By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special To The Bulletin | Published noviembre 15, 2007 | Available In English
When you see those in need up close, “you cannot not give.”
That is the spirit reflected in the parable of the Good Samaritan and in individuals like Deenie McKeever, a recent convert to Catholicism. She is among those stepping forward to support the many social service programs offered by Catholic Charities Atlanta through its newly established Good Samaritan Guild, which recognizes those making annual contributions of $500 and above to the agency.
One of about a half-dozen new initiatives, the Good Samaritan Guild seeks to address the increasing needs of families and individuals in North Georgia, according to Joseph Krygiel, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Atlanta.
“The needs have always been there, but Atlanta has grown as have other cities in the Sun Belt. The problems that existed have been magnified by the increase in population,” said Krygiel. “As the need for our services increases year after year, we are growing more dependent on a loyal base of people committed to the financial support of the important work that we do. These generous people understand that creating hope is the most efficient way to help someone achieve self-sufficiency, and the Good Samaritan Guild is designed to recognize the vital role supporters play in achieving our mission.”
The guild was introduced on Nov. 7 during a special reception hosted by Scott and Mary Ellen Garrett and Krygiel, who introduced the program’s details to a select group of current and prospective donors. Special guest Msgr. Joseph Corbett, vicar general, also attended and delivered the Good Samaritan prayer composed for the guild. Unable to attend the event, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory addressed the group through a taped message offering his encouragement and support.
Members of the guild will receive a personalized certificate and a Mass will be held each month for these special benefactors of Catholic Charities Atlanta. Donors making annual contributions of $2,500 or more will receive a reproduction of “The Good Samaritan” painting created exclusively for Catholic Charities by Atlanta artist Lynn Felton.
McKeever attended the “incredible” evening with people “from lots of different churches and of different ages.”
“All the focus was on how we can help other folks,” she said.
While the meal was “beautiful,” McKeever was taken by the unveiling of the painting, which was “a visual bang” capturing the sense of need of the victim and the compassion of the Good Samaritan.
“It’s so typical of what Catholic Charities is. The definition of Catholic Charities is the Good Samaritan,” said McKeever, an event planner, who came into the church at Easter in 2006.
Krygiel also reflected on the impact of the painting and its relationship to the guild.
“It really helps the donor in the spiritual aspect. When reflecting on the picture you can identify with the feeling of hopelessness in the victim’s face. You see how the Good Samaritan is holding the man. Donors develop passion, develop the spirit of the Good Samaritan. They will help us succeed in helping others that we can’t at this time.”
That has rung true for McKeever who, before becoming Catholic, was spiritually not at rest for many years until “God, in a funny way, seemed to almost drop Catholics from the sky” into her path.
“(Catholicism) is an incredible love story of how God absolutely provides for us,” she said. “I’ve found home.”
One of those Catholics was Krygiel, who invited her to become involved with Catholic Charities Atlanta. Now McKeever is working with others on an organizing committee for the agency’s upcoming spring gala. Her admiration for the organization continues to grow.
“I really began to see their mission,” she said, adding that she is responsible for where she invests her time, talent and treasure. “We have to make choices on the right place (to invest), to find what place makes a difference. Catholic Charities makes a difference.”
She commended the agency’s staff of counselors, immigration attorneys and all who deliver services “with the right value system and with such dedication.”
Those working are not just working their 9-to-5 shift, but, as is the case for those in the adoption services segment of Catholic Charities, may be up in the middle of the night supporting a woman giving birth and in the days—and nights—that follow.
“They really stay with a person if someone is hurting. I say that, having had hurts in my own life. There are times when we need a hand up. I really see that Catholic Charities does that,” McKeever said.
Further proof of that was in the agency’s response to victims of Hurricane Katrina. “They were the first on the scene to help. They follow through.”
Catholic Charities is a member of the Catholic Charities USA network, which was recently recognized as the eighth most fiscally responsible charity in the nation by Charity Navigator. This recognition attests to the agency’s efficiency and effectiveness. But there is more work to be done.
“We receive about 60,000 calls a year but can only answer a small percentage. Lots of calls go unanswered. We hope to increase our ability to respond to all needs,” Krygiel said. “It’s critical that we raise additional funds to cover our operational costs and to extend our programs.”
Funding for the $5.2 million budget of Catholic Charities Atlanta comes from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal (25 percent), development efforts (20 percent), state and federal contracts (19 percent), program service fees (14 percent), United Way (11 percent), and in-kind and other sources (11 percent).
“Due to many other needs of the archdiocese this year our subsidy that we receive from the Annual Appeal was reduced by $400,000 from $1.7 to $1.3 million,” Krygiel said. “As our development efforts expand, we will be expected to raise more internally generated funds for our operations each year. However, I am confident that with support from programs like the Good Samaritan Guild we can build a strong base of donors to carry our programs and message of help and hope forward.”
Many parishes send people to Catholic Charities for counseling, to meet with immigration attorneys, or to visit a half-dozen family enrichment centers where people can seek employment referrals and attend ESL courses.
Catholic Charities is not just in Atlanta, Krygiel said, but also in places like Cartersville, Calhoun and Conyers.
“We plan with new funding from the Good Samaritan Guild, from local and national foundations, community partnerships and other sources, to expand our future local Catholic Charities services in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and throughout North Georgia. There is a tremendous need to address issues of poverty here locally especially in the Hispanic and African-American communities.”
Family enrichment centers, or intergenerational centers, are modeled after programs of Catholic Charity agencies in other cities and are set up to accommodate the particular needs of an area, Krygiel said.
“The Good Samaritan Guild would help fund programs and create revenue that would allow us to build other family enrichment centers where we could identify clients, their needs and refer them to where they need to go.”
According to recent statistics, Georgia has the 14th highest poverty rate among the 50 states, and the city of Atlanta has the eighth highest percentage of people living below the federal poverty level.
“Archbishop Gregory wants to have a major impact on the Atlanta community, not just among Catholics,” Krygiel said.
“We have all the ills that a major city has. There are the homeless and the working poor—people with families making a go of it by working two to three jobs. If something major happens, like a huge medical bill or their car breaks down, they collapse. Catholic Charities stabilizes them; we bring stability so they can make themselves financially stable again.”
Krygiel also explained the important relationship the agency has with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a parallel charitable organization. Krygiel serves on the St. Vincent de Paul governing board while John Berry, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, sits on the Catholic Charities’ board.
“St. Vincent de Paul is typically the first responder,” Krygiel said. “We work closely together. They respond to the immediate needs, like the Red Cross, by providing clothes, food or perhaps help paying an electric bill. At Catholic Charities we do a small amount of that. With Hurricane Katrina we did a large amount, but our services are more about sustaining clients. We help the family take the next step.”
Catholic Charities staff members evaluate each situation and counsel clients to determine their needs, direct them to additional resources and evaluate assistance for which they qualify. Perhaps the client is pregnant and in need of housing or is a refugee needing help finding employment. “Our work complements their service.”
Another recent development for the agency has been for Archbishop Gregory to name Catholic Charities Atlanta a “public juridic person,” a formal structure within the law of the church in which Archbishop Gregory and his successors become the sponsor of Catholic Charities. This new arrangement will allow the agency’s board of directors to be operationally autonomous while still relying on the influence of the church for its mission and guidance related to Catholic social teaching. In this new configuration, Archbishop Gregory will continue to provide Catholic Charities with assistance in interpreting the agency’s mission and culture while serving as the structural link to the church. The new structure allows the agency to be more nimble in carrying out its mission.
“The recent strategic planning process and careful evaluation of our business processes brought to light the need to create more flexibility in the design and management of our internal systems so that we can function more prudently and efficiently,” Krygiel said. “We are experiencing an increase in demand for social services, and we must respond quickly and appropriately as our area’s population dynamics and needs change while still being careful to adhere to our core mission and beliefs.”
All programs and services of Catholic Charities Atlanta are fully accredited by the Council on Accreditation, an international, independent organization of social service providers.
Krygiel keeps in mind the agency’s mission statement: “We are a ministry rooted in the Gospel, that partners with our community to move people facing adversity to wholeness and self-sufficiency. Our mission is the message of Jesus Christ and the Good Samaritan, which is to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.”
“We really change lives,” Krygiel said. “We do not give handouts but allow people to move onto the next level.”