Another group of corporate volunteers from KPMG helped out at ther Kennedy Center and the Thrift Store on July 2, 2010. Like the volunteer group from K-Mart, KPMG is a valued partner in serving the Catholic Charities community.
More than 10,000 confused and frightened Cambodians fleeing the killing fields, Vietnamese boat people, refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania and impoverished Mexicans and Dominicans struggling for a better life have flocked to the doors of St. Rita’s Center for Immigrant and Refugee Services, a Catholic Charities affiliated agency housed in a three-story brick building in the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Despite these new arrivals’ desperate need, this multi-service center supported by a patchwork of city, state and federal grants has fallen victim to the financial crisis. Founded in 1983 by Sr. Jean Marshall, a Sparkill nun and the agency’s director, St. Rita’s annual funding was slashed by more than 75 percent from $750,000 in 2006 to $168,000 this year.
Determined to continue its mission of helping newcomers find jobs, learn English and acclimate to new lives in a city nothing like the often rural fields where many once toiled, the center struggles to forge on as paint blisters from the walls of the104-year-old building and antique tin ceilings crumble.
Fortunately, thanks to Catholic Charities’ intervention, Kmart volunteers have begun to restore this vital site, an outgrowth of the department store’s deepening commitment to foster the work of Catholic Charities. Kmart’s downtown Manhattan site serves as host to Catholic Charities’ annual St. Nicholas Christmas Shopping Day as volunteers manned with individual Santa wish-lists shop for persons in need.
During the off-Christmas season, Kmart staff is helping to restore St. Rita’s. As Vietnamese, Hispanics and Albanians pack St. Rita’s hallways and a chorus of languages rings out, nearly a dozen Kmart workers have taken turns painting offices, replacing ceilings and building storage spaces.
James Washington, 40, a Kmart maintenance worker perched atop a yellow ladder scraped decades of paint from an office ceiling at St. Rita’s on a recent Tuesday morning. “I want to do my part, put my hands into it, to make this a better place and give back to the community,” he said.
In the freshly painted hallway outside the office, Sr. Jean watched while a young mother, who arrived for English lessons and childcare, held her tiny daughter’s hand as the little girl leaped from step to step.“The needs are here and the people are still here,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the great staff and extraordinary volunteers we couldn’t make it but the Holy Spirit has not finished with us yet.
There are so many more children, families, and refugees that desperately need help from compassionate volunteers. Whether helping to repair an old building or sharing career advice with young immigrants, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities at Catholic Charities for you and your organization.
Whatever your interest, Catholic Charities you can help lend a hand to those less fortunate. Take a moment to learn about volunteering for Catholic Charities.
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