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Support Catholic Charities <br> Annual drive funds needed services regardless of religion of those in need

There's a lot of speculation as to whether one of the worst recessions in recent memory is subsiding. But even without a clear answer, one thing is certain: The need for services, and for the charitable giving to provide them, is as critical as ever.

As Catholic Charities launches the parish week of its annual fund drive, organizers are appealing to those who have begun to believe that there may be a way out of the worst recession in decades -- giving them the confidence to consider resumed giving -- while thanking those who consistently contributed.

In doing so, the agency has taken a very practical approach in recognizing times remain tough; the appeal goal has been lowered slightly to $10.5 million this year. The official "Appeal Week" will last from today through next Sunday, but the campaign chaired this year by banker Michael Whipple extends until June 30, the end of the agency's fiscal year.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec also acknowledged that there are challenges in raising funds in the current Western New York economy. It is because of those challenges that the appeal theme, "Whoever, Wherever, Whenever," is fitting, since Catholic Charities provides help for people regardless of religion, race, gender or ethnicity in the eight counties of Western New York, with 70 programs and 61 locations.

The continued poor economy and high unemployment have caused a shift in clientele, with many previous donors now showing up for assistance. Among the variety of programs, including domestic violence and family counseling, Catholic Charities now administers the Women, Infants and Children program that Erie County dropped. The agency currently serves about 20,000 residents in the WIC supplemental nutrition program at 16 sites across Erie and Niagara counties.

Catholic Charities has fared well in external auditing -- 96.34 cents of every dollar goes directly into services, and the organization has the highest ratings given by the Council on Accreditation and Charity Navigator. And for every dollar received from donors, Catholic Charities leverages another $4 in other-source funding for its array of services. That should give contributors confidence that their donations -- 60 percent of which go to Catholic Charities, with the rest benefiting Diocese of Buffalo ministries through the Bishop's Fund for the Faith -- are put to good use.

Catholic Charities also has launched itself firmly into the 21st century with a comprehensive Web site and a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. That makes this drive easier to check out.

Stressing the importance of every dollar, Catholic Charities continues to make a strong appeal to all residents of this region to give what they can. Each dollar makes a difference.

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