Monday, November 3, 2014

Service as strong as ever as the Annual Caritas Awards honor a few of the most dedicated volunteers

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Guest Post by Mike Gehring

We’re buzzing about a new number: 8,764.

That’s the number of people who volunteered with Catholic Charities last year, one of the highest totals we’ve ever been blessed enough to have. On Thursday, October 23, we held our annual Caritas Awards to honor a few of those volunteers who went above and beyond in their service.
Held at the beautiful Pepco Edison Place Art Gallery in downtown Washington, DC, seven volunteers received recognition for their dedicated service to our programs, each receiving a personalized medal presented by Msgr. John Enzler:

Mauro Farinelli
James Vandross
Juliet Orzal
Elizabeth Meers
Dr. Marc Connell
Wanda Sims for Xi Sigma Omega AKA
Brian Stolarz

Each volunteer was nominated by the program that they have volunteered with, and each brought a sense of humility and gratitude for what they have found in meeting new people and bridging beyond themselves to meet and get to know someone else.

Msgr. Enzler and Wanda Sims, recipient of the Father John O'Connor Award
Wanda Sims, received the Father John O'Connor Award for Empowerment for her involvement with the Dorothy Day Shelter.   

Dorothy Day is a transitional shelter for homeless women over the age of 18, where clients' needs and problems are complicated and many.  Wanda Sims has been involved with the Dorothy Day shelter for over 20 years.

"I get much more back from the people I work with at Dorothy Day than I could ever give,” Wanda said.

Her group, Xi Sigma Omega AKA, has long provided gifts, meals, and more to the women of the transitional housing program.

A young woman Wanda worked with at Dorothy Day never achieved her GED high school equivalency diploma.  After months of encouragement and support the young woman agreed to begin the process, but only if Wanda would go back to school and get her MBA.  Wanda is proud to say both Wanda and her Dorothy Day client graduated together.

MJ Morrow, Msgr. Geno Baroni Award recipient Brian Stolarz, Msgr. John Enzler and Anna Stolarz
While accepting his Caritas Award, Brian Stolarz an attorney who volunteers for the Catholic Charities Legal Network, said, "My highest calling as an attorney is the work I do for my clients at Catholic Charities." Brian’s work, along with that of several other recipients, demonstrates the key role professionals in the legal and medical field play in helping Catholic Charities serve more than 120,000 people last year.

Ollie Johnson (right) presents Caritas Award to James Vandross (left)
James Vandross’ service at the SHARE Food Network is a testimony to the nature of volunteers to say yes and have faith. James first stepped in when a longtime SHARE volunteer at his church became too ill to keep volunteering. Without knowing much, James jumped straight into managing the logistics and coordination of preparing large, monthly affordable food packages, becoming integral to the operation of the program.

In his closing remarks for the evening, Rev. Mario Dorsonville said, “The Mission of Catholic Charities is to create a culture of love, joy, and hope inspired by the person of Jesus Christ. As we recognize the efforts of our volunteers, we want to thank you for the work you do towards creating this culture. Let’s continue to find a common path so we can move from the culture of indifference referenced by Pope Francis to a culture of awareness.”

If you’re like us and feeling inspired by the example of each of these volunteers, head on over to our Volunteer Page and find the opportunity for you.