WINSTON-SALEM — More than 900 people filled Benton Convention Center in downtown Winston-Salem for the 14th annual Partners in Hope charity dinner March 9, raising a record $315,000 to benefit Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte’s work in the Triad.
The largest of the diocesan agency’s annual fundraisers provides significant funding for critical services to some of the most needy in the area.
Last year the Catholic Charities offices in Winston-Salem and Greensboro provided counseling services to 850 people, gave direct assistance to 712 people, and distributed more than 137,000 pounds of food to 3,232 people (nearly half of whom were vulnerable children and the elderly). More than 300 households received baby items through the “Wee Care Shoppe,” and 47 families with babies born to teen parents received parenting assistance.
Father Brian Cook, pastor of St. Leo the Great Church in Winston-Salem, noted, “How do we do this? We recognize that in some humble way we are all the face of mercy. We are the face of mercy! We are entrusted with this holy work. We are the face of mercy as we see Jesus in the poor, the vulnerable, the scared. … in the people in line at the food pantry, in the expectant mothers who wonder how they’re going to raise their kids, in the young college students at Forsyth Tech that just need a little support and encouragement so that they can both raise their young children and finish their college degree.”
Dr. Gerard Carter, executive director and CEO of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, thanked the staff and volunteers of the Winston-Salem and Greensboro offices.
“I see the work that they do and they are simply incredible – and I don’t say that lightly,” Carter said.
He also thanked the sponsors and supporters of the annual fundraiser, which included St. Leo the Great Church, St. Pius X Church in Greensboro, Holy Family Church in Clemmons, Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in High Point and the Winston-Salem Cursillo Community.
“Thank you so much for partnering in hope, so that many wonderful people see that they’re not alone and abandoned in the world. That the world is still a place where there are faith-filled people who genuinely care, with a care that cuts across all of the divisions in our world,” he said.
Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA since 2015, gave the keynote address.
“I am so impressed by the work that you’re doing here in North Carolina, and especially in this area, this part of the country: food security, pregnancy support, case management, mental health intervention, education, immigration, social enterprise development,” Sister Donna said.
As the nation’s largest faith-based charitable organization, Catholic Charities serves mostly “at the emergency level,” she said, providing $4.6 billion of service annually to the poor.
“Someone comes to us who is absolutely in dire straits, and we provide emergency help, but we also do something beyond that, which is to try through our programs … to help people get on their feet – not just survive, but thrive. And to do so with dignity.”
Most recently, Catholic Charities has been working to protect local agencies’ ability to help refugees and immigrants, she said. “Right now in this country, Catholic Charities agencies are caring for over 600,000 immigrants and 45,000 refugees.”
More than 100 years after its founding, the national mission of Catholic Charities remains grounded in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Sister Donna said.
“Thank you, all of you, each one of you, for being the Good Samaritans, the good innkeepers, the people who saw the victim lying by the side of the road and did not cross the street, but chose to extend yourself in compassion and mercy to that suffering human being,” she said.
The recipient of this year’s Bishop William G. Curlin Partners in Hope Award was David Harold and his late wife Madeline, who passed away last March.
Harold “has been at the forefront both advocacy and action for the poor and the vulnerable his entire adult life,” Father Cook said.
Harold served 13 years as director of the Catholic Charities office in the Triad, expanding its services and creating additional services. After retiring in 2006, he continued serving as victim assistance coordinator for the diocese. He also works with a local homeless aid agency and helps to build interfaith partnerships and services for the mentally ill and the homeless.
In receiving the award, Harold credited his late wife’s Catholic faith and devotion to serving the most vulnerable, especially immigrants, refugees, people with HIV/AIDS, and the poor.
“I was the trained therapist, but she was the one people wanted to tell their story to,” he said with a wry grin.
Harold encouraged people to be “ambassadors of healing and love for our Church,” in what Pope Francis has called the Church’s mission to be a “field hospital for the wounded.”
“It is our prayer that God’s grace flows to us but also through us, that kindness comes to us and flows out of us to those most in need. We bless each other in this work and we are thankful for each other. And we ask that our whole Church become more and more a place of healing,” he prayed.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Editor