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Catholic Charities USA Announces Finalists for 2012 National Volunteer of the Year

April 13, 2012
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Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), one of the nation's leading human services organizations, today announced the five finalists for its 2012 National Volunteer of the Year Award.

Volunteering at their local Catholic Charities agencies, these dedicated individuals have empowered vulnerable populations to achieve employment, assisted refugees in adjusting to their new lives in the United States, provided meals for the hungry, and advocated on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Their tireless energy and efforts to assist the least among us represents the very best of the human spirit.

"These incredible individuals are living testament to the power of God's love in all of us," said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "They unselfishly put the needs of others ahead of their own, dedicating their lives to serving individuals, families and communities in need."

Each year, nearly 300,000 volunteers in the Catholic Charities network serve more than 10 million people across the country.

The 2012 award winner will be announced next week, Thursday, April 19, as part of National Volunteer Week, and will be honored at Catholic Charities USA's Annual Gathering in September in St. Louis, MO.

FINALISTS

Ellen Buelow, Archdiocese of Santa Fe, NM, a lifelong childhood educator, co-founded in her retirement the Newcomers/School readiness Program in Albuquerque, NM, which fills a vital need for newly-arrived refugee youths who have a month between arrival and enrollment in school. As lead volunteer of the program, she works daily to meet newly-arrived children, provide them with backpacks, review vocabulary and important English phrases, and to get them excited about starting school. Her efforts have resulted in higher levels of achievement among these students. Ms. Buelow is also an advocate for social change; she is an active member of Bread for the World, an interfaith organization that advocates methods and legislation for hunger and poverty alleviation. She serves on the social justice action committee at her church, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community. She is also a member of Albuquerque Interfaith, a legislative action group that advocates on behalf of the poor, addressing issues of just wages and the importance of early childhood education.

Patricia Cassidy, Catholic Family Canter, Catholic Charities of Rochester, NY, has used her Human Resources background to help hundreds of refugees with cultural transitions into American work environments. As a founder and leader of E-PREP, a workforce development program for non-English speaking refugees, Ms. Cassidy creates and leads workshops that prepare participants for the American workplace culture and etiquette, as well as for the job interview process. E-PREP has been such a success that Ms. Cassidy was asked to create a similar program for Healthy Sisters' Soup and Bean Works (HSSBW), where she now assists women in recovery with resume and cover letter writing, job interviews, applications, online job searches.

Donald and Jan Chamberlain, Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc., Superior, WI, selflessly serve their community in a variety of ways. Both work daily at the Tomahawk senior center, preparing meals, assisting disabled residents, and escorting seniors and veterans to medical appointments. Both serve on the board of the "Open Your Heart to Haiti" program, providing uniforms and shoes to children in need. Both serve on the Pastoral Council and Sacristan of St. Mary's Church - Mr. Chamberlain being a Eucharistic Minister and Ms. Chamberlain being a Prayer Partner for children. Ms. Chamberlain assists special needs children at St. Mary's school each day; Mr. Chamberlain, upon suffering leg injuries in 2010, learned to knit and spent over 900 hours of his rehabilitation making baby caps, afghans, lap robes and cancer hats for distribution to local hospitals, nursing homes and shelters.

John Kennerdell, MD, Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, PA, as a retired neuro-ophthalmologist established the Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center in Pittsburgh in 2007. The center provides free medical and dental care to the region's uninsured and also contains a state-of-the-art eye clinic. Dr. Kennerdell volunteers his time at the clinic, providing patients with thorough eye exams, screening patients for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and thyroid eye disease. Because of Dr. Kennerdell's efforts, patients who need glasses or surgery can be actually be referred and treated at other medical centers at no additional cost. Dr. Kennerdell also opened an ophthalmology exam room for uninsured patients in Bunnell, Florida where he volunteers during the winter months.

Sister Rose Therese Wich, Catholic Charities of Santa Fe, NM, retired in 2005 from Annunciation Catholic School at the age of 80 - after working for 59 years as an educator and 15 years as school principal. Since then, she has continued her service as the Senior Transportation Coordinator at the Center for Community Involvement in Santa Fe. There, she coordinates rides for seniors who are homebound, increasing the quality of and ease of life for seniors in her community. Sr. Rose is known and loved at the Center not just for the important service that she provides, but, more significantly, for the loving manner in which she treats those around her. She is the consummate professional, responding to the seniors' requests with patience and respect and always ending each phone conversation with a blessing. She enhances and enriches the lives of the seniors in her community on a daily basis.

For more information, visit: http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/page.aspx?pid=2572.

Catholic Charities USA's members provide help and create hope for more than 10 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. For almost 300 years, Catholic Charities agencies have worked to reduce poverty by providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from health care and job training to food and housing. In 2010, Catholic Charities USA celebrated its centennial anniversary.

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