Emerald O’ccasion clad in orange as Phillip Fulmer speaks; Chattanooga community leaders recognized
By Emily Booker
Catholic Charities of East Tennessee took center stage in Knoxville and Chattanooga as the leading regional social services agency held fundraising dinners in March that attracted hundreds of supporters, community leaders, and CCETN clients, and raised thousands of dollars in needed funds for outreach programs.
Catholic Charities celebrated its 32nd annual fundraising dinner, An Emerald O’ccasion, in Knoxville on March 9. And on March 16, Catholic Charities held its 35th annual dinner in Chattanooga.
Bishop Richard F. Stika, Catholic Charities Executive Director Sister Mary Christine Cremin, RSM, and the Catholic Charities Action Council hosted the events, which highlight the work of Catholic Charities’ programs across the region.
Former University of Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer was the featured speaker at the Knoxville dinner, which was emceed by Kristen Farley, anchor for WATE-TV, and Jim Wogan, communications director for the Diocese of Knoxville.
Attendees at the Hamilton County event, held at the Chattanooga Convention Center, heard from WRCB-TV news anchor David Carroll.
Dr. Everlena Holmes and Eugene Blaes were recipients of the 2017 Pope Francis Service to the Poor Award. And they were entertained by the Notre Dame High School Jazz Band.
Dr. Holmes is a Chattanooga community leader who established and administered the Full Circle Empowerment Center, was founding coordinator of the Glenwood Block Leaders and is active in collaborative efforts to implement projects and develop leadership skills. She is a recipient of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc.’s Black Pioneer Women of Excellence Award.
Mr. Blaes is the founder of Interfaith Elderly Assistance, which he started after he retired from CSX Railroad in 1985. What started out as the purchase of a high-tech van and collaboration with his wife, Joan, turned into an essential community service that assists people in wheelchairs to get to doctor’s appointments and other necessary places.
In addition, Mr. Blaes was involved in the beginning of hospice in the Chattanooga area, he was a founder of the Chattanooga Food Bank, and he volunteers with Meals on Wheels, Catholic Charities, and the Ladies of Charity.
“You’ll hear a lot about Catholic Charities, the wonderful work that they accomplish, day in and day out — the staff, how they truly are the face of Jesus in so many ways…Remember it’s Jesus who reminds us, ‘Whatever you do for the least of my sisters and brothers, you do for me.’ And that’s why tonight is so very special,” said Bishop Stika, who greeted attendees at both dinners.
Among those in attendance at the Knoxville dinner were Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Randy McNally, a parishioner of St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge, state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, and Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin, who played for Coach Fulmer at UT.
Welcomed with a standing ovation, Mr. Fulmer shared stories and lessons from his coaching and playing career.
He spoke fondly of having his family down on the sidelines during Tennessee games and now getting to be on the sidelines of his grandchil dren’s little league games.
Mr. Fulmer proudly acknowledged some of his former players who were present: Richie Gandy, David Ligon and Judge Irwin.
“All of them are just wonderful people,” he said. “Tim’s done so much for our community. You know, that’s not what people really always see about coaching. I didn’t get into coaching necessarily because I thought I was going to be the head football coach at Tennessee at all. I mean, I got into coaching because of people, little league coaches and teachers at my school, that impacted me.”
While the chance to make an impact and change another person’s life is what motivated him as a coach, he has seen the same desire and drive in the people who work at and support Catholic Charities.
“We are not defined by people. We are not defined by things. We are defined by deeds that we do in our life,” Mr. Fulmer said.
Among those recognized at the Emerald O’ccasion was Dr. Ernest R. Cadotte, who received the Creating Hope Award for his efforts leading UT business students in organizing the annual Barefoot Benefit 5K, which raises money for Catholic Charities’ Samaritan Place facility that serves seniors with emergency, transitional, and long-term supportive housing.
Dr. Cadotte said that one of the most rewarding parts of organizing the Barefoot Benefit is having students visit the residents so they can get to know one another.
“Now when I go in there, I feel a great connection with everybody and the entire staff. As a result, it makes it such a pleasure, such a joy, to work with Catholic Charities and their agencies,” he said.
Will Locklear and his grandson, Austin, spoke to the attendees about their experience in receiving help from the Columbus Home Assisting Parents (CHAP) program. Mr. Locklear has been raising his grandson since Austin was four years old. CHAP helped him find parenting resources and medical care for Austin.
“We’ve been a part of this program for a year,” Mr. Locklear said. “I struggled with finding the help. I knew the help was there. I just didn’t know where to find it.
“I want to thank each and every one of you,” he said, offering heartfelt gratitude for the care he received from Catholic Charities and its supporters.