Guardian Angel Benefit of Hope honorees named for virtual celebration


From a volunteer who advocates in court for abused and neglected children to a Realtor who helps homeowners facing foreclosure, the people who Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton will honor at its Guardian Angel Benefit of Hope are inspirational role models who have dedicated themselves for years to helping people in need.

The benefit, set for Sept. 9 online, is a salute to the special people who have positively impacted Catholic Charities’ ability to meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable. It also is Catholic Charities’ signature, annual fundraiser, raising much-needed funds to support the 100,000 people the organization serves annually, regardless of religious affiliation or ability to pay.

Last year, the event was held online for the first time ever – and hundreds of people tuned in to ensure its success. (Click here to watch it.)

An unusual year

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much in how we live – including how we gather and celebrate,” said Nancy Tompkins, Director of Catholic Charities’ Development & Marketing department. “As we did last year, we will celebrate our amazing supporters and clients virtually this year.”

As the benefit approaches, Catholic Charities is busier than ever, with the economic recession driving more people to reach out for rental, food and utility assistance, mental health care and other services, Tompkins (pictured, left) noted.

“The pandemic has profoundly impacted so many people and hurt them in ways that may take months – or even years – to recover,” Tompkins said. “We will be here to help them in whatever way they need help, as we have helped people in need for over 100 years.”

Tompkins continued: “That’s why we celebrate our supporters – and need them now more than ever. We can’t do the work we do without them. They share our mission and passion to help people overcome poverty, homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, childhood trauma, mental health disorders, drug addiction, and so many other hardships.”

Several people and organizations will be honored for their tireless work on behalf of the region’s most vulnerable citizens. The Client Achievement Award honors a Catholic Charities client who has shown great courage, persistence, and hard work in overcoming hardship. The Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award will be presented to an outstanding couple committed to humanitarian causes, a devoted advocate of Catholic Charities and the betterment of humanity in general, and compassionately strives to improve the quality of life of people across all economic and social lines.

The Light of Hope Awards honor a person or organization in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties for their support and commitment to the work of Catholic Charities in their community. The Corporate Citizen of the Year Award recognizes a business that partners and supports Catholic Charities’ goals and mission.

The honorees are …

Tricia of Florence – Client Achievement Award

Tricia has lived with multiple mental illnesses since childhood and spent years in psychiatric hospitals for treatment. But in 2014, she reached out to Catholic Charities for help and connected with the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT), which serves people with serious, persistent mental illness who have a history of hospitalization and risk returning to institutional settings. PACT’s goal is to help people live successfully in the community – and Tricia has made immeasurable progress. She has been out of the hospital for over two years, started her own cleaning business, self-published two books of poetry, and is in a long-term, committed relationship. She hopes to expand her cleaning business and is considering a phlebotomy career. She is a mother of two, attends Columbus Baptist Church in Columbus, and enjoys writing, coloring, walking, and spending time with her partner.

Donna and John Kuchinski of Manasquan– Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award

Donna and John have supported Catholic Charities since 2007. John serves on Catholic Charities’ Board of Trustees and will become chair of its Finance Committee July 1st. He is a recently retired partner of KPMG, spending 40 years at the global accounting firm. Donna worked for several years in early childhood education as a speech therapist and preschool teacher. Over 11 years ago, Donna became a living organ donor, donating a kidney to one of her young students, and is a supporter of Donate Life. They are parishioners of St. Denis Church in Manasquan and are involved in several parish ministries, including religious education, Eucharistic ministry, the baptism team, St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, Knights of Columbus, children’s liturgy, and the men’s and women’s faith groups. They organized a Lenten almsgiving drive at St. Denis for several Catholic Charities programs: Linkages, Providence House Domestic Violence Services, Rapid Re-Housing, and For My Baby and Me. John recently has been involved in fundraising initiatives at Catholic Charities. They met in high school and will celebrate 41 years of marriage in July. They have three children and five grandchildren.

Donna and John are dedicating this award to the Catholic Charities employees, who they believe are the true Humanitarians, saying: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, they are on the front-line every day to help any individual and family, always treating them with dignity and respect.”

SobelCo of Livingston – Corporate Citizen of the Year

SobelCo, a certified public accounting and consulting firm founded in 1956, is well known for passionately serving middle-market, family-owned businesses, and the nonprofit community. The firm has supported Catholic Charities for more than two decades and served as the agency’s auditor for many years. Community service and client education are priorities for the firm, as can be seen in its commitment to hosting 12 roundtables of interest to nonprofits every year, presenting an annual nonprofit conference, and offering hands-on workshops and boot camps for nonprofit leaders. Holding fast to its core values, the firm sponsors an annual day of service, enabling its employees to give back to the community. Staff also are encouraged to participate in ongoing fundraising and donation drives for people in need, and the firm frequently spotlights nonprofits to help them gain greater exposure. “It makes us feel good to help those who do good,” said Tara Del Gavio, a leader in the firm’s nonprofit practice.

Kathleen Spivey of Mount Laurel – Light of Hope Award, Burlington County

Kathy has been a longtime donor to Catholic Charities and served on its Burlington County Board for 10 years. She recently retired from Lockheed Martin after a 39-year career in finance management there. She currently volunteers as a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate), appointed by the Family Court judge to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. She also has been active in United Way donation drives and the South Jersey Heart Walk. She attributes her passion for community service and charitable giving to both her upbringing in a large Irish Catholic family (two aunts were nuns and two uncles were priests) and Lockheed Martin, which encourages its employees to get involved in their communities. She’s a parishioner at St. John Neumann Church in Mount Laurel. The Massachusetts native is a mother of two who enjoys traveling.

Mark Bolgar and Bethanne Warrack of Ewing – Light of Hope Award, Mercer County

Mark and Bethanne have been generous supporters of Catholic Charities for 12 years. Both are employed at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company – Mark, as Senior Scientific Director, and Bethanne, as Principal Scientist. Bethanne is secretary and past chair of Villa Victoria Academy’s Board of Directors and past president of Villa Victoria’s Alumnae Association. Mark, a certified pilot, and a Detroit native, volunteers with Young Eagles, which introduces youth to aviation. They are parishioners at Incarnation St. James in Ewing. They have been married for 25 years. They enjoy vacationing, gardening, and spending time with family and friends.

Damian Sylvia of Ocean Grove – Light of Hope Award, Monmouth County

Damian has been a devout supporter of Catholic Charities and is a longtime member of its Monmouth County Board, where he serves on the sponsorship committee and participates in drives to collect food, holiday gifts, back-to-school supplies and other items for people in need. Damian works in retirement planning at an Oakhurst-based company he founded called Retirement Income Solutions. Damian’s roots with Catholic Charities are lifelong: He and his two siblings were adopted through Catholic Charities in Boston and Worcester, Mass. He credits his charitable involvement to his Catholic upbringing. He is a former Little League coach and Boy Scout leader. He’s a parishioner at St. Mary of the Assumption in Deal. He has three grown children Chris, Jack and Emma and enjoys golf and reading.

Elaine Molen of Brick – Light of Hope Award, Ocean County

Elaine has been a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities in various capacities: She is a donor and a member of Catholic Charities’ Ocean County Board and the Guardian Angel Dinner Dance planning committee, and she briefly worked on the Development and Marketing team as the Events Coordinator. She is a Realtor who helped Catholic Charities’ Family Growth program secure a new location in Ocean Township. She previously worked as a certified housing counselor helping people facing foreclosure – and still occasionally does housing counseling now. She founded the Miss Ocean County scholarship program, which was part of the Miss New Jersey/Miss America pageant and is the largest scholarship program for women in the world. She is a Sacristan and Eucharistic minister at St. Catharine Church in Spring Lake. She has three children and four grandchildren and enjoys walking on the beach.

Get involved

Anyone interested in tuning in to the festivities, sponsoring the event, advertising in the event program, donating auction items, or otherwise supporting Catholic Charities, click here or contact Jennifer Leip at [email protected].

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FOR INFORMATION, contact Dana DiFilippo, communications, at [email protected] or (215) 756-6277.

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