Supporters raised $252,000 to support the work of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton at its 29th annual Guardian Angel Dinner Dance on Sept. 22 in Princeton.
More than 350 people attended the prestigious celebration, which is the signature annual fundraiser for Catholic Charities. All proceeds will benefit more than 50 programs the agency offers in Central Jersey that help vulnerable people, regardless of religious affiliation or ability to pay, overcome addiction, trauma, domestic violence, homelessness, hunger, mental health disorders, or immigration issues.
The gala also served as a way for Catholic Charities to honor the countless volunteers who help Catholic Charities succeed in its efforts to transform lives.
“The Guardian Angel Dinner Dance is always a grand celebration and a great way to honor our remarkably inspirational volunteers and clients,” Catholic Charities Executive Director Marlene Laó-Collins said. “The support of our sponsors and event participants means we can continue to supply groceries to feed children and adults, cover housing costs for our survivors of domestic violence, or make necessary investments in job training, employment searches, homelessness prevention, and English (ESL) classes to move people toward greater independence and stability.”
Rachelle St. Phard, who co-chaired event planning with her husband Vlad, added: “We are honored to have been this year’s co-chairs. We hope people will continue to support Catholic Charities move forward in its mission of helping those in need in our communities.”
Paul J. Hooker, a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities, received the Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award at the dance.
“The people of Catholic Charities, where all of this money is going to serve those who for some reason are having trouble helping themselves, these are the people who are doing the work of Jesus Christ on earth,” Hooker said in his acceptance speech at the gala.
The gala raised money several ways: Through ticket sales, sponsorships and raffles.
The silent auction alone, for example, raised more than $16,000. Items including a large, flat-screen television, tickets to various professional-sports games, a paddle-boarding package, and a cocktail basket were especially popular auction prizes.
The event’s generous sponsors included: Honorable Anthony J. and Judith M. Persichilli, Bayada Home Health Care, Reilly Financial Group, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, NJM Insurance Group, Amboy Bank, Archer & Greiner, P.C., Bank of Princeton, Co-Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine, Horizon BCBSNJ, J. Knipper and Company, Inc., OceanFirst Bank, Phoenix Group, Riverview Studios, St. Catharine- St. Margaret Parish, Mr. David Toner, Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel- Moorestown, New Jersey Natural Gas, St. Paul Parish- Princeton, Stark & Stark, Mr. Robert and Mrs. Karen Tanzola, Wiss & Company, Garon Products, Inc., Georgian Court University, Mr. Peter J. and Mary Ellen and Mrs. Griffin, Investors Bank, Occupational Safety Services, Inc., Parker McCay, St. Francis Medical Center, TD Bank and Wells Fargo.
Our notable honorees
The honorees feted at the gala were (click on each to watch videos of the honorees):
• Guy Pue – Client Achievement Award. As one of more than 3 million Americans living with schizophrenia and 22 million Americans battling drug addiction, Guy made the courageous choice to start his road to recovery in 2002. With the support of his mother, he approached Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton’s Program of Assertive Community Treatment, or PACT, for assistance. He has done so well since then that he now works as a landscaper, painter and bricklayer, often working for the PACT team to help others just starting their recovery. He lives in Trenton with his girlfriend Carol and he continues to receive support from his family, especially his mother and brother.
• Paul J. and Margo Hooker of Sea Girt, NJ – Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award. Paul and Margo are longtime supporters of Catholic Charities, driven to donate financially for over 23 years by their passion for social justice. They are active parishioners at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Sea Girt, and both taught CCD for over 15 years at their previous parish, the Church of St. Catharine in Holmdel. Margo is a retired teacher. Paul is board chairman of luxury linens importer Sferra, a company he owned for over 35 years, as well as past varsity baseball coach at Red Bank Catholic High School. In 1990, they established RallyCap Sports, a recreational sports program for children and young adults with special needs that now serves more than 200 families in New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan.
• Church of the Sacred Heart in Riverton – Light of Hope Award for Burlington County. For decades, countless parishioners from the Church of the Sacred Heart in Riverton have quietly and anonymously donated money and goods to Burlington Community Services and Catholic Charities Providence House of Burlington County. The parish collects canned goods, clothing and other donations, with volunteers making weekly deliveries to Burlington Community Services after Mass. Parishioners also are quick to volunteer for the Taste of Burlington, an annual fundraiser now in its 24th year that benefits Providence House. (Pictured at left are Fran and Mike Stinsman with Father Robert Holtz.)
• St. Paul’s of Princeton – Light of Hope Award for Mercer County. At St. Paul’s of Princeton, parishioners and students at the parish school regard social justice and community service as “faith in action.” Both regularly collect food and backpacks and other school supplies for Catholic Charities clients, rallying to organize drives whenever a need arises. Students also raise money every Christmas to adopt a Catholic Charities family and buy everything on their wish list, while parishioners similarly ensure a happy holiday for those in need with a Giving Tree.
• Mary Lee of Lincroft, NJ – Light of Hope Award for Monmouth County. Mary (pictured at right with Anthony Tamburri, chairman of Catholic Charities’ Monmouth County advisory board) has served on Catholic Charities’ Monmouth County board for 12 years. As chair of the board’s outreach committee, she oversees the collection of donations for virtually every holiday or need, from Easter and Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas gifts and Halloween costumes to school supplies, clothing, diapers and snacks. A retired school nurse, Mary also organizes gift auctions for several fundraisers each year that benefit Catholic Charities. Mary and Michael, her husband of 35 years, are active members of the Church of St. Leo the Great in Lincroft, where Mary runs Caregiving Friends, Ageless in the Lord, an elder-care friendship ministry.
• Opdyke Furniture Inc. – Light of Hope Award for Ocean County. Audrey Edelhauser and her sisters-in-law Gigi and Lynn Opdyke own Opdyke Furniture Inc., a business Edelhauser’s grandparents started in 1947. They have hosted an annual Holiday Shoppe at their Point Pleasant store since 2003, donating all ticket proceeds and 10 percent of sales to Catholic Charities Providence House of Ocean County. The event, usually held every October, draws hundreds of supporters and has raised $14,000 to help women and children in crisis. They also put up a Giving Tree, suggesting holiday gifts customers can buy for the mothers staying at Providence House to give to their children.
• J. Knipper and Company, Inc. – Corporate Citizen of the Year. J. Knipper and Company, Inc., a Lakewood-based healthcare marketing and pharmaceutical sampling firm, has donated printing of the Guardian Angel Dinner Dance programs for four years, allowing all revenue generated through ads to support Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. Such generosity is second-nature for the firm, which Jim Knipper and his father Joe founded in 1987: More than half of their 500-plus employees (gala attendees pictured at left) engage in some form of volunteer service on a weekly basis, living out the company’s core “CHART” values of caring, honesty, accountability, respect and trust. The firm also supports programs in Ocean County collecting food for the hungry.
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