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The stock market may be soaring to new heights, but the number of people still in need of assistance is unfortunately also rising.

This is why the direct services provided by Catholic Charities of Buffalo, one of the region’s largest human services agencies, are so critical. Catholic Charities is now in its 89th annual campaign. Appeal Week 2013 begins today and runs through March 24. The week celebrates the support of Western New Yorkers who have already made a contribution, and encourages others to make a donation.

The strongest push for donations comes on Appeal Week, but reaching the goal of $10.6 million means that volunteers will need to keep working for many more weeks and, if necessary, officials said, until the conclusion of Catholic Charities’ fiscal year on June 30. The annual campaign was launched with a goal $100,000 higher than last year’s, which the organization reached.

This year’s campaign also marks the first for Buffalo’s new bishop, Richard J. Malone, who named Blessed Frederic Ozanam the patron of the appeal.

Catholic Charities provides 70 varied programs across 61 sites in Western New York. Services are offered regardless of the religious affiliation of the recipient. More than half the agency’s 130,000 clients in all eight counties served in Western New York are not Catholic.

The organization helps Western New Yorkers through behavioral health services, food pantries, basic relief services, counseling for individuals, children and families and the refugee assistance program. The mission is reflected in this year’s theme of “Protect. Strengthen. Empower.” The work is depicted in YouTube videos featuring people from a variety of backgrounds. Search for “by CCBuffalo” at YouTube.com to see their stories.

Catholic Charities has received the highest ratings for quality of services provided and financial health accountability as judged by the Council on Accreditation and Charity Navigator.

Corporate giving has been strong and Stephen Ulrich, owner of Granite Spine LLC and chairman of the 2013 appeal, said he expects the corporate gifts division to continue to grow, possibly reaching $1 million in donations this year. Very large gifts from individual donors will add up to another million dollars, leaving the bulk of the campaign riding on the generous shoulders of regular donors. The average gift at the parish level continues to increase and is now the highest in appeal history.

Reaching a younger generation of potential donors is a challenge being met through the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and quick response (QR) codes that allow smart phone users to read a display code on the organization’s literature, which then directs the smart phone’s browser to the Catholic Charities’ website, ccwny.org.

By helping Catholic Charities, we help the Western New York community and ourselves.