While my 33-year banking career here in Buffalo might paint a different picture to some, one of my passions is to serve people and my new role as president and CEO of Catholic Charities feels like a great fit, almost an extension or merging of both my years in finance and my desire to help others.
I am fortunate to have a reminder of my call to serve, as an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church. The Greek word for Deacon, diakonos, means servant and that title provides me a constant reminder of my call. The opportunity to serve the people of Western New York in this new role is certainly yet another unexpected blessing from God. I feel blessed and privileged to be participating in my first Appeal. The Appeal and work of Catholic Charities are such an important ministry of our church and so vital to our community.
Since the recent launch of Appeal 2020, I have been meeting with both the people we serve through our programs and our supporters, hearing firsthand the impact that Catholic Charities has on our community's most vulnerable populations. This year's $10 million goal recognizes the challenges associated with raising such a significant amount of money in today's environment while also realizing the ongoing need for the critical programs and services that Catholic Charities provides. It's why we chose "Think of Me" as the Appeal theme this year; think of our neighbors in need who rely daily on the support provided by Catholic Charities.
The annual Appeal helps fund 51 programs and services administered by Catholic Charities across dozens of sites in the eight counties of Western New York, along with a number of ministries that benefit parishes through the Fund for the Faith. Programs and services provided by Catholic Charities benefited more than 160,000 people in 2019, including nearly 23,000 in Niagara County.
This year, donors will once again have the choice to designate their Appeal gift through three options: give to the Appeal as in previous years, which benefits Catholic Charities and the Fund for the Faith; give to Catholic Charities only; or, give to the Fund for the Faith only. Whatever choice our donors make, we want them to know that each gift is very much appreciated.
This is a new year and a new decade, and I feel a sense of anticipation — and hope! We hope our community in the coming weeks will think of the needs across Western New York and how supporting the Appeal can make such a valuable difference in so many lives.
We have great faith that the community, and our supporters in our local parishes, will once again demonstrate their generosity. Appeal 2020 runs through June 30.
Deacon Steve Schumer is president & CEO of Catholic Charities.