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One of region's best appeals Catholic Charities helps tens of thousands of residents every year

Good people take to the streets of Western New York Sunday. They're caring, and the door-to-door campaign is just one more way for residents to help and lift those crushed by troubles. By supporting Catholic Charities, people can join in that demonstration of compassion and care.

This year's "One for All" Appeal 2006 -- commemorating one agency that cares for all who need help regardless of religious faith or other factors -- is not just looking for donors at their doorsteps. It also seeks "non-traditional" contributors not yet part of the many repeat contributors -- also of all faiths -- who routinely help. For the first time, there's a specific appeal Web site, www.1-for-all.org, where viewers can research details, read accounts from some who have been helped and click a button to make an online donation.

The appeal's goal is $10.9 million, up $200,000 from the ambitious goal that was met last year. Catholic Charities, led by the Rev. Joseph J. Sicari with help in this campaign from appeal Chairman Alfred F. Luhr III, recognizes the difficulty of that much giving in this tough an economy. It also recognizes the need.

Last year, Catholic Charities helped 183,936 Western New Yorkers. It assisted one in every 10 families here. The annual appeal raises a quarter of the agency's budget, and administrative costs amount to just 7 percent of the total. With 93 cents of every dollar going directly to benefits for people who need them, Catholic Charities runs a wide eight-county range of programs in such areas as comprehensive counseling, services for children and families, behavioral health and chemical dependency, anti-domestic violence efforts, emergency services and education and job training.

A $25 donation buys a meal for 34 families; $100 helps 16 domestic violence victims, with a support group; give $250, and 15 students attend high-school equivalency classes for three days; for $1,000, needed services reach 140 families. Every dollar leverages $4.50 in aid through other channels.

The Erie County budget meltdown trimmed $1.2 million in support for the agency. That closed programs, and forced the layoff of county workers. Funding restorations are helping reverse that, but while the cuts made Catholic Charities leaner, it certainly didn't get meaner -- along with its increasing caseload from a stagnant local economy, the agency was part of a local response that met the multiple needs of hurricane refugees from the Gulf Coast last year.

For that kind of service to continue and to expand, generosity is needed from everyone who can help. The annual Catholic Charities appeal provides just that chance.

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