A parking lot in need of better lighting may not seem like your average volunteer opportunity, but for Joe White, it was a chance to brighten the lives of hardworking social services professionals.
White, the owner and operator of Thomas Edison Electric, provided new lighting fixtures at no charge to several archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) locations, including the St. Francis-St. Joseph and St. Vincent Homes for at-risk youth, and the Fatima Catholic Outreach Center, a Bensalem-based collaboration between CSS and St. Mary Medical Center that serves residents of Bucks County. In addition, White and his staff remain available for pro-bono service calls at the sites.
“We try to help in any way we can with any kind of electrical problem they might have in the CSS facilities,” said White.
On April 12, White joined some 30 other volunteers at a recognition ceremony honoring the more than 3,400 volunteers who assist Catholic Human Services (CHS), the archdiocesan umbrella organization for social support programs and outreaches.
During the event, volunteers were presented with a commemorative plaque that included a miniature version of “When I Was a Stranger,” an internationally renowned statue designed by Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz. The image, which depicts Jesus as a transient homeless person, also recalls Schmalz’s life-sized “Homeless Jesus,” installed in August 2017 at St. John’s Hospice, a CSS ministry that serves homeless men in Philadelphia.
The plaque included the words of Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
The ceremony marked the closing of National Volunteer Recognition Week (April 7-13), an annual commemoration established in 1974 and now promoted by the Points of Light Foundation, which since 1990 has fostered volunteer service in 250 cities and 37 countries.
Over the past year, CHS volunteers dedicated almost 92,000 hours of service at approximately 40 sites throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.
CHS Secretary James Amato noted that CHS’s largest numbers of volunteers “respond to those who are the poorest in our local community” by working at St. John’s Hospice and at Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry located at CSS’s Montgomery County Family Service Center in Norristown.
Amato also said that the volunteers ranged “from school-aged youth to working professionals to retired people,” and that “their diversity and varied backgrounds bring support and hope to many.”
High school junior Alex Capriotti earned his Eagle Scout rank by collecting 60 tote bags filled with high-quality diapers, wipes, baby clothes and pacifiers for the teens served by CSS’s Mother-Baby Program.
“I really was not keeping count of the hours,” said Capriotti. “I’m just hoping that each bag will be able to help out in some small way in their journey with their new child.”
Pete and Tricia DeMaio of Drexel Hill have worked extensively in support of Project Rachel, an archdiocesan post-abortion healing ministry. The couple are looking to help expand Project Rachel’s outreach in the coming months, particularly online.
“We want to meet the people where they are, which is on social media,” said Pete.
Estela Reyes-Bugg, CSS’s administrator of volunteer and parish community relations, noted that severe cuts in social services funding made “volunteers more important than ever.”
Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntrye, who oversees the archdiocesan CHS secretariat, described the volunteers as “the backbone of the works of mercy and charity that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia makes happen in a hundred and one ways.”
Many volunteers said they actually receive more than they give through their service.
“If you could see what I get to see, you’d be so proud to be Catholic,” said Thomas Goldsmith, a member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Newtown Square and a board member of archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS).
Goldsmith draws on his financial service expertise to help develop budgets for the food assistance agency, and finds his volunteer experience with NDS inspiring.
“The people here are incredibly dedicated and highly competent, and our directors could go anywhere and make two or three times what they make here by working at a Fortune 500 company,” he said. “But they do this because it’s their mission.”
Marie Luglio and Mary Kate Jordan became close friends through their volunteer work at Divine Providence Village, a Delaware County intermediate care facility. The facility is part of the larger archdiocesan Communities of Don Guanella and Divine Providence, which provide a continuum of care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“We’re really blessed to be able to do this,” said Jordan, who co-directs a ladies’ club at Divine Providence with Luglio.
The club started as a Girl Scout troop more than two decades ago, but evolved into its current form “after we got tired of selling Girl Scout cookies,” said Luglio with a laugh.
Both women have appreciated the opportunity to journey with those they serve.
“We still have at least one or two from the original troop, and we’ve seen these girls grow and move into community living,” said Jordan, while Luglio noted that the club’s alumnae still attend current gatherings.
The volunteers’ commitment to their various ministries comes from the heart and never looks at the clock, said Reyes-Bugg.
“You don’t tell us, ‘This is not my job description,’” she said. “And you go far beyond your hours.”
Volunteers honored at the April 12 recognition ceremony included the following:
Catholic Housing and Community Services (CHCS)
Joseph Terrer, who volunteers with the CHCS Eldercare Program at St. Monica Parish, visiting two seniors weekly to chat and helping with pick-ups and deliveries.
Catholic Social Services (CSS)
Joe White and Lil White of Thomas Edison Electric, who provided pro-bono electrical work at St. Francis-St. Joseph and St. Vincent Homes, as well as Fatima Catholic Outreach Center.
Alex Capriotti from Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, who distributed baby blessing bags to young women in the CSS Mother-Baby Program.
Adrienne Derstine, Deirdre O’Rourke, Mara Imms, who volunteer their time through the AmeriCorps VISTA program for New Americans.
Dan Malick, who volunteers his time through AmeriCorps State and National program.
Divine Providence Village (Delaware County)
Marie Luglio of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield and Mary Kate Jordan of Nativity B.V.M. Parish in Media, who direct a ladies’ club through which they mentor and provide activities for residents. Luglio and Jordan are also Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and lectors for Sunday Mass in the Divine Providence Village chapel.
Fatima Catholic Outreach Center (Bucks County)
Genevieve Petrucco from St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish in Yardley, who receives clothing donations and volunteers her time working in the Fatima Boutique thrift store.
Mercy Hospice (Philadelphia)
Ruth Breland of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Philadelphia, and Susan Sullivan of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Philadelphia, who both serve as donation coordinators for clothing and baby care items.
CSS Montgomery County Family Service Center (Montgomery County)
William (“Mr. Bill”) Caban, who accompanies clients as they shop in the Martha’s Choice Marketplace food pantry.
Maria Wilkinson, who serves weekly as a greeter for Martha’s Choice Marketplace shoppers, ensuring they receive not only food but encouragement and friendly support.
Linda Robinson-Graves, who ensures the bakery section of Martha’s Choice Marketplace is well stocked and quality checked throughout the week.
CSS Northeast Family Service Center (Philadelphia)
Angela Stott of St. Cecilia Parish in Philadelphia, who distributes canned goods to clients at the family service center.
Nutritional Development Services (Philadelphia)
Thomas Goldsmith from St. Mary Magdalen in Media, who serves on the board of directors for Nutritional Development Services.
Project Rachel: Hope after Abortion (Philadelphia)
Tricia DeMaio and Pete DeMaio from St. Dorothy Parish in Drexel Hill, who visit parishes to share their insights about post-abortion healing.
CSS Refugee Resettlement Program (Delaware County)
Terry Hauger from Swarthmore Friends Meeting, who hosts a refugee in his home and coordinates outreach and support for two additional refugees.
Larry Blanks from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Philadelphia, who collects brand new donations for refugees.
St. Edmond’s Home for Children (Delaware County)
Doug Dunn, a teacher at Pope John Paul II Catholic High School, who brings a group of students to serve at St. Edmond’s on Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year.
St. Francis-St. Joseph’s and St. Vincent’s Homes for Children (Bucks County)
Kathy Donze from St. Cyril of Jerusalem Parish in Jamison, who provides administrative support for the office.
St. Gabriel’s Hall (Montgomery County)
Joe Dougherty from Saint Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield, who volunteers as a mathematics tutor for students at St. Gabriel’s Hall, a CSS residential treatment center for at-risk youth.
St. John’s Hospice (Philadelphia)
Jim Dowling and Joann Sullivan from Old St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia, who feed the homeless by serving in the kitchen and bussing tables at the shelter. Joann Sullivan also serves on the hospice’s development council.
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