Each year at its Sharing the Light dinner, Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes honors a handful of people for their commitment to community service. Those recognized don’t have to be Catholic, but they must be from the five-county area Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes serves.
There have been times in the past when none of the honorees were Catholic, but that wasn’t the case this year, according to Richard Fowler, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes. Mark Gearan and Eugene McFadden of Geneva and Don and Corry Stork of Penn Yan were recognized for their community-service efforts June 7 at the 11th annual Sharing the Light dinner, which was held at Club 86 in Geneva.
“This year, all four of the recipients just happen to be Roman Catholic,” Fowler said. “These are individuals who through their lives within the Finger Lakes region have done a great deal in terms of service for the benefit of the community.”
Gearan, who belongs to St. Stephen’s Parish, has been president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 1999. The colleges’ strong interest in community service was one of the first things that attracted Gearan to Hobart and William Smith, and he has further strengthened that commitment to service during his time in Geneva.
After becoming president Gearan expanded the colleges’ public-service office, added more opportunities for post-graduate work in service organizations and added a service component to new-student orientation sessions. Gearan said service is an important piece of the colleges’ mission — educating 21st-century citizens.
“I believe that the 21st-century citizens will need to understand that service is an important part of the equation. Making service an everyday part of your life is a value that I think is important,” Gearan said.
A number of students, faculty, staff and board members from the colleges accompanied Gearan to the dinner, and Gearan said he accepted the award on behalf of the colleges’ work in the community.
“I have attended these dinners in past years, and I felt very humbled to receive it, particularly with the others. I was very honored,” Gearan said.
McFadden, who belongs to St. Francis de Sales Parish, has been active in a number of Geneva organizations and initiatives throughout the years. The son of Irish immigrants, McFadden was a mathematics instructor in the United States Air Force for four years and taught at the Geneva public schools and DeSales High School for 36 years. He was one of the founders of Geneva Babe Ruth Baseball, the Irish American Society of the Finger Lakes and Finger Lakes Federal Credit Union, where he served as manager for 23 years.
McFadden also led the committee that found a new home for the Geneva Food Pantry and Geneva Center of Concern. He served for a time as president of the Center of Concern and still volunteers there weekly. He also served for three years as business manager at St. Stephen’s Parish.
“In truth, my service to this community is my payback to a nation that opened its hearts to my immigrant family from the potato fields of Northern Ireland who came here to start a new life,” said McFadden.
His parents helped him develop faith, knowledge and a desire to help others, he added.
“I am pleased to pay back that kind of family life by serving my country when I was needed, by teaching the how and why of mathematics to our youngsters, by helping this community prosper and by working with the needy ones,” he said.
Don and Corry Stork belong to St. Michael’s Parish, where several years ago they chaired the parish’s first capital campaign. Don founded Beaumont & Stork, Inc. — an insurance company — in the early 1950s and has been active in a number of local organizations, including the Yates County Republican Committee, Lakeside Country Club and the Penn Yan Industrial Development Agency. He is also a past president of the local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary and has been involved in a number of political campaigns.
Corry has been involved with Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital and the Penn Yan Central School District Board of Education, as well as the United Way of Northern Yates County and the Yates County Cancer Society. She is a past president of the Yates County Women’s Republican Club and the Yates County branch of the American Association of University Women. Through their current involvement with Yates County Cultural and Recreational Resources, Don and Corry are trying to help Penn Yan open a community center.
“I think when you have a family and you live in a small town you want to make the town better for your children and everyone else,” Corry said. “If you see a need and you feel like you can contribute, you just do. You just get involved in that and want to make it happen.”
She added that she and her husband were honored to be recognized for their community involvement.
“You just know that you’re along with all these other people that received it, and that makes you feel good, and a little bit humble, too,” she said.