Catholic Charities Jubilee Year of Mercy & 70th Anniversary Celebration presented by…
December 8th was a great day: a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, the kickoff of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy, and Catholic Charities’ inaugural breakfast celebration and fundraiser. With another beautiful Florida winter day – clear, blue sky and perfect temperature – as the backdrop, nearly 120 supporters of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, joined together to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the 70th anniversary of Catholic Charities’ service to the community. The event was made possible by the generosity of our many guests who paid $30 each to attend, and, importantly, to our Presenting Sponsor, Dex Imaging, as well as other sponsors, including Gold Sponsor, Clarity Services, and Bronze Sponsors – WarrenAverett, Bon Secours Health Systems, DiVito, Higham & Vasti, PA, CBIZ MHM, Spirit FM 90.5, and Diamond View Studios.
The joyous event was held at the pituresque Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater. Surrounded by Christmas trees in a sun-drenched room, the guests enjoyed a delicious breakfast while listening to several speakers discuss Catholic Charities’ mission, history, stories of assistance to those in need, and future vision. The event began with Rob Marsicano, evening on-air host of Spirit FM 90.5 and event Master of Ceremonies (MC), welcoming the guests, recounting his interaction with Catholic Charities, and laying out the morning’s events. Monsignor Robert Morris, Vicar General of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and pastor of nearby St. Catherine of Siena, prayed the invocation and led the group in a recitation of Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Year of Mercy. After Mark Dufva, Catholic Charities’ Executive Director, shared his summary of Catholic Charities and its mission, he premiered an unfinished version of the first-ever organization video that recounted much of our seventy-year history, shared our current mission and services, and delivered testimonials about the impact of those services from the perspective of two clients and one volunteer. The video concluded with an unveiling of a future concept for emergency shelters – micro-pod housing – that is being developed to replace the tents presently used at Pinellas Hope, our emergency homeless shelter serving 250 people.
After the video, Mark introduced one of our Catholic Charities board members, who delivered a heartfelt plea to the audience to get involved through the commitment of time, talent and especially treasure. He then surprised everyone with a $20,000 donation to assist in the construction of one of the micro-pod homes.
Subsequently, one of Catholic Charities clients, Derrick Jenkins, his mother Jennifer and sister Destiny, told their story. Derrick was in a terrible motorcycle accident over one year ago and nearly died. As Derrick struggled for his life in the hospital, the Jenkins’ lost nearly all their material possessions, including their home. Faced with eviction and having no money and nowhere to go, the Jenkins’ were approached by Catholic Charities’ Judy Vargas, who having seen their story on a local newscast, offered them housing at one of Catholic Charities affordable apartments. Both Derrick, who is now completely blind and suffers from lingering life-threatening complications from the accident, and his mother, recounted their joy in learning they had somewhere to stay, and how today they are happy and secure in their housing and eternally grateful to Judy and Catholic Charities. Importantly, Jennifer, a paralegal, has started a business from home in order to continue to be Derrick’s full-time care giver. For her part, Destiny, put her college career on hold in order to help out at home.
Mark Dufva wrapped up the days events by first thanking the many people who helped build Catholic Charities to where it is today, including current board President, Frank Murphy, former COO, Sheila Lopez, both of whom were in attendance, as well as the late former Executive Director, Arnold Andrews. He thanked those who have been instrumental in supporting Catholic Charities, including Dennis O’Hanlon, President/Owner of Sun Construction Group, Dan Doyle Jr., CEO of Dex Imaging, Tim Ranney, CEO of Clarity Services, and the prime movers in the micro-pod housing initiative, including Kevin Greeno, Director of Greeno Painting, and the Knights of Columbus Council #10157 St. Raphael Church, led by Grand Knight Jerry Sirgey. Mark then amplified on Catholic Charities’ vision for the future beyond the innovative micro-pod housing, including our commitment to expand and meet as many needs as possible in the northern Diocesan counties of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus.
We wrapped up with a moving Gospel witness offered by our MC, Rob Marsicano, followed by a little fun! Each floral centerpiece – white hydrangeas in a silver bowl, beautifully arranged by Wonderland Floral Art and Gift Loft in St. Petersburg – was raffled off with one lucky person walking away with the elegant arrangement. Then, we raffled off three items generously donated by Feather Sound Country Club: 1) Golf for four at Feather Sound; 2) Dinner for two at the Feather Sound dining room; and 3) a gift Feather Sound-branded gift water bottle filled with golf items like balls and tees and more! Amazingly, none other than our keynote speaker, Derrick Jenkins, who said “are you pulling my leg”, won the last raffle item!
After words of reflection from Monsignor Morris, he wrapped up the wonderful event (less than ten minutes behind schedule!) with a prayer and with that the crowd slowly dissipated with many lingering to chat with one another or view the showcased rendering of the new micropods that greeted them at the exit. This day provided a great start to a beautiful Florida day. We marked the Year of Mercy by reflecting on the mercy shown by Catholic Charities for 70 years to those most in need within our communities through its corporal works of mercy. We enjoyed camaraderie in prayer, thanksgiving, inspirational stories, and real-time acts of generosity and philanthropy manifested in the charitable giving that occurred during the event. What a great way to celebrate a 70th birthday AND kick off a long awaited Year of Mercy!
FINAL UPDATE: The final tally is in and the event raised $72,000 to support Catholic Charities programs and services. THANK YOU to all our wonderful sponsors, benefactors, and supporters!