Catholic Charities holds Golden Gala event

Major state grant announced at fundraiser for programs

By Jim Wogan

Catholic Charities of East Tennessee celebrated 35 years of service in the Diocese of Knoxville with more than 350 guests at its Golden Gala fundraising dinner at Bridgewater Place event center in Knoxville, which was held on March 7.

CCETN supporters, including clergy, religious order members, state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, and hundreds of others, filled tables from front to back inside the large Kingston Room.

“I am so grateful for those who came to support our mission at Catholic Charities, especially our parishes and our partners in the community,” said Deacon David Duhamel, CCETN executive director. “We didn’t have much time to put this together, but our staff, including Kelcee Gomillion, did a tremendous job making it happen, and the evening successfully brought our message of hope to a lot of people. This was my first large development event with Catholic Charities, so I didn’t know what to expect. But everyone, and I mean everyone, mentioned how positive the event was. I am grateful for the turnout.”

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, who was appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Knoxville last June, was unable to attend due to obligations in his home Archdiocese of Louisville. But the archbishop offered a four-minute message and blessing via four large video screens inside the dining room.

Among the priests attending were Father John Orr of St. Mary Parish in Athens, Father Don Andrie, CSP, of St. John XXIII University Parish in Knoxville; Father Neil Blatchford of St. Mary in Oak Ridge; Father Charlie Donahue, CSP, of Immaculate Conception in Knoxville; Father Peter Iorio of Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa; Father Joe Reed of St. John Neumann in Farragut; and Father Tim Sullivan, CSP, of Immaculate Conception.

Deacon David Duhamel, executive director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, addresses those attending the organization’s Golden Gala on March 7 at Bridgewater Place event center in Knoxville. Deacon Duhamel is joined on the dais by Richard Consoli, Catholic Charities board president. (Photo Jim Wogan)

Deacon Duhamel served as emcee for the evening—weaving in a message of hope when describing Catholic Charities programs, acknowledging guests, introducing speakers, and making one of the big surprise announcements of the night.

“CCETN has been awarded a Tennessee Strong Families Grant to help expand its pregnancy services program in 2024,” he announced to those in attendance. “The use of these funds will focus on strengthening families in underserved areas in rural counties.”

The grant program is one facet of Gov. Bill Lee’s $600 million Strong Families Initiative, which included $20 million in the state’s 2023-24 budget to create an innovative grant program to improve access to maternal health care and boost critical resources for expecting mothers by supporting local nonprofit organizations and pregnancy centers across the state.

“Our expansion for family support and maternal-care efforts include enhanced offerings to underserved rural communities and crisis response to mothers, children, and families facing pregnancy throughout East Tennessee,” Deacon Duhamel said. “These expanded opportunities will promote long-term stability and healthy pregnancy, child, and family development.”

Following dinner, Knoxville radio and television personality Hallerin Hilton Hill brought his message of hope to attendees by sharing personal stories that have impacted his life and career. Other speakers included Catholic Charities of East Tennessee board president Richard Consoli and former board president Mike Stahl.

The evening’s program also included two special honors.

Kim Cook was presented with the CCETN Golden Key Award. She is the program coordinator for Columbus Home Assisting Parents, which serves Blount, Sevier, and Grainger counties, and has worked in the field of child abuse prevention for 38 years and with Catholic Charities for 32 years, providing in-home services to families, improving family function, increasing child well-being, and keeping children safe.

“Every organization has ‘that’ employee who has been steadfast in their service and is a historian of sorts … the go-to person. Kim is that person,” Deacon Duhamel said.

Regis Loffman was presented with the CCETN Volunteer Spotlight Award. She is a parishioner at All Saints in Knoxville and began volunteering in May 2021 in CCETN’s administrative offices. She continued her volunteer efforts when CCETN moved to temporary offices near downtown Knoxville after an arson fire gutted the Dameron Avenue headquarters in November 2021.

“Although her primary role is as an administrative volunteer … Regis has gifted her time with the Pregnancy Help Center, Hope Kitchen, and served on planning committees for the Race for Kids 5K and Family Walk…,” Deacon Duhamel said.

Attendees were entertained by Knoxville native and Nashville recording artist Emily Wyrick, who performed before and at the conclusion of the Golden Gala dinner.

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