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Appeal Week is pivotal for Catholic Charities 2015 fund drive

A representative of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Elma arrived Sunday at Catholic Charities’ downtown headquarters reporting $47,000 in donations for the 2015 Appeal in support of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. A cheer went up.

“We have a lot of work left to do,” said Jake Schneider, chairman of the 2015 Appeal with his wife, Katie. “We know that we’re trailing last year at this time. But we’re cautiously optimistic that people will come through. They always do.”

A goal of $10.9 million has been set. As Appeal Week kicked off Sunday, parishes reporting donations from the weekend’s Masses pushed the total raised so far to over $7.2 million. An official tally will be announced Tuesday. More than $11 million was raised last year.

The appeal is at a pivotal week. Donations typically peak during Appeal Week, leading up to Palm Sunday, Schneider said. Then they drop off until the June 30 ending.

“We have a lot of time, still, to raise what’s left,” he said, noting that donations are accepted online at The theme for the 91st annual appeal is “Find Good Within” and its patron saint is St. Francis of Assisi.

The campaign helps fund 70 Catholic Charities programs in 61 sites in the eight Western New York counties, along with the Bishop’s Fund for the Faith.

Catholic Charities served 12,000 people when it was founded in 1923, Schneider said. About 142,000 Western New Yorkers were helped last year and “the need continues to grow,” he said.

Schneider had a good analogy to put that figure in perspective. “If you filled up Ralph Wilson Stadium to the brim, you’d have to double the size of it to realize the 142,000,” he said. “These are all our neighbors from Western New York.”

The appeal accounts for nearly one-third of Catholic Charities’ overall budget of $36 million, Schneider said.

During the appeal, its leadership team learns from Sister Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities’ diocesan director, about “mission moments,” or personal stories about one individual helped by Catholic Charities.

“Every one of them is life-changing — people who had a chance to get back on their feet or go to GED and get their degree, which led to a career,” Schneider said. “It’s just so wonderful to have played a small part in it.”