Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes honored six individuals during its 17th-annual Sharing the Light dinner, which was held June 9 in the Scandling Center at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva.
Dr. Rick and Jane Constantino, Samuel C. Dickieson, Alejandra Molina, Margaret (Peggy) Strowger Ruscio and the Rev. Douglas Taylor-Weiss received the Sharing the Light Award in recognition of their commitment to their respective communities.
Each year the award is presented to individuals who dedicate their time and energy toward making their communities better places. The award is named after a Scripture passage that encourages individuals to share their talents with others, noted Ellen Wayne, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes.
"Their contributions are, without a doubt, significant and awe-inspiring," Wayne said.
Rick Constantino has been in full-time medical practice at Rochester General Hospital for 30 years, during which time he’s also served terms as president and senior vice president at the hospital. Currently he is senior adviser and consultant to Rochester General, and Jane is the bookkeeper for his professional medical corporation. The pair enjoy working together and also share a passion for community service, Rick Constantino said.
Canandaigua residents for the past 32 years, the Constantinos have led and been involved with many activities at their parish, St. Mary, and are strong supporters of St. Mary School. They also were instrumental in the opening of a Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes office in Canandaigua, and cochaired Bishop Matthew H. Clark’s Cluster Reorganization Project in the mid-1980s. They’ve coached many community sports teams and raised more than $1 million dollars for local and national charities.
"We’ve been blessed in our lives, … and our blessings and skills have been given to us to share them with others. It’s been fun for us," Rick Constantino said, noting that the couple’s five children also enjoy serving others.
A veteran of the United States Air Force, Dickieson has lived in Seneca Falls since 1953. He taught chemistry and physics at Mynderse Academy for 29 years before retiring but still tutors students. He has belonged to the Seneca Falls Presbyterian Church for 50 years, and is the church’s treasurer of special funds. He’s also been involved with the boards of the Finger Lakes Library System, the Geneva Concert Series, the Seneca Falls Library and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
For the past 25 years, Dickieson has coordinated the local Salvation Army bell-ringers, and he’s treasurer of both the Salvation Army’s Seneca Falls-Waterloo unit and the Seneca County Retired Teachers. He also is chair of the Seneca County Federal Emergency Management Agency board.
Molina was born in Argentina, grew up in Guatemala, and lived in Texas and Ithaca before moving to Geneva in the mid-1990s. Since 1997 she has been a professor in the Spanish and Hispanic Studies program at Hobart and William Smith. In 2007 she became assistant dean and director of the college’s Office of Intercultural Affairs, and from 2007-10 she served as chair of the college president’s Commission on Inclusive Excellence.
She is a founding member of the Farmworkers Women’s Institute and helped organize Geneva’s first Latino Film Festival in October 2010. She also serves on the boards of the Finger Lakes Health Foundation, Liturgia Workers Center of Rural and Migrant Ministry and the Geneva 20/20 Initiative. She’s also worked with Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes and many other community organizations.
Molina can pinpoint exactly when she first became interested in community service. She was just 15 when a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala in 1976, and she remembers pitching in with the relief efforts.
"That experience I think just sparked something in me, I think seeing that level of suffering on such a scale but at the same time realizing that you can do something," she said. "I’ve always kept that attitude of community involvement. It gives meaning to my life. I can’t picture not doing something."
Ruscio learned the importance of love and service early on, she said, thanks to her parents and her teachers in Catholic schools. She took those lessons to heart and went on to become a nurse, as well as an active volunteer in her spare time. She belongs to Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community, where she is actively involved in many social-ministry efforts, especially St. John’s Kenyan Outreach.
Ruscio also volunteers with the American Red Cross, Compassionate Care Inc. hospice and veterans-outreach programs at the Naples Activity Center. She has taught hospice-volunteer training courses through Care for the Dying Cooperative and is actively involved with Feminists Choosing Life of New York. Given more time, Ruscio said she’d like to extend her efforts into other areas as well.
"There’s so much more that I want to do, too," Ruscio said.
The Rev. Taylor-Weiss has led the Episcopal Church of Ss. Peter and John in Auburn for nearly 13 years. He volunteers regularly at Auburn’s Chapel House homeless shelter for men and often helps plan interfaith events in the city. Seven years ago he helped his parishioners start a soup kitchen, which provides meals to Auburn’s hungry each Saturday. His parishioners also started a clothing closet, which provides free clothing and shoes on Saturday mornings.
The Rev. Taylor-Weiss accepted the Sharing the Light Award on behalf of his parish.
"I just feel like all I’ve done is just be the pastor of this church, and that’s what I’m called to do, is preaching and teaching, mostly," he said.