Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, on Wednesday announced a $10.6 million goal for the 2012 Appeal in support of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.
With the goal increased by $100,000 from last year's successful Appeal, the announcement kicked off the 88th annual campaign. Bishop Kmiec also announced the theme of this year's drive - "Protect. Strengthen. Empower." - and named Blessed John Paul II the patron of Appeal 2012.
"This year's theme articulates how our many programs, services and activities benefit the community, and those who turn to us for help," Bishop Kmiec said in a news release. "The theme also magnifies the link between the generosity of our donors and the results of our efforts."
Appeal Week 2012 will take place March 25 through April 1 to celebrate the support of Western New Yorkers who have made a contribution to the Appeal, and encourage those who have not already donated to do so.
Although Appeal Week marks the strongest push for donations, volunteers will be working to achieve the final goal throughout the coming months, and if necessary, until the conclusion of Catholic Charities' fiscal year on June 30.
Funds raised through the 2012 Appeal will help fund Catholic Charities' programs across 61 sites in the eight counties of Western New York. The organization's many services benefiting from this year's Appeal include its food pantries, counseling for individuals, children and families, the Our Kids Parent Education Program for separated and divorced individuals experiencing conflict around custody issues, and the three children's mental health clinics serving Niagara County residents.
Bishop Kmiec made the announcement at the South Buffalo Food Pantry at 920 Tifft Street- one of four food pantries Catholic Charities of Buffalo operates.
The South Buffalo Food Pantry serves approximately 154 individuals each week. In December 2011 alone, it distributed 8,207 pounds of food to 396 households. In 2011, Catholic Charities' four food pantries distributed enough bags of food to provide a total of 229,077 meals for 23,865 individuals.
Reflecting on the importance of donations to the annual Appeal, Bishop Kmiec recalled the words of Blessed John Paul II, who said serving the mission of the Church by means of charity is the commitment and responsibility of everyone.
"I am convinced Christian charity, in its fullest expression, is the answer to many of the challenges we face as a religion, nation, and global society," said Bishop Kmiec. "As followers of Christ we are all challenged to serve those who are poor and most vulnerable in our community, and we are all asked to support the work of Catholic Charities."
Bishop Kmiec was joined by Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, who further explained the mission behind "Protect. Strengthen. Empower." and the programs that exemplify this year's theme.
"Catholic Charities protects children from hunger through basic need programs like the South Buffalo pantry. We also offer children safety by keeping them active in an after-school art program at our Fulton - St. Brigid Outreach and Pantry," said Sister Mary. "We offer nutrition assistance and education to strengthen young families who struggle in today's challenging economy. We empower and educate teens and adults through our GED ... and job readiness programs.
"When any of us give from our heart, we become a refuge to those who are poor and in distress, and we provide shelter and much-needed relief. Through this response, we empower the people Catholic Charities' serves to live healthy, meaningful and productive lives. This is our mission, and when the annual Appeal is supported our mission is achievable."
Sister Mary introduced David Nasca, president and chief executive officer of Evans Bancorp, Inc., as chairperson of the 2012 Appeal. Sister Mary also recognized the other members of the Appeal leadership team and volunteers.
Nasca remarked on the difficult economic conditions of the Buffalo region and emphasized the increased need for donations.
"The economy remains stalled and this has impacted hundreds of our neighbors ... However, we will not accept these challenges as an excuse," said Nasca. "Through the hard work of our staff and volunteers, we are well positioned to attain our goal. Together, we will overcome these difficult economic times because it is critical we succeed. We are committed to continuing to provide for the more than 140,000 people Catholic Charities of Buffalo served last year."
Other members of the leadership team include Stephen Ulrich, vice chair and parish and large gifts chair, Anthony Delmonte, Jr., corporate gifts chair, and Beth Mattimore, community division chair.
Dennis C. Walczyk, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, welcomed the South Buffalo Food Pantry back to its newly renovated Tifft Street location at the former Holy Family School and detailed other former church properties being utilized by Catholic Charities.
"We have highlighted three of our pantries during our kickoffs in recent years, and all are located in former church properties. These are a small portion of the 18 buildings on former church campuses Catholic Charities is now utilizing," said Walczyk. "Most recently, our Immigration and Refugee Assistance program moved to the former Nativity parish on the west side of Buffalo. In addition to providing needed services, this re-use breathes new life into church campuses and neighborhoods."
Mrs. David Davies, a South Buffalo pantry volunteer, started volunteering with Catholic Charities in 1956 through the Catholic Guild for the Blind and she has no plans to slow down. "I am always glad for a place to help. I was brought up to be helpful and I still do whatever I can."
She closed with high praise for Catholic Charities, calling it the "best charity in WNY and added, "If everyone got together and did the things Catholic Charities is doing, the world would be a much better place!"