troubled economy, and she’s grateful for people who care enough about their neighbors to contribute what they can to the appeal.
“I understand the readers face a difficult position with so many demands for their money and their contributions,” she said. “We’re so appreciative of the fact that the readers are willing to respond. It kind of makes us feel like we’re not in this alone. We’d be lost without them.”
The fact that the Christmas Appeal funds are made up of donors’ own hard-earned money is not lost on Catholic Charities staff, and provides even more motivation for the staff to make sure the funds are used in the best, most efficient way possible, Wayne added.
Christmas Appeal funds also are important because they help agencies meet needs — many of them one-time needs — that may not be addressed by existing programs and services or by other sources of funding.
“The Christmas Appeal tends to come in and help us meet needs where there really might not be any other resources. It does allow us to be creative and flexible in terms of responding to people’s most basic needs. They help us work to find a creative and unique solution to some of the situations that present to us,” Wayne said.
Appeal funds, for example, often are used to purchase prescription medications, cover utility bills or purchase gasoline for people who just need a hand getting back on their feet after a crisis.
“They’re coming in saying, ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where else to go.’ That (grant from appeal funds) just gets them going and gets them back on their feet,” Wayne said.
These people are incredibly relieved to hear about the Christmas Appeal funds available to them, Wayne said. Sometimes clients later will thank Wayne and her staff members for helping them in their hour of need. Even when these clients don’t keep in touch, however, Wayne and her staff remember the relief their clients expressed when they found out the Christmas Appeal was about to turn their lives around.
“That’s the instant feedback we need,” Wayne said.