By Claudia Mathis
Sun staff writer
Catholic Charities of Onondaga County will honor six individuals as well as a local parish at the 38th annual Brady Awards Reception planned for Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Empire Room at the New York State Fairgrounds. The Brady Awards are presented each year and recipients are selected on the basis of humanitarian concern for others, leadership, creativity and responsiveness to individual and community needs.
The Msgr. Charles J. Brady Award was awarded posthumously to Bryan M. Place for his years of leadership on Catholic Charities of Onondaga County’s Board of Directors. The award is presented in memory of Msgr. Brady, who was known for his dedication and advocacy for people in need in the Syracuse community.
Place passed away unexpectedly in January of an aortic aneurysm. His wife Jacqueline will accept the award and their four children plan to be present. “I know he would have felt honored,” said Jacqueline. “Bryan wanted to make the world a better place and he helped Catholic Charities because they do so much in the community.”
Place lived much of his life in the Syracuse area. He graduated from Jordan-Elbridge High School and earned a degree in economics from the University of Connecticut.
Place was well-known and respected as a financial expert, both in Central New York and throughout the nation. He was president and founder of Place Financial Advisors of Manlius. He was frequently listed as one of the top 50 financial advisors in medical economics and as a member of Cambridge’s 2009 and 2010 Premier Club as an outstanding advisor.
Place gave back to his community in multiple ways. He served as a Little League coach and volunteered at St. Ann’s Church in Manlius and at Immaculate Conception School in Fayetteville.
Place began volunteering at Catholic Charities in 2002 and joined the board of directors in 2004. He played an instrumental role in the organization’s development and finance efforts.
His wife said that his favorite place to help out was at the Oxford Inn, a shelter for homeless men in Syracuse. “It meant a lot to him that people could walk into the place and not be judged and receive a helping hand,” said Jacqueline.
His wife and children are committed to continuing his mission. Their close friends and family members have established the Bryan M. Place Charitable Fund. It will benefit Catholic Charities and local area high school athletes. The family also established a fundraiser called the Manlius Mile last summer, a competitive event for runners. The race proceeds go to Catholic Charities. “Bryan left a clear path for my children and me to follow, allowing us to continue his mission for him,” said Jacqueline. “We fondly refer to that path as ‘Bryan’s Way.’ Our only job now is to widen that path so that others will follow, too.”
Nolasco Mercado, Latino Outreach Worker and Youth Program Coordinator at Vincent House, will be this year’s recipient of the C. Walter Driscoll Award, which is presented to employees who show exemplary commitment and dedication to the mission of Catholic Charities.
“I didn’t expect it,” Mercado said. “It’s such an honor.”
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mercado worked at a hospital in San Francisco as an entrepreneur and as a sales manager. In addition to his extensive volunteer work, he received the Catholic Charities Appreciation and Recognition of Employees Award in 2003. He also received the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters Interpreter of Excellence Award last year.
Mercado said he decided to serve as a Latino outreach worker, helping other Hispanic families integrate into the community because of the help he and his son received from Vincent House’s Latino Outreach Program when they arrived in Syracuse. “Catholic Charities is ‘a light shining through,’” said Mercado.
The Marty Cuddy Award will go to the Foster Care Team of John Patros, Jenna Curtin, Heather Nesci and Amanda Martin for their exemplary dedication and commitment to Toomey Residential and Community Services. They received the award because they are a unique group of people who work toward the common goal of achieving safety, permanence, long-term success and joy for the children and young adults served by Toomey.
Toomey Residential and Community Services provides assistance for youth through foster homes and group home facilities.
John Patros graduated from Niagara University before working for the NYS Department of Correctional Services and the NYS Division for Youth. From 1990 to 2000, he worked as a Catholic Charities non-secure detention caseworker, and for the last 10 years, he has been a Toomey foster care caseworker.
Jenna Curtain grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from Syracuse University. She said that her job is very rewarding and she values the time she spends with children the most.
Heather Nesci also attended Syracuse University. Before coming to Toomey, she worked with the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program at Huntington Family Centers. Nesci said she loves working with children and having the opportunity to improve their future.
Amanda Martin was drawn to Toomey by her desire to work with refugee minors to help them assimilate and learn to live in the U.S.
St. James Church in Syracuse will be recognized for its extraordinary outreach services to the community with the Parish Service Award. St. James’ service extends to community organizations such as the Oxford Inn, Dorothy Day House and Chadwick Residence. “Our parish has been exceptionally devoted to service,” said Father John Manno, pastor at St. James. He and the parishioners are thrilled about receiving the award and it has been cause for great joy.
Father Manno said that the parish has a wonderful relationship with the Oxford Inn. He explained the foot care ministry, Soothing Soles, provided to the men at the Oxford on a monthly basis. Because many of the men are standing on their feet for most of the day, the men are supplied with clean socks, sneakers and shoes. The ministry grew out of a foot washing service held at the Oxford on Holy Thursday this year.
The church also serves hot meals, offers haircuts every week, birthdays are recognized with cupcakes and cards and a writing class and Bible fellowship has begun.
In addition, haircuts are provided to the women at Dorothy Day House and toiletries are supplied to both Dorothy Day House and Chadwick Residence.
The parish has also focused its ministry on serving the needy on Syracuse’s south side. During the summer months, St. James parishioners distributed popsicles to families in that area to give them some relief from the extreme heat.
St. James collaborated with St. Anthony of Padua Parish the last weekend in September offering a cookout for the south side neighborhood. “We wanted to discern their needs and to let them know that we are here for them,” said Father Manno. “There’s no question that they offer a tremendous benefit to us. The parishioners have increased their spiritual and prayer life.”