By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 1, 2008
The first Catholic Charities Atlanta Gala raised close to $300,000 as two prominent city residents were honored for their contributions to the community.
The accomplishments were celebrated at the Catholic Charities fundraiser, which reached its financial goal to support the organization’s work with “the least, the last and the lost,” as CEO Joe Krygiel put it.
The late Rawson Haverty Sr., a mainstay of the Catholic Church in Atlanta, and Dr. Michael Johns, Emory University chancellor, received the Archbishop Donoghue Award, the highest honor given by Catholic Charities.
Some 470 people came to the Piedmont Driving Club Thursday, April 17, to recognize the accomplishments of the community leaders.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, the special host of the evening, thanked the benefactors for their generosity in turning out for the evening. He had returned from papal events in Washington, D.C., to attend.
Catholic Charities does the work that the church must be engaged in, he said. Its staff acts as the “hands and heart of Christ” to people in need, he said.
Catholic Charities, which started locally in 1953, reaches out to women, men and children who face crisis. Last year, some 7,000 individuals and families were assisted by the organization. It serves pregnant women in crisis and families hoping to adopt children. Prisoners learn new skills about making good decisions through its prison ministries. Programs for families teach, among other things, workforce development skills.
The celebration was part of the organization’s goal to make new connections in the community to support its mission. The money raised during the evening will help to fill up the organization’s coffers as it faces cuts in financial support from other donors.
The ornate columned grand ballroom in the exclusive 121-year-old club was decorated with tables trimmed with flowering dogwoods and hydrangeas. Guests dined on a three-course meal that ended with peppermint-strawberry ice cream topped with hot chocolate sauce.
Other guests were Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue and Father Ricardo Bailey, parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, who gave the keynote speech. The event was emceed by Russ Spencer of FOX 5 News.
The live auction’s top prize—a round of golf in a foursome with golf fan Archbishop Gregory—was won with a winning bid of $4,500. Thanks to the interest in the event, the runner-up also will be able to play golf with the archbishop, marking a total contribution of nearly $9,000 from the auction, according to an organizer.
Krygiel said the event successfully raised the organization’s profile. He said influential people in and around the city now know about Catholic Charities.
“The highlight for me is that I have introduced the good things that Catholic Charities does to many new people,” he said.
The organization is working to develop new partners. It already works with grants and foundations and there are talks to team up with the city of Atlanta, he said.
“We hope to get bigger and better every year.”
The gala organizing committee was led by Sheila and Lee Shaw.
The committee was made up of Timothy Cambias, Karen Carroll, Helen Cleveland, Kathy Coletti, Phil Coletti, Corinne Cramer, Mary Dill, Molly Eskew, Susan Euart, Carlos Franco, June Isaf, Margee Kane, Pam Krygiel, Sophie Mason, Deenie McKeever, Cathey Millichap, April Nagel, Eddie Neel, Chris Reynolds, Toni Rhett, Daisy Richardson, Peggy Schack, Ellen Simmons, Sara Sullivan, Ignacio Taboada, Mary Voss, Julie Wegener, Lloyd Whitaker, Barbara Williams and Rebecca Williams.
Barbara Williams, a parishioner of Christ the King Cathedral and chairman for the event program, said people were very generous with their time and money to support such a good cause.
A highlight was hearing the archbishop talk about the papal visit, but also hearing the story of Cynthia Siyomvo, a young woman fleeing war-torn Burundi who was helped by the immigration services of Catholic Charities.
“I thought it was very touching. It was inspiring. It touched a few hearts,” Williams said.
For Lee Shaw, the outpouring of support made the event special. He said in an e-mail that the effort started more than a year ago with a handful of people “with the goal of spreading the good news, works and needs of Catholic Charities and having over 500 people, in turn, respond so well to the needs of those we serve through Catholic Charities.”
Accepting the Archbishop Donoghue Award for the Haverty family, Rawson Haverty Jr., said his father would be proud to receive the award that acknowledged his work on behalf of families and children.
“He was wired to serve and inspire,” he said.
Rawson Haverty Sr., who died in 2007, took an interest in helping troubled teenagers. He served as a director for the Village of St. Joseph for 18 years and as its first president. (This arm of Catholic Charities later changed its name to Village of St. Joseph Counseling Services and its mission became to offer counseling for families and children.)
Haverty earned many medals, including the Bronze Star, during his service in World War II. After his time in the Army, he returned to Atlanta to join Havertys Furniture Companies, which was started in 1885 by his grandfather. He served in various roles before becoming president in 1955 as well as its long-serving chairman.
His roles in the church were far and wide. The family is recognized as one of the most prominent Catholic families in the community with their successful business. He served as chairman of the first financial committee for the Atlanta Archdiocese in 1964, staying on for 14 years. In 1990, Haverty received an honor from Pope John Paul II as a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory, which recognizes meritorious service to the church.
But away from the pomp, Haverty was a regular outside Holy Spirit Church. As a member of the welcoming committee, he’d stand on the steps and greet people at Mass.
He was the “proverbial servant leader,” said Rawson Haverty Jr., adding, “He never gave up on things that mattered.”
Johns was recognized for his service to the community. He served as a director for Catholic Charities in Atlanta for five years and currently sits on 20 boards for national and state organizations.
He became chancellor of Emory University in October 2007 after serving for more than 10 years as executive vice president for health affairs and director of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center and CEO of Emory Healthcare.
Johns has a long accomplished history in medical education, from serving on the Institute of Medicine and the Association of Academic Health Centers to the Council of Teaching Hospitals of the Association of American Medical Colleges. He came to Emory from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he was dean of the School of Medicine.
He is married to Trina and has two children, both of whom are physicians.
Catholic Charities has established two funds in the names of Johns and Haverty to help individuals in need of immediate medical care and children and families in need, respectively.