February 25, 2017 – Christine Bordelon
The goal of the annual Archbishop Hannan Community Appeal (AHCA) hasn’t wavered since its inception 51 years ago. The appeal raises money so Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans can help “the most vulnerable and needy in the eight civil parishes of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”
Individuals and corporations across the archdiocese generously donate time and treasure to the campaign that helps Catholic Charities annually serve 82,000 people through 30-plus ministries.
This year, at least, the AHCA exceeded its goal a month ahead of schedule, said Erin Bolles, Catholic Charities’ Director of Institutional Advancement.
Under the leadership of AHCA chairman Paul Fine, who has previously served as Catholic Charities’ board chairman, the AHCA raised $1,806,470 from September 2016 through January 2017.
“We’ve had a new trend where we meet our goal in January,” Bolles said. She attributed the early completion to the “iGiveCatholic” one-day online fundraiser and the tenaciousness of chairman Fine and 102 volunteers.
“Paul was a very committed chair,” Bolles said. “He was constantly going over the numbers as were looking to close out the campaign. He was helpful in that he has a strategic eye for it. He was eager to call any and every one. He rolled up his sleeves and did what needed to be done.”
Fine, a father of five and parishioner of Transfiguration of the Lord Parish in New Orleans, is well-schooled in Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. He and his wife, Mary Beth, have worked with Catholic Charities for about 25 years.
Fine recalled first getting on board after a bus tour of Catholic Charities’ entities opened his eyes to what Catholic Charities services meant in the community.
“We were favorably impressed by the work bring done and moved by some of the things that we saw,” Fine said.
As a couple, they led a team that ignited younger donors’ awareness of Catholic Charities’ mission. From there, Paul served on the board and later became its chairman.
Knowing first-hand the good that Catholic Charities does, Fine said he didn’t hesitate when asked to chair Catholic Charities’ 2016 appeal.
“I don’t think the community really knows how many different ministries Catholic Charities is running,” Fine said. “To me, it’s probably the largest collective social services agency in the city. They are serving everybody – the poor, battered women, blind and deaf people, immigrants, people released from prison, the elderly, young children in Head Start and summer camps, the disabled through Padua House. There are so many different people they touch and so many people that need help. Those organizations probably couldn’t do what they are doing without Catholic Charities.”
Fine also credited the campaign’s success to the commitment of dedicated annual donors, the volunteers (many who have served for decades) and Catholic Charities staff.
Unrestricted funds vital
Bolles said raising unrestricted funds through the annual campaign is vitally important to “offset the match of federal funds we receive. The 2016 campaign needed close to the $1.8 million goal to maintain the federal funding we have.”
She said that $1.8 million represents the match needed to receive $7.5 million in federal money.
“Imagine what we wouldn’t be able to do if we didn’t have that federal funding,” Bolles said.
She stressed that necessity to have this AHCA money available, especially considering how often Catholic Charities has responded to disasters in this region over the past few years.
The prevalence of disasters has made the allocation of resources a little more challenging, Bolles said, and has taught all archdiocesan agencies to collaborate more closely so as not to waste money or duplicate services.
With only so many charitable dollars out there, and every nonprofit – including all Archdiocese of New Orleans entities – vying for them, Bolles said, “we try our best to be sensitive to how people of the archdiocese support all of us. Sister Marjorie (Hebert, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans) has been a help in reminding us that we are one entity within the archdiocese.”
Catholic Charities is working on a strategic plan for 2017, including how to balance funding for day-to-day programs with disaster response. Bolles said the strategic plan will be released in July.
Looking ahead, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans has named Tommie Vassel as its 2017 AHCA chair.