While receiving palms at Mass on Sunday, Catholics also gave, as donations continued pouring in on the final day of Appeal Week, putting Catholic Charities on pace for what organizers are optimistic will be a successful $10.7 million campaign.
With no letup in demand – despite what statistics say is an improving economy – and a decrease in government support, the contributions are critical, organizers say.
“The demand for services continues to increase, not dramatically but steadily,” said Sister Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities diocesan director.
As of late Sunday afternoon, the appeal had raised about $8.25 million, said Chairman Stephen Ulrich, with more expected today before an official Appeal Week tally Tuesday.
“We are about where we were last year at this time,” Ulrich said. With Easter arriving early this year, he noted, many Catholic snowbirds haven’t returned yet to make their pledges but are expected to do so before the appeal ends with the close of the fiscal year June 30. He expects to hit the $10.7 million mark by then.
While giving so far is on a pace with last year, there are some differences. Public support from government agencies that pay Catholic Charities to provide services such as foster care is down.
“Those contracts have been cut dramatically,” McCarrick said, making the appeal dollars “more important than ever.”
On the other hand, while the improving economy has not manifested itself in a shrinking caseload, it has contributed to an increase in stock gifting, as rising portfolios benefit the charity when contributors donate stocks.
“That’s an area where we have noticed an improvement, for which we are very grateful,” she said.
McCarrick quoted M&T Bank Chairman Robert Wilmers as saying Western New York is “older, sicker and poorer,” and pointed to two sets of numbers to prove it: There are 6,000 Catholic burials each year, but only 2,500 births.
“That’s the kind of reality we’re dealing with,” she said of the challenge of raising money.
And she pointed to one area of particular need: GED training for displaced older workers. While there is certain funding available to help those from 17 to 22 earn their GEDs, no such funding exists to help those who have worked for years but never earned a GED and then got laid off. Catholic Charities has to rely entirely on appeal money to help those displaced workers.
Ulrich said the appeal also reaches out to non-Catholics, noting that the charity serves all, regardless of religion, race or ethnic background. And he said it does it efficiently, getting a four-star rating from the independent Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities.