ACA kicks off 2014 campaign with press conference at local soup kitchen
Story and photos by Peggy Weber
CHICOPEE – With a nod to the theology of Pope Francis, Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell kicked off the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) at a 10 a.m. press conference at Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, here, March 11.
He announced a $3 million goal and a new component to the appeal, which is in its 55th year.
“In addition to our request for funds – and that is so important – we’re also undertaking a program under the auspices of the ACA to seek volunteers, people who will give time to the various ministries, agencies and programs in their parish and beyond,” said Bishop McDonnell.
“This is in response to Pope Francis’ call that we be more involved with people and that we go out where people are. We want to be where they are and be there to help them,” he said.
Joining Bishop McDonnell at the press conference were representatives of several of the 40 agencies supported by the ACA in western Massachusetts.
Bishop McDonnell said the difficult winter has escalated the needs of the many people served by ACA agencies.
Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, director of the Catholic Charities Agency of the Diocese of Springfield, said, “The effects of this winter will carry onto the spring and into the summer. We’re coming up against things like the protection people have for their electric bills and gas bills. That is going to cease as of April 1. All of those people will come forward, with needs,” she said.
“There’s always that, if you’ll pardon my expression, the snowball effect of a very, very rough winter for all of us,” she said.
Kim Goulette, executive director of Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, also said the need keeps growing.
She said the agency had 70 households come to their facility on Monday for supplemental food. And she said they are feeding between 80 and 100 people each night. Lorraine’s operates Monday through Friday evenings and provides a hot meal for clients.
“We’ve been recipients of the ACA for many years and we would be unable to perform the services that we do without the funds we receive,” she said. “We’ve had so many cutbacks in federal and state funding that the money is getting tighter and tighter, but the need is getting greater and greater.”
Tammy and Michael Joy of Chicopee (pictured at left) spoke at the press conference. The parents of three children, ages 2, 13 and 14, said that Lorraine’s has helped their family tremendously.
“After 20 years of having a great job, I lost my job and we have three children to feed. It became very difficult when the money stopped coming in. Unemployment was cut, and the money wasn’t there. So Lorraine’s has helped us tremendously,” said Tammy.
She said her family eats at Lorraine’s about three times a week and they come in monthly for supplemental food.
Bishop McDonnell noted that the 2013 ACA raised $2.5 million. The average gift was $130.37 and almost 20,000 people made a donation.
This year, Bishop McDonnell emphasized, the ACA is looking for a pledge of help in some way.
“We’re asking people not to just give of their treasure but to give of their time and to give of their talent as well. We’re looking for more volunteers,” he said.
Virginia Dillon, executive director of Homework House, said her organization is always in need of volunteers.
“At Homework House in Holyoke we provide tutoring and mentoring for kindergarteners through sixth-graders. We really depend upon volunteer tutors to provide our services,” she said.
She noted that Homework House serves 100 students a day and needs 50 to 60 volunteers each day.
For more information on the Annual Catholic Appeal, click on the link on www.iobserve.org.
A special segment on the March 15 edition of “Real to Reel” will highlight the 2014 press conference. The program airs Saturday evenings at 7 p.m.