CONGRATULATIONS TO CCLC FOR 25 YEARS OF MISSION IN LIVINGSTON COUNTY
The 1990s was a time of active ecumenical county-wide mission in Livingston County. It seemed like each parish had an active mission program in their local community and was concerned or had an active involvement in county-wide mission work. Serving as a pastor of a town and county parish I was actively involved in the ministry and mission of the Livingston County Coalition of Churches, an ecumenical mission organization which started in 1972. It was at a board meeting of this organization that I heard one day of the mission outreach of Sister Nancy seeking to help with the emergency food needs and other family needs in our county. Not long after that, I had a phone call from Sister Nancy requesting help to share in responding to an emergency need with a family in the larger community where I served as pastor. And so, began that relationship of sharing in emergency help with Sister Nancy who often connected with several churches and groups to help with a family’s emergency. It seemed to me that it wasn’t too long before I heard that a new ecumenical mission through Catholic Charities was working to be formed in Livingston County – Great News!
Some time went by, and one day I received a phone call from Dick Merges. I knew the name but had never met him. He said he had just started working with the start-up of the new ministry, CCLC, and wanted to get together and talk about county-wide mission needs in our county. I remember we had a great visit and I remember how taken I was by Dick’s humble and powerful faith and a deep desire to serve others in Christ’s name. Sadly, Dick couldn’t pursue this work for long as the startup director of this new mission.
It wasn’t long before I met the new director of CCLC, Tim McMahon. He had a vision for ecumenical mission, strong support from the diocesan director of Catholic Charities and local Catholic parishes. Tim had the gift of administration and relationship building. How many times have you heard from Tim, “It’s all about building relationships”? Catholic Charities took off! It was wonderful to see and experience the growth of several mission agencies within the auspices of CCLC. Also, the ecumenical county-wide mission of CCLC worked seamlessly with the mission work of Livingston County Coalition of Churches. Matter of fact, in working with Tim, we decided that it made a lot of sense for both the Director of CCLC and the President of the LCCC to serve on each other’s board of directors. Also, of great importance to me was the invitation of Tim to start playing golf again! And that comradery continues to this day.
As I reflect over years of ecumenical ministry in our county and the faithful mission of CCLC, I think of many people who were faithful servants along the way: Joe Dimino who served as Director of CCLC and served on the board of the Coalition and many board members of CCLC whom I had the joy of serving with. And I think about many servants in the community who worked with carrying out ecumenical ministry and proud to be connected with the mission of CCLC: Mable Treadwell, Millie Mazorrowshi, George and Elaine Spezzano, Father Trott, Father Ed Wedow, Anna Mae Allenbrant, Martha Curry, Vera Schwan, and many, many others – the names begin to flood in.
Thanks be to God! Neil Frood Jr.
From Bob: The Kanes returned from Panama in 1988. We settled in Geneseo as Lucille had family here. In the fall of 1989, I was approached by a woman employee at Wegman’s and asked if something could be done with all the food that was going into the dumpster. Why that woman asked me is a mystery as we were new in the community. I asked staff members at St. Mary’s Church and was told to contact Mabel Treadwell. Mabel was already working in feeding the poor and had available to her a small room in an alleyway to store boxes of food. I had an RV and began picking up food from Wegman’s. The Bread Run ministry had begun before there was Catholic Charities. The bread run has grown over the years. Many men and women have helped me box, weigh and deliver the donated food to food pantries and Catholic Charities. I have first-hand knowledge of how important this program is to Geneseo and Mt. Morris areas. The bread run is needed, Catholic Charities is needed!
From Lucille: As Joe’s wife I got involved with Catholic Charities and the HOPE Youth Mentoring Program. My student and I did a lot of fun activities together. I have watched her grow up to be a lovely young mother. We still run into one another at the store. I used bread and sweets from the bread run for the Visitor’s Center at Groveland and Livingston Correctional Facilities. I was the director of the center for many years. The families from New York City were pleased to have something to eat with their coffee as they waited to visit their loved ones. It seems to me that God’s love is always on the move and we need to help by giving our time and our financial gifts for the programs that Catholic Charities run. Amen and Alleluia!
While reflecting on when I first joined the CCLC board I surprised myself to realize that it was over twenty years ago. Leaving the board was not an easy decision but a new assignment brought with it the demands of more of my time and I very reluctantly stepped down. However, I was always very appreciative of how CCLC kept me in the loop and for that I will always be grateful.
One of the frustrations of working in ministry is that sometimes it is very hard to know where to begin. It’s like looking at the big picture of so many needs and becoming so overwhelmed you don’t know where to begin or what to do. I would liken it to that “deer in the headlights” feeling and that internal prayer is offered; “What am I supposed to do Lord?”
We are fast approaching the 19th Sunday of ordinary time. The first reading is taken from the first Book of Kings. God says to the prophet Elijah to stand at the entrance of a cave and wait for God to pass by. Incredible feats of nature take place; wind, earthquake, fire but God is in none of these. Elijah finds God in a tiny whispering sound.
That is how I see CCLC; that tiny whispering sound – that gentle push from God that says to us when we are in that overwhelmed state, “Start here. Start here and I will take care of the rest.”
To receive the Fr. Trott Award so many years ago was a humbling experience. One I still don’t feel deserving of especially when I look at the list of recipients for the past 25 years. One of those recipients is Dr. Jerry Benjamin. A man I have greatly admire who as I write this prepares to meet the God he has served so well. He has been the embodiment of Catholic Charity.
Admittedly, the Fr. Trott Award I received sits on a shelf in my den with a layer of dust on it. I do not look at it as something “I” received but rather as something given to me by a people who were the voice of God that said, “Start here.” Catholic Charities of Livingston County, a tiny whispering sound that knows how to make a big noise (in the best sense) in the world of ministry.
In these uncertain and challenging times, growing numbers of individuals and families in our region are looking to Catholic Charities of Livingston County for help in their time of need. For the past 25 years, CCLC has been a beacon of hope and help by providing essential programs and services free of charge and without regard to religious affiliation.
The agency has been blessed over the years with a dedicated and caring staff and hundreds of remarkable volunteers who reach out to lend a hand and make good things happen for those in need. We are happy to support Catholic Charities in pursuing its mission of providing help that works and hope that lasts.
Art and Pam Hatton
Catholic Charities of Livingston County 25 Years
Fr. Jim Hews and Wes Kennison were chaplains at SUNY Geneseo and would bring the students down to Tioga County Rural Ministry during spring break to work on the homes of people who could not afford to make repairs. One group gutted and rebuilt a room in someone's home each year. Another group would build a ramp fro someone who could not afford it. Some visited the home bound out in the country. They wanted these services to be available to people struggling in the poverty in Livingston County so Fr. Jim sought this out through the Diocesan office of Catholic Charities. We were initially set up through Catholic Family Center (CFC). I had moved back to Rochester and was asked if I would consider creating the program. Fr. Dan Condon offered me an office in St. Pat's Rectory and some of the parishoners started volunteering. I never could have done the things I did without my volunteers which came from all over the county. They helped with Christmas Baskets, guided the college students in home repairs, picked up donated furniture and took it to a family in need or stored it in donated space. After a couple of years, the Mt. Morris food cupboard became a part of CCLC.
A very important part of CCLC was working together with Social Services, Office of the Aging, Public Health, Focus on the Children and Red Cross. In working together, we were able to meet the needs of more people. I am also grateful for the support from the churches, K of C and Lyon's Club throughout the community.
Another very important part of CCLC was spending time with the people seeking assistance. It is so very important to spend time with the person and get to know then and their story. I often wondered, where would I be if I had come through some of the things they had to face every day.
When I started Gail Wratney Feathers was already working for CFC as a social worker with pregnant and parenting moms. Maurice (Moe) Tierney spent a year studying Livingston and Steuben Counties to see their need for separate Catholic Charities offices. It was decided that the need was greater in Livingston. Moe continued to work developing CCLC for another year. Then Moe retired for a second time and Tim McMahon took over as Director of CCLC and gradually we began to grow ~ one program at a time.
The lion’s share of credit for the creation of Catholic Charities of Livingston County goes to Mr. Jack Balinsky, and his faith in the development model of “Subsidiarity”. In its purest form this means that decisions should be made at the lowest organizational level as possible and closest to the needs of the people.
Jack partnered in his tireless efforts with a number of faith-filled, dedicated individuals, among them Moe Tierney and Paul Pickering. With the ardent support of Bishop Matthew Clark, a cadre of hardworking local people stepped forward to support the birth of CCLC. With apologies to anyone I miss, key supporters were: Fr. Bill Trott, Fr. Dan Condon, Bob Goins, Jim Dollard, Bill Derby, Walt Isaac, Mary Hammond, Bill and Nancy Lissow, Geri Crowley, Judge Jerry Alonzo, Wes Kennison, Judge Ron Cicoria, and Mabel Treadwell. Sr. Nancy O’Brien, RSM, and Gail Feathers, were the first two staff, and Dr. Richard Merges began as the first Director in the fall of 1995, but left shortly due to health issues.
From the beginning, the vision was to identify gaps in services, and then marshal the resources, human or financial, to help fill those gaps. Livingston County supported the arrival of CCLC, especially noteworthy being the staunch backing of the County Administrator, Mr. Nick Mazza.
With Diocesan support, and the assistance of many individuals, agencies, and organizations in Livingston County, as well as the county Catholic parishes, a number of programs were launched including Faith in Action, Youth Mentoring, an emergency housing program, a counseling program for single moms, and the first Hispanic Outreach program in the county, (including Mass in Spanish, thanks to Fr. Jesus Flores.) This vital faith link continues to this day.
Promoting social justice, the agency has stood as a beacon of hope for many, for 25 years. However, much work remains to be done. While addressing the basic needs of individuals is critical, our efforts must also embrace the role of advocacy.
“ To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of men and women”.
Tim McMahon, MSW,
Executive Director, 1996-2004
My association with Catholic Charities began as a mentor years ago to two girls, six years apart. It was a wonderful experience, one that I would recommend. I still have contact with my girls.
After retiring from doing hairdressing for the elderly in area nursing homes, I saw an announcement in our church bulletin for volunteering at Catholic Charities. I am now a volunteer in the office and love doing it and the wonderful staff I have met there.
Catholic Charities is an amazing organization that helps so many people in so many ways. I am glad I can be a small part of it.
As a member of the original steering committee to plan for a Catholic Charities office in Livingston County and a member of the original board, I am extremely proud of what CCLC has become and what they have accomplished for the people of Livingston County.
I was honored to be a recipient of the Father Trott award and am proud to be a supporter and volunteer for Catholic Charities. Happy 25th!
Memories of Special People
Reflecting on my time with CCLC, the highlights are of all the wonderful people I met there.
It was a hot June day when I first visited my new workplace on Chapel Street in Mt Morris, for a tour of our facility and introduction to staff. Meeting my supervisor, Jack Balinsky, we walked thru narrow hallways and steep stairwells, around boxes filled with bread, diapers, personal hygiene products and the like. Each office was hot, crammed with desks, files, and program materials. After the tour I asked Jack, as hard driving and compassionate person as I have ever worked with, if I could explore a new office for the dedicated staff I just met; he responded “Please!”
November the following year Sister Nancy O’Brien, whose commitment to the poor was inspiring, informed me her program was already out of money to assist people with utility shut off notices, and winter had yet begun. Needing a new source of revenue, my wife Sue suggested we approach our pastor, Fr John Hayes of St Matthew in Livonia, about sponsoring a spaghetti dinner. Fr John welcomed the opportunity to assist, introduced us to Alice Miller Nation and the rest is history. We raised over $5,000 for a very needy purpose that first year. Fr John, Alice, Sue and I are no longer around, but the parish community is still sponsoring Eat For Heat 15 years later! That warms many homes, and my heart.
In 2007, we had an opening for a leader in our floundering Emergency Housing Program. One prospect stood out from the rest, with a strong resume, bubbly personality and eagerness to learn. Soon after she was hired, Tabitha Brewster’s innovation and enthusiasm turned the housing program around, providing the homeless families she worked with a safe place to regroup, then a clear path to independence and permanent housing. Tabitha’s high energy was infectious to everyone she worked with, while her leadership skills became apparent.
My fondest memories are of the dedicated staff and volunteers I worked with during my tenure. I wish I could relate a story about each and every one of them, how special they were in the lives of the poor, and in mine. The staff’s passion motivated me to find the funds for a new office that was bright, modern and air conditioned. A place of their own, not rented space. The stock market crash and subsequent impact on the economy made fund raising difficult, but the faithful community of Livingston County stepped up to make the new Sister Nancy O’Brien Center on East State Street a reality in 2009.
As Executive Director I rarely had the opportunity to personally assist anyone seeking help. But late one evening when the office was closed in the the winter of 2009, I heard a knock on the front door. There stood a woman, her 3 kids in the car, with a fuel oil bill in hand. I don’t remember our conversation verbatim, but she had no heat in her home and was desperate. I called her supplier, paid the outstanding bill of a couple hundred dollars and the supplier agreed to make an emergency delivery that night. When I relayed the news, I remember her tears, relief and gratitude. I was grateful too, to be a member of a wonderful agency. Happy 25th, CCLC!
Joe DiMino Fallbrook, CA
Executive Director, 2005-10
Dr. Gerald Benjamin (Dr. Ben) was an amazing person who touched thousands of lives with love, kindness, inspiration, admiration, laughter, and devotion. In the year 2001, Lynn and I moved to our home on Conesus Lake, and we hoped to find a Catholic Grammar School for our children. The minute we met Dr. Ben at St. Agnes School, we knew this was the school we wanted for David and Michelle.
There was so much evidence of love, trust, and respect throughout the staff, students, and Dr. Ben, that it was an easy decision to send our children to St. Agnes. Dr. Ben was a master at bringing out the best in everyone. Even when things were bleak and sorrowful on September 11, he found a way to pick us up, reminding everyone that God was always with us.
He will forever be in our hearts and prayers. Dr. Ben, “We love you” and thank you for sharing your life, love, and compassion with all of us.