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With the theme "Every Day a New Reason," the 75th annual Catholic Charities appeal is ready to do its grass-roots fund raising. It offers a bargain for the giver who wants a donation to help fellow human beings in need, not burned up in fund-raising costs.

This year the appeal begins March 29 and ends on Palm Sunday, April 5. The goal is $8.915 million, the highest ever, up by 3.3 percent from the goal a year ago.

According to Msgr. Henry J. Gugino, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, the theme was chosen to reflect the great variety of services provided by the organization in 64 locations in the eight counties of Western New York.

Here's a sampling: emergency food assistance, family counseling, mental-health services, health care, substance-abuse counseling and treatment, aid for the aging, youth programs.

Catholic Charities serves, on average, 170,000 people a year. Help is given without regard for religious faith. In fact, nearly half of those helped are not Catholics. Charities spreads its protective wings over all in need in every corner of our region.

Because Catholic Charities enlists so many volunteers, its fund-raising costs are among the lowest for any charity. Audited financial records show only about 5.4 percent of the money donated goes into fund-raising. It's a giver's dream come true.

Furthermore, the donations are used as seed money to bring in other funds. Each dollar contributed in the annual appeal produces about $7 worth of services.

And the services go to those facing rocky times, as anyone might someday. As Bishop Henry J. Mansell says: "Catholic Charities has provided strength and stability wherever there have been fear and uncertainty."

The needs, says the bishop, are real. "From hunger and unemployment to catastrophic illness and domestic violence, people need to know that there is somewhere to go for help."

With Catholic Charities, that somewhere can be in a city, suburban or rural setting.

It can be at the Monsignor Carr Institute's substance-abuse treatment program at 76 W. Humboldt Parkway.

It can be at St. Elizabeth's Home in Lancaster.

It can be in the family counseling center at 33-37 Wilkesbarre Ave., Lackawanna.

It can be in St. Luke's Manor in Batavia.

The drive chairperson this year is Brian E. Keating, regional president of Marine Midland Bank. He sees Catholic Charities as "truly cyclical." People in the parishes give their money so that it can be given in the community wherever it is needed. And then, come spring, the circle is started yet again with a new appeal.

Keating asks that the circle be completed this year as it always has been in the past. The gifts are needed to keep the good works of Catholic Charities on the job for another year.

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