Community service is the focus of Catholic Charities dinners

Fundraisers held in Knoxville, Chattanooga to raise awareness of CCETN programs in East Tennessee

By Emily Booker

Kristen Farley of WATE-TV, shown with Bishop Richard F. Stika and Cardinal Justin Rigali, received the Pope Francis Service Award from Catholic Charities of East Tennessee on March 14.

The annual Catholic Charities of East Tennessee dinners, held in Knoxville and Chattanooga, enhanced their content this year with additions of a silent auction, live music, and dancing.

But the most substantial change was bringing the focus of the evening onto the Pope Francis Service Award, presented to an honoree who displays generous service in the community.

The 34th Annual Catholic Charities Dinner in Knoxville, dubbed “An Emerald Occasion,” was held March 14 at the Knoxville Hilton. Jim Wogan, communications director for the Diocese of Knoxville, emceed the event. The Scruffy City Syncopators provided live music.

Bishop Richard F. Stika led the opening prayer.

Lisa Healy, interim director of Catholic Charities, spoke about the importance of Catholic Charities, listing each of its nine programs and how they affect the lives of clients. Videos from clients let them share their stories and their experiences with Catholic Charities.

“It touches my heart to see the support we have for the Lord’s work that is providing human dignity and justice for those in need in East Tennessee,” Ms. Healy said.

Kristen Farley, news anchor at WATE-TV, Channel 6, was presented with the Pope Francis Service Award for her inspiring heart for service in the community.

Ms. Farley acknowledged the people who reached out to support and inspire her, and how that gesture of being there for one person is the root of service.

“When I think of giving back, I think it’s a lot more simple than people think. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture or a million dollar check—I know you want the million dollar check, Bishop—but it can just be as simple as being present and listening to someone and giving back. We all have it inside of us,” she said Ms. Farley spoke of her high school English teacher who introduced her to the school’s TV studio, leading to her career in television.

“She walked me to that classroom, and I was hooked. She changed me completely….It just took that act, that act of going above and beyond, of reaching out. That is service to me.

“I realized that this career, this gift God gave me to tell stories and to listen to people and to have them welcome me into their home and find a way to tell these stories….You learn so very quickly that you have the power to help in so many ways,” said Ms. Farley, who gives her time to help emcee events for local nonprofits or train nonprofits in using media to best share their services in the community.

She challenged others to find how they can best serve as well.

“So I want you to think about, what is your gift? Some of you may not know yet….But think about what your gift is, and ask yourself each and every day, am I using it to help others? Am I using it to make our community better? Because it’s something really simple that we all have the power to do.”

Notre Dame High School student Augusta Westhoff received the Pope Francis Service Award from Catholic Charities of East Tennessee on March 28. Bishop Stika was on hand to congratulate her.

The 37th Annual Catholic Charities Dinner in Chattanooga was held March 28 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Mr. Wogan emceed. Uptown Big Band provided live music. Ralph Christiana, a member of the board of trustees at Catholic Charities, welcomed those attending.

“Each of you is here to support our neediest of neighbors, and for that we are all so grateful. To serve the least among us takes a community of like-minded people, hearts that are open to give and help, and steadfast faith that we can, will, and truly are making a difference,” he said.

Bishop Stika led the opening prayer, and Ms. Healy spoke on the importance of Catholic Charities and each of its programs.

Augusta Westhoff, a senior at Notre Dame High School, was presented with the Pope Francis Service Award. Miss Westhoff created the annual Mums for Moms event, which raises money for CCETN’s Pregnancy Help Center.

Miss Westhoff spoke of how she was raised with pro-life values. In 2010, her mother was pregnant with a daughter diagnosed with Trisomy-18 and not expected to live long past birth. It was recommended that she abort the child, but she refused.

“Discovering your baby sister wouldn’t live to see her first birthday kind of makes you grow up fast, and I promised myself I would be the greatest big sister I could,” Miss Westhoff said. “With all my other siblings I had always been the loud, bossy one who knew everything, but something in Isabel’s fragile, precious frame changed my disposition. I would hold her, and all my childish tendencies just slipped away.”

“In just 123 days, Isabel transformed my family. She drew all of us in, and in turn drew us all to each other, brightening, softening, and maturing our childish hearts and calling us to be children in the way she was: an innocent being, a direct source of Christ’s love, and a soul completely beautiful in its simplicity,” she added.

Augusta’s dedication to pro-life issues inspired her to help mothers who choose life, which led to the annual Mums for Moms event that has been a valuable fundraiser for the Pregnancy Help Center.

“God has blessed each one of you with fantastic gifts and capacity for change, and the first step towards heaven, towards His will, is to offer those gifts to others. We were made for something so much greater than ourselves, and the selfless way in which the people of Catholic Charities and all of you bear that cross for others gives young people like me an incredible role model to follow,” she said.

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