Christmas Appeal helps Geneva family - Catholic Courier

Christmas Appeal helps Geneva family

Edward Clark is a happy man these days.

A recovering alcoholic, the Geneva resident is grateful to be spending this Christmas season in his own home with his three children, thanks in part to Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes and the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. This annual appeal raises money for the emergency funds of various Catholic Charities agencies throughout the Diocese of Rochester, including Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, which serves people in Ontario, Seneca, Yates and Cayuga counties.

Clark voluntarily put his three children in temporary foster care when he entered a rehabilitation program in 2014. He completed that program in January 2015 and regained custody of his children eight months later. Things were looking up for the family, but one big obstacle still blocked the Clarks’ path to successful independent living.

“The only thing stopping me from getting my own house for me and my children was that I needed help paying an electric bill,” Clark explained.

That’s when Clark remembered a pamphlet he’d received in the mail while he was in the rehabilitation program. The pamphlet had described some of the services offered by Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, so Clark decided to see if the agency could help his family.

“I just kind of explained it to them, and they jumped right on it and went to work for me. They helped me pay it,” he said.

One of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes’ case workers was able to use some of the agency’s portion of the proceeds from the 2014-15 Christmas Appeal to pay off Clark’s utility bill from New York State Electric and Gas Corp, clearing the way for Clark and his children to move into their own home.

“I think it only took two weeks for NYSEG to get the check and for it to clear,” Clark said

Christmas Appeal funds are extremely valuable to Catholic Charities agencies because case workers can use them to assist people who may not qualify for various other forms of assistance, noted Ellen Wayne, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes.

“Typically (Christmas Appeal) funds are used where there is no other resource to meet the needs,” Wayne said. “We use the funds for direct, personal, emergency assistance … on a case-by-case basis, crisis by crisis across all the four counties we serve.”

Over the summer, for example, Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes case workers were able to use proceeds from the appeal to make an emergency utility payment for an elderly woman in Yates County, thus preventing her electricity from being shut off. Another case worker used Christmas Appeal funds to help a Penn Yan family that did not have a landline phone and relied upon a prepaid cell phone for communication. The mother was home alone all day with her young child while the father was at work, and when they ran out of minutes for their cell phone she had no way of communicating in case of an emergency, Wayne said.

“That’s not a good situation for a family to be in, especially with a young child at home,” she said, noting that a case worker purchased more minutes for the family’s cell phone.

Christmas Appeal funds are dispersed in small grants, and just $40 or $50 can really make a difference to people who are trying to meet their own needs and support themselves, Wayne said. In Clark’s case, the assistance he received from Christmas Appeal funds allowed him to move into his new home in November with his children, who are 11, 10 and 6, and the family now is settling into a comfortable routine and thriving.

“I feel great. I haven’t had a drink in over a year and a half and my kids are all home,” Clark told the Catholic Courier in early December. “I just had my last parent-teacher conference last night, and they’re all doing phenomenal in school.”


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