Making a Difference

May 8, 2003
Making a Difference
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
Each year during the Annual House of Providence Dinner, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County honors individuals who help the organization continue its mission of making a difference in the Syracuse community. This year’s dinner will be held at the OnCenter on May 21, beginning at 6 p.m. Honorees include Father Gregory LeStrange, William E. Jackson and the Russell family –– first entire family to win such an award. “These individuals are exceptional examples of the charitable spirit found in Central New York,” said Brian Walton, Executive Director of Onondaga Catholic Charities.

Father Gregory LeStrange will be awarded the Bishop’s Medallion, honoring an individual devoted to serving people of the diocese. Father LeStrange, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville, has served the community for more than 20 years. Prior to arriving at Immaculate Conception in 1994, Father LeStrange served at St. John the Baptist Church in Syracuse, Sacred Heart in Cicero and St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville. Father LeStrange is active in many diocesan capacities, such as the State Priests’ Council, which he serves as treasurer and the Priests’ Senate, which he has chaired for four years. He is also on the board of directors of the Interreligious Council of CNY, the Samaritan Center, the Diocesan Board of Consultants and the Continuing Education Committee for Clergy.

William Jackson will receive the Humanitarian Service Medallion for his consistent work to improve the human condition through a life of service. Jackson has been involved with the cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for more than 25 years. He currently serves as president of Multiple Sclerosis Resources of Central New York, an organization he helped found in 1998, that makes the lives of individuals with MS comfortable and free of obstacles. Jackson is a past vice-chairman of the Arthritis Foundation, former board member and president of the Syracuse Recreational League and he had initiated projects to benefit St. Lucy’s School in Syracuse. He has also been active in the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Heart Association and Catholic Charities. Multiple Sclerosis remains the issue dearest to his heart, however, and he continues to champion the cause. He established the Mary Jackson Memorial “Tee Off Against MS” Golf tournament to honor his wife and assisted in creating the MS “Walk of HOPE,” a 20,000 brick walkway at the entrance of the New York State Fair. He devotes his time to fundraising, advocating and encouraging others to join the fight against MS.

The President’s Medallion, which honors those whose voluntary contributions immeasurably enhance Catholic Charities and the community, will be presented to the Russell family –– Dick and Carole, Rick and Susan, Mark and Sherry, Scott and Kathleen. Dick is currently director of the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation. He has served on the board of directors for such charitable organizations as the Arthritis Foundation, the United Way, Laubach Literacy International and Junior Achievement. Carole, a career consultant at RLS Career Center, has served as conference coordinator for Laubach Literacy International, director of volunteers for Volunteer Connection and in the Syracuse University placement office. She has joined the board of directors of philanthropic institutions such as the Syracuse Stage Guild, the Landmark Theatre, Friends of the Civic Center and the Arthritis Foundation. The Russell’s three sons and daughters-in-law also carry on this tradion of community involvement. Mark and Sherry are founding partners of Mark Russell & Associates (MRA), an advertising agency that has donated its services to design marketing campaigns for such organizations as the United Way of Central New York, the March of Dimes, the American Red Cross and the Everson Museum.

Scott Russell, also a founding partner of MRA, has served on the board of directors for the Syracuse March of Dimes, Syracuse Red Cross and Syracuse Habitat for Humanity. His wife Kathleen is also active in the community as committee chairperson for the Junior League of Syracuse, Auxiliary Board Member of the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse and a member of the Syracuse Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Rick and Susan Posner-Russell, of Rockville, Md., are active in support and advocacy associations for individuals with disabilities. Rick is operations manager for Neal Gross & Company, a government contracting firm, and Susan teaches in the hearing impaired field.

The Annual House of Providence Dinner is the major fundraising event for Catholic Charities of Onondaga County. Tickets for the dinner are $125 per person, with proceeds to benefit families and individuals at risk in the community. For more information, contact Catholic Charities at (315) 424-1800.

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