Oct. 23-29, 2003
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Photos submitted
Catholic Charities Highlights the Good Works of Many in the Syracuse Community
Onondaga County Catholic Charities presented the 2003 Brady Awards at a ceremony held on Oct. 15. The Brady Awards are given each year to committed and caring individuals who strive to improve the quality of life for all people through their work and dedication.
Sister Mary Margaret Singer, CSJ, of Holy Trinity Parish received the Monsignor Charles J. Brady Award in recognition of her lifetime of extraordinary contributions in human services for the Syracuse community. After 40 years as a teacher and principal in Catholic schools throughout the diocese, Sister Mary Margaret served in parish ministry at Holy Trinity.
Upon her arrival at Holy Trinity, Father J. Michael Donovan, then pastor, asked Sister Mary Margaret to expand the food pantry. In cooperation with the Samaritan Center, Jail Ministry, the Rescue Mission, the Hunger Action Network of New York State, the Bread for the World Program and others, Sister Mary Margaret worked for 16 years to provide food for those in need.
When Paul Welch, director of Family and Neighborhood Services at Catholic Charities called Sister Mary Margaret, she was reluctant to be nominated. “I had all kinds of reasons why I wouldn’t accept the nomination,” said Sister Mary Margaret. “I told him I could suggest a lot of people who were deserving of the award.” Sister Mary Margaret told Welch that she would think about it. Before she could reply, he called her and told her that she had already been selected as the recipient. In addition to her work with the food pantry at Holy Trinity, Sister Mary Margaret connects with the homebound by arranging visitations and organizing volunteers to transport them to appointments. She was also instrumental in coordinating Eucharistic ministers to bring communion to senior citizens in area nursing homes. She and many committed volunteers also provide magazines, greeting cards, hygienic products and other essentials to those in nursing homes.
Sister Mary Margaret said that it’s a great honor and privilege to have won the award. “But I can’t help but think of all those who are equally deserving. The award evokes such a joyful response from people. It is also a chance to remember with great affection Msgr. Charles Brady,” said Sister Mary Margaret.
For the first time since its inception, the W.C. Driscoll Award went to husband and wife team, Mary and Larry King who have over 60 years of combined service to Catholic Charities. The W.C. Driscoll Award is presented for exemplary dedication and commitment to the mission of Catholic Charities of Onondaga County. Both Mary and Larry have deep roots in the community. Mary attended Bishop Forey Day Camp and began volunteering at Catholic Charities in high school. Following her graduation from Maria Regina College, she was hired as the crafts instructor and pre-school teacher at North Side CYO. She has remained at CYO for the past 28 years and today serves as senior Purchase Preventative Services caseworker and training coordinator. Mary’s father was the first recipient of the W.C. Driscoll Award in 1983.
Larry King began with Catholic Charities as a social worker intern from Syracuse University. In 1979, his future father-in-law hired him as a youth program worker at Northside CYO. Larry was later promoted to the position of teen coordinator where he met and began working with Mary. The Northside CYO teen program offered teens new experiences and enrolled teens with developmental disabilities as well as minority teens into the program. Larry is now the center director at the Bishop Forey Foundation. “I think it was an honor to receive the award based on who Walter Driscoll was and what he stood for,” said Mary. Driscoll was the former director of Catholic Social Services. C. Brian Walton, executive director of Catholic Charities said that Driscoll was an exemplary employee of Catholic Charities who exuded humility and great style. “Our work has been a chosen lifestyle,” said Larry King. “Teens that we have worked with as youth have grown and come back to volunteer.” Some of the youth have done well and Mary and Larry have attended some of their weddings. “Receiving the award is nice,” said Larry. “But if we hadn’t received it, that would be okay too. There are so many deserving people,” said Larry.
Janeen Bonner was co-recipient of the C. Walter Driscoll Award. Bonner is the human resource coordinator at Catholic Charities. In her three short years with the organization, Bonner has created an employee recognition program to respond to declining morale. Bonner has demonstrated a tireless work ethic and commitment to others. Her vision in establishing C.A.R.E. (Catholic Charities Appreciation and Recognition of Employees) is just one way she brings out the best in her co-workers. “We involved every employee in the nomination process,” said Bonner. “Each month two employees receive recognition and one receives outstanding employee of the month.”
“The award was definitely a surprise, but I don’t need a lot of recognition because I enjoy my job. I think what means the most to me is that I must be doing a good job. It’s an honor to be co-recipient with the Kings because I know of their dedication to Catholic Charities.”
When Art Caples found out he was being nominated for the Volunteer Service Award, he spent three weeks trying to get out of it. “I didn’t want the award,” he said. “No one would help me get out of it.” Caples is the coordinator of Driver Education for Catholic Charities, councilman for the Chemical Abuse and Violence Alternative Program and board member for the Jerico Project. In addition to his other service work, Caples transports family members of imprisoned individuals to visit their loved ones. When funding for the program ran dry, Caples continued the work at his own expense, using vans provided by Catholic Charities and an area Baptist Church. Each Sunday, Caples makes the trip to Elmira and Southpoint Prisons with between 12 to 24 family members in tow.
Caples is also a committed and active member of the Feral Foundation ––– a non-profit organization dedicated to the humane management of feral cat colonies. Again, at his own expense, Caples has trapped twenty-six cats, delivered them to local veterinarians for spading, neutering and shots and then returned them to the wild. His co-workers at Catholic Charities have a “kitty fund” to help defray the costs. “I just like to help people out,” said Caples. “While I appreciated the award, it wasn’t necessary.”
Richard Ruch, vice president and general manager of Lamar Outdoor Advertising, was honored with the Bernard J. Lawler Leadership Award. Ruch has played a key role in raising awareness about Catholic Charities by donating thousands of dollars’ worth of billboard space. He also was instrumental in the creation of the Catholic Charities Community Initiative Breakfasts, where community leaders, local politicians and concerned citizens brainstorm for ways to increase the quality of life in Syracuse. “We have the support of Mayor Matt Driscoll, County Executive Nicholas Pirro and Congressman James Walsh,” said Ruch. “We are all committed to revitalizing the city.”
Ruch’s commitment includes active participation in various other religious and civic organizations. He is on the Executive Board at New Hope Family Services, a member of the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of Graffiti Busters. “It was humbling to know that my peers thought of me in this way,” said Ruch. “Mrs. Lawler came over to me after the award ceremony and introduced herself and congratulated me. I was in awe and very appreciative.”
The churches of St. Mary and St. Bernadette received the Parish Service Award for their work in reaching out to help people of different cultures and economic levels. The parishes continue to serve a diverse population by bringing the mission of the Catholic Church to those in need. Ann Mayes, a parishioner, was on hand to accept the award with the church’s pastor, Father Paul Mathis. Mayes has worked tirelessly assisting refugees in resettling in the community. However, she is just one of many parish members who are involved in human service work with many agencies and organizations. “We were very surprised to win,” said Mayes. “We are one small parish doing our small part. It’s positive reinforcement for the good we are doing as a parish,” said Mayes.