VIRTUAL CELEBRATION

15TH ANNUAL CELEBRATION of CHARITY
Thursday, April 15 

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Welcome

Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster’s 15th annual Celebration of Charity will be a Virtual Event. 

On Thursday, April 15, we celebrated Catholic Charities’ Community Champions – 21 community members who embody Catholic Charities’ mission to provide help and create hope – a mission that resonates now more than ever. We also  celebrated our Catholic Charities’ team and their work to help our neighbors who are struggling.

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Please Join Us in Congratulating the 2021 Charities’ Community Champions! 

Orange County

– Michele McKeon – RECAP, COO
– Rosanne Gesztesi – Garnet Health, Respiratory Therapist
– Beth Maas – Florida Food Pantry, Director
– Sarah Lyons – Valley View, Certified Nursing Assistant
– Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega – Dr. MWV & Associates, Social Worker
– Jennifer Grismer – Port Jervis HS, Social Worker
– Cynthia James – Comfort Children Ministry Int’l, Executive Director
– Jason Knudsen – ShopRite Montgomery, Manager
– Colin Jarvis – Newburgh Ministry, Executive Director
– Erika Cox – Bon Secours Hospital/ICU Dept. – Registered Nurse

Sullivan County

– George Billard – Barryville Farmers Market, Treasurer/Volunteer
– Vanessa Petrossian – Cornell Coop Extension, Ag Market Coordinator
– Elaine Williams – NAACP Sullivan County, Secretary
– Anastasija Ocheretina – A Single Bite, Program Manager
– Amanda Langseder – Sullivan 180, Executive Director

Ulster County

– Chief Kyle Berardi – Town of Ulster Police Chief
– Steve Petersen – Ulster County Emergency Management, Director
– Ann Mattracion – Ellenville Elementary, Kindergarten Teacher
– Michael Green – Health Alliance HV, Registered Nurse
– Shelly Forster – Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative

Regional

– National Guard Counter Drug Task Force

These honorees embody the spirit of our mission and believe, as we do, that our community benefits when we work together.

Catholic Charities serves a fragile population. Many were already struggling before the pandemic. We are delivering meals to the homebound, providing shelter for the homeless, and helping those in crowded living situations find healthier housing arrangements. We are making sure families have supplies to care for their babies. We are ensuring that individuals working toward recovery have the support and safety they require. We are providing counseling to those who are having difficulty coping with the anxiety caused by Coronavirus-related issues.

We are exceptionally proud of the frontline heroes who have dedicated themselves to the most vulnerable in our community.

The Celebration is Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster’s largest annual fundraiser – and this year, the most important.  The requests for assistance are mounting and expected to continue as we feel the aftereffects of the pandemic.

If you are able, please consider giving generously to help those who are less fortunate.

Click here to Donate


If you know someone in need, please refer them to Catholic Charities at ccosuhelpline@cccsos.org.

 

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Our Sponsors

Our Honorees

Honoree No.

Kyle Berardi

 

Chief of Police
Town of Ulster Police Department
Ulster County

Chief Berardi knew from a young age that he wanted to be a police officer. He joined the force in 2000 and was promoted to Chief of the Town of Ulster Police Department in 2017.

Chief Berardi’s nominator wrote, “During a challenging year for law enforcement, Kyle has been looked up to by multiple law enforcement agencies as a leader and has helped guide his department and others to meet various changes regarding the practice of police work, with the goal of establishing accountability and trust between citizens and law enforcement. Kyle has shown exemplary leadership as a Police Chief.”

Chief Berardi sits on the Ulster County Justice and Reform Commission and serves as president of the Ulster County Police Chiefs Association. A Kingston native, Kyle is the proud father of two daughters.

Honoree No.

George Billard

Treasurer/Volunteer
Barryville Farmers Market
Sullivan County

George Billard is an award-winning writer, director, and cinematographer whose work has been seen on Netflix, Amazon, and in film festivals around the world. He is a founding Board Member of the Barryville Farmers’ Market and recently launched Fresh Catskills, a regional farm food delivery service.

George’s nominator told us, “At the onset of the COVID-19 quarantine, when local stores were experiencing severe food supply shortages, George organized a unique online ordering and no-contact pick up system that helped struggling local farmers move their healthy products (during their typical off season) to panicked area customers, while at the same time expanding the market’s parallel mission of supporting the local school district’s backpack food program.

George called his effort The Victory Garden Project, and, using the web site he created, encouraged community members to pull together around food sourcing, as was done during World War II. The response was overwhelmingly successful, and the school extended its program to include entire families, so additional donations were sought and raised through the market’s new website to address the wider-ranging food shortages. Collections, which exceeded thousands of dollars, were then divided and distributed to area food pantries. The team of dedicated volunteers, who collected and filled each week’s orders, were featured in a segment of Dateline NBC as an innovative response of neighbors helping neighbors through the pandemic.”

Honoree No.

Erika Cox

Registered Nurse
Bon Secours Hospital, ICU
Orange County

 

Erika Cox has worked at Bon Secours Community Hospital (BSCH) for more than 33 years. Erika’s interest in nursing started at age 12 when she volunteered as a Candy Striper spinning and packaging glass thermometers. She began working as a Licensed Practical Nurse while going to college to become a Registered Nurse. Having gained experience, Erika found her passion in the Intensive Care Unit at the bedside where she has been the last 25 years and serves as both a charge nurse and preceptor.

Erika is a lifetime resident of the City of Port Jervis where she has raised her family and is an active parishioner of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. She is proud for her time spent at Empowering Port Jervis where she instituted the Blood Pressure Clinic and taught basic cardiac health. Erika volunteers within her community and advocates for those in need especially the hungry and homeless who are dear to her heart.

The nominator for Erika and all of the ICU nurses at BSCH wrote, “When I was extremely ill with COVID, the ICU nurses provided help to me and the many other people who came under their care during these horrible times. Their constant communication, although sometimes grim, created hope for my family, friends, and coworkers. When I finally began to come out of my COVID fog, the stories related back to me by my loved ones regarding the amazing care I received gave me hope that I would somehow get through all of this. I am deeply grateful to these brave healthcare workers.”

The Intensive Care Unit at BSCH is committed to bringing quality of care to patients faced with medical and surgical emergencies. As a community hospital, BSCH provides Acute Critical Care to adults. The unit has state-of-the-art equipment and trained skillful Registered Nurses. As a member of the WMC healthcare organization, BSCH patients have access to all the specialties they have to offer.

Honoree No.

Shelly Forster

Distribution Coordinator
Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative
Ulster County

Shelly Forster works with the Kingston Emergency Food Collaborative (KEFC), which supports food access for vulnerable populations, and advocates for food sovereignty for all. Through the KEFC, Shelly coordinates grocery and meal deliveries to community members impacted by COVID-19 and food insecurity. It has been her great pleasure to work with Catholic Charities over the past year delivering groceries to homebound individuals. She also worked with the youth crew from the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and the Catholic Charities team to install three garden beds at their Ulster Community Center so they could grow fresh produce for their food pantry.

Honoree No.

Rosanne Gesztesi

Registered Respiratory Therapist
Garnet Health Medical Center
Orange County

Rosanne began her career as Respiratory Therapist with Garnet Health in 2007. She works in all areas of the hospital, including the Emergency Department, medical-surgical patient floors, oncology, progressive care, pediatrics, and the neonatal and adult intensive care units. She is grateful to her managers, supervisors, and coworkers for creating a fulfilling and supportive work atmosphere. She looks forward to caring for patients at Garnet Health for years to come.

In writing about Rosanne, her nominator shared, “As a respiratory therapist, Rosanne has been at the very forefront of the pandemic, treating the most seriously ill patients since the start. She has done so uncomplainingly and wholeheartedly. Rosanne is the very model of a compassionate caregiver. She is a woman of deep faith, and that comes across in her interactions with patients and colleagues alike.”

Honoree No.

Michael Green

Registered Nurse
Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley
Ulster County

A family man, Michael is a proud father of three who resides in Monticello. He works as a Registered Nurse in the Operating Rooms at both Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley and Vassar Hospitals. Prior to his nursing career, Michael served in the Army Infantry. His nursing career spans 20 years and has included serving in many specialties. The COVID pandemic has hit the Green family especially hard. Though Michael survived COVID in August, his sister is currently battling the virus in the ICU, and sadly his father passed away from the virus. Michael is a humble man and honored to receive this recognition from the Catholic Charities community. He is grateful for the nomination; however he would like all of his coworkers and fellow health care providers to be recognized for their tireless efforts amid this healthcare crisis.

Honoree No.

Jennifer Grismer

Social Worker
Port Jervis High School
Orange County

A NY Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Jennifer earned her Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Michigan. She has worked at Port Jervis High School for seven years. Jennifer’s social work experience spans a variety of settings, including inpatient hospitals, outpatient clinics, Early Intervention, and two other school districts. Her career has always centered around supporting children and families. A transplant to New York from Michigan, Jennifer lives in Orange County with husband, Jim, an FDNY Captain, and two teenage children, Thomas and Melanie. As a family, they love anything beach-related, Yankees baseball, and traveling (when they can). She enjoys daily walks for exercise and peace of mind and strives to practice what she preaches to build a healthy self-care routine.

Honoree No.

Cynthia James

CEO/Founder
Comfort Children Ministry
Orange County

As the founder of Comfort Children Ministry, Cynthia James cherishes humanity and has an extreme love for children. She sees them as precious jewels of society and believes in providing opportunities for children all over the world to reach their full potential in life. Cynthia believes all children should be loved and treated the same, regardless of their social status. She puts her passion for children into action by dedicating herself to serving her community to the best of her ability, close to home or wherever help is needed. She believes in random acts of kindness and spreads positivity with inspirational messages and a motivation to never give up.

Cynthia has served in different professional and volunteer capacities for several faith-based organizations, including 16 years with Catholic Charities, before moving on to devote more time to Comfort Children Ministry. She Is presently director of the Health Ministry at AME Zion Church in Newburgh. Throughout the pandemic, Cynthia has coordinated and personally delivered food, hygiene items, clothing, and other necessities of life to families in need throughout the Hudson Valley. She continues to support Catholic Charities as a volunteer at events like Stuff-the-Bus and the pop-up food pantries.

Honoree No.

Colin Jarvis

Executive Director
The Newburgh Ministry
Orange County

Colin Jarvis was born in Antigua, a small Caribbean island. The fourth of eight children in a family that struggled to provide enough food, he has always considered himself fortunate and blessed. Inspired by his parents’ teachings of dignity and gratitude for what they had, Mr. Jarvis used those life lessons to build a 40 plus-year career serving those in need with long term programs, including the United States Aid for International Development (USAID) and other organizations known for addressing poverty in the Third World and Latin America.

In 1979, Mr. Jarvis’s career began as a youth worker for the Pan American Health Organization. As a result of his success, Mr. Jarvis was awarded a scholarship to St. John Fisher College in Rochester and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1988. Upon his return to Antigua, Mr. Jarvis ran a United Nations construction training program for high school dropouts funded by USAID, an experience he counts as one of the most rewarding of his career.

In 1992, Mr. Jarvis returned to the US to complete his master’s degree in human services at Metropolitan College of New York and make the US home. His work ranged from projects servicing the homeless population to workforce development programs for disenfranchised youth and adults. Over the course of his career, he has secured grant funding for his projects ranging from $10,000 to $2.5 million, which has been pivotal for poor communities.

Mr. Jarvis is the Executive Director at the Newburgh Ministry, a “grassroots, no-frills agency” that recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary fighting poverty in the City of Newburgh. He also serves on the boards of Cornerstone Family Health Center and Independent Home Care.

Honoree No.

Jason Knudsen

Store Manager
ShopRite of Montgomery
Orange County

An Orange County native, Jason was raised in the Village of Florida and now calls Westtown home.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Economics from SUNY Cortland.

Jason began his career with ShopRite as an Assistant Store Manager in 2009. He’s worked at stores throughout Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, and West Chester Counties. His Montgomery store is home to the Orange County Veterans Food Pantry, a program of the Veterans Services Agency. Together, they coordinate delivery of food to veterans and their family members throughout Orange County – a service that was greatly needed during the pandemic. The Montgomery store is a strong community partner and supports many fundraisers and service organizations at their location.

Jason and his wife are proud parents to their baby daughter.

Honoree No.

Amanda Langseder

Executive Director
Sullivan 180
Sullivan County

Amanda Langseder prides herself on being a collaborative catalyst of dynamic programming that has a positive impact on community health outcomes. In October 2020, Amanda joined Sullivan 180 from Garnet Health where she had served as the Director of Community Health. Amanda works collaboratively with the Sullivan 180 Board, staff, volunteers, and diverse community partners to grow and mature the organization and deliver on its long-term vision through programs, strategic-planning, and community outreach. She ensures that operations and programmatic strategies are effectively implemented across the organization and that program efforts are being targeted to the greatest community needs while also in coordination with stakeholders and partner organizations. She values the great work that has already been done by so many community sectors to improve health outcomes in the county and hopes that Sullivan 180 can become a national example of how collective impact work can take a struggling community from the bottom of the health rankings to the top.

Amanda has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Mercy College and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Rowan University. She lives in Yankee Lake with her husband, Rodney Jester and her two sons Finn and Aden, where they enjoy all things that lake life has to offer; camping, fishing, hunting, swimming, hiking, and forest bathing!

Honoree No.

Sarah Lyons

Certified Nursing Assistant
Valley View Nursing Home
Orange County

A life-long Goshen resident, Sarah Lyons graduated from Goshen High School. She has worked at Valley View since 2004 when she started as an activity specialist. Today, she is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Sarah volunteers with Goshen Volunteer Ambulance Corp. and the Goshen Food Pantry. She is grateful for her loving and supportive family and believes that a little kindness goes a long way.

Sarah said, “I am humbled to be honored by Catholic Charities. I do my job whether it’s working or volunteering because the Lord has blessed me many times over. Growing up with a disability it is sometimes difficult for people to look beyond what I cannot do, but I always offer a smile and warm heart. To all CNAs working at Valley View, as well as those working in homes, nursing homes, and hospitals – you are the backbone of support and the eyes and ears of many residents that once cared for us. Your hard (heart) work and dedication helps all patients.”

Honoree No.

Beth Maas

Director
Florida Community Food Pantry
Orange County

Beth Hartman Maas moved to Orange County with her husband Lee in 1995. While raising her three children, Ryan, Savannah, and Jeremy, she volunteered as a leader in Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and in the PTA as numerous event chairs. Prior to volunteering as Director of the Florida Community Food Pantry in May 2017, Beth spent 14 years fundraising and overseeing the construction of a new pantry building at the Florida Presbyterian Church where she is an elder. She holds undergraduate degrees in Business and Nursing and a Master’s degree in business administration. The Florida Community Food Pantry currently has 32 volunteers and distributed 110,160 meals in 2020. The pantry will celebrate its 30th anniversary in November.

Honoree No.

Ann Mattracion

Kindergarten Teacher
Ellenville Elementary School
Ulster County

Ann Mattracion’s nominator told us that Ann is the “very definition” of Catholic Charities’ mission to provide help and create hope. “Ann repeatedly places kids and community members above her own needs. She uses her own money to buy glasses for kids who don’t have them, or any article of clothing they need. She volunteered to deliver meals to community members throughout the pandemic and in the summer months, as well. She bought, made, and delivered holiday meals to families that did not have the means at Christmas and other holidays. She also bought Christmas presents and delivered them to the houses of children in need, and with her own money and time she made birthday packages for every child in her class and brought them to their homes on their special day. Ann fought relentlessly with the school district to get special needs students back in school. She goes without so everyone who needs can have.”

Honoree No.

Michele McKeon

Chief Operating Officer
RECAP
Orange County

Michele McKeon is the Chief Operating Officer of RECAP, Orange County’s not for profit anti-poverty program. Her career has been spent in service of others. Whether transforming and enhancing services for victims of domestic violence at Safe Homes, writing and working to pass lifesaving legislation as Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or volunteering throughout Orange County, Michele’s focus has been on lifting and supporting those who may need a hand up.

Throughout the past year, Michele has worked to support those who have been left most vulnerable during the pandemic. She was the driving force behind RECAP’s partnership with Orange County Office for the Aging to deliver hot meals daily from the Mill Street cafe to local seniors. She ensured the agency’s doors were kept open for community folks to access phones or WiFi when everyone else was closed. She built up a network of volunteers and donors and co-created Newburgh Mutual Aid to ensure food delivery and pick up for the community in the City of Newburgh. Michele’s work on behalf of RECAP has been tireless.

Michele is especially grateful to RECAP’s leadership team, Charlie Quinn and Joya Gambino, for their support, and thankful for the volunteers, community partners, and neighbors who came together to serve others and create a network of support through this trying time.

Honoree No.

Anastasija Ocheretina

Program Manager
A Single Bite
Sullivan County

Anastasija Ocheretina began her career at a global hospitality company and transitioned to working in the non-profit space in New York to be of service to the city she’s called home since moving to the US in 2001. Since then, Anastasija worked as a fundraiser and program manager for historic preservation, criminal justice reform, and education organizations. Her work for A Single Bite provides Anastasija the opportunity to marry her passion for food and hospitality with her commitment to building improved systems that serve our immediate communities.

A Single Bite was founded to educate young people about real food and where it comes from. Designed to supplement NYS curriculum, A Single Bite’s education program is focused on reaching the more than 800 8th graders enrolled in Sullivan County schools. The school program is comprised of four sessions designed to engage, empower, and educate young people.

When schools in Sullivan County closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, A Single Bite swiftly expanded its food-based mission to help feed neighbors. Foster Supply Hospitality culinary teams, unable to serve customers, began cooking for the community. When NYS restaurants reopened In June 2020, family meal preparation moved to A Single Bite’s dedicated kitchen in Youngsville. There, the Executive Chef prepares fresh, healthy dinners that are delivered to families across Sullivan County.

Honoree No.

Steve Peterson

Director (retired)
Ulster County Emergency Services
Ulster County

Steve Peterson began his career on April 11, 1985 as a part-time dispatcher for “Fire Control,” as it was then known, being assigned the badge number of 56-11. Three years later, on April 24, 1988, Steve became a full-time dispatcher. In 1994, Steve was promoted to the position of Senior Dispatcher, guiding the day shift for many years. Steve received the NYS EMS Communications Specialist of the Year Award in 2003 in recognition of his life-saving actions of a suicidal female. In 2011, Steve was promoted to Deputy Director of Emergency Services. Steve’s final promotion, and greatest accomplishment, took place on August 9, 2014 when he was appointed to the position of Director of Ulster County Emergency Services.

Steve’s nominator wrote, “Steve’s diligence, service, and care as Director of Emergency Services were instrumental to Ulster County’s response to the needs of the community during the pandemic.”

Honoree No.

Vanessa Petrossian

Ag Program Manager
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Sullivan County

Vanessa Petrossian holds a BS in Business Administration from Dominican College and will complete her Masters in Community and Economic Development from Empire State College in the Fall 2021. As a Program Manager with Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County since 2018, her work with NYS farmers and producers has generated over $100,000 in sales for these businesses. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, on behalf of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, she launched ShopTasteNY.com, the online platform for New York’s Taste NY program, keeping the economic food chain within the state moving during a time of great uncertainty and consumers inability to shop at local stores.

Vanessa has been an active member of the resource council for the Center for Safety and Change, an organization in Rockland County that provides support to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Through her advocacy, she has worked with NYS legislators on several bills aimed at strengthening laws to protect victims.

Honoree No.

Elaine Williams

Secretary
NAACP
Sullivan County

Elaine Williams was born and raised in Summerville, South Carolina. She has been a resident of Sullivan County for more than 50 years. Elaine is most notably known for her unrelenting work in the Sullivan County Chapter of the NAACP. She has held the position of Chapter Secretary for the past six years. She served as President for 10 years, 1st Vice President for four years, and Legal Redress Chair for four years.

In addition to her dedication to the NAACP, Elaine is known for getting out the vote in local, state, and federal elections. Because of her activism and approachability, she is constantly sought out as a bridge between community members and community leaders. She has been an active participant in community rallies, protests, and forums seeking justice.

Elaine was instrumental in the founding of the Evergreen Community Garden. The Garden is successful in providing knowledge and information on growing organic food and promoting a healthy lifestyle. It provides opportunities for youth to learn, socialize, and grow their own food.

Elaine is the mother of eight children, proud grandmother to seven grandchildren, and soon to be a great grandmother. She is affectionately called “Grand Lady” by her grandchildren and many in the community.

Honoree No.

Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega

Psychiatric Social Worker
Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega and Associates
Orange County

Dr. Michele Winchester Vega’s philanthropic deeds have earned her the nickname “Million Dollar Woman.” She is well known for helping non-profit organizations throughout the region raise funds and supplies for those in need.

A Psychiatric Social Worker and owner of the practice, Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega and Associates, Michele has published numerous books and articles in the arena of mental health. Her recent book, written in partnership with several colleagues and published by Mango Press, is entitled “Chicken Little, Come Out, the Sky is Not Falling!” Profits from the book’s sales are being donated to local charities.

Michele has been a full-time professor at Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work and has taught at SUNY Orange and SUNY New Paltz. She has received numerous awards for both her professional and volunteer work, including being the youngest recipient the NASW Mid- Hudson Chapter “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Michele’s nominator wrote, “Dr. Winchester-Vega gives all year long, every year, not just during times of crisis. The practice waiting room frequently promotes charity events and fundraisers and collections for school supplies, toys, food, and other donations. She immediately responded to the COVID pandemic by obtaining N-95 masks and donating them to medical facilities for frontline workers. She distributed food to those in quarantine and secured food donations to restock the Fearless! food pantry. She was available to assist people in need of mental health services during the pandemic and gave online presentations about anxiety and children. Her giving attitude never takes time off.”

Honoree No.

New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force

Mid-Hudson Team members:
Sergeant First Class Windollyn Patino
Technical Sergeant Luis Giron
Staff Sergeant Julio Fernandez

The New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force provides support through highly skilled personnel and specialized equipment to Law Enforcement Agencies and Community Based Organizations in order to enhance their efforts to counter the drug threat.

The Mid-Hudson Team works with all seven counties of the Mid-Hudson Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Putnam, and Westchester. Drug Demand Reduction Outreach Professionals seek to improve the health and well-being of NY communities by addressing substance abuse and underage drinking through coalition development.

The Team works closely with Catholic Charities’ Prevention Services and community coalitions including TEAM Newburgh and Operation PJ Pride. In response to a rise in opioid use during the pandemic, the Team provided the leadership and technical support to launch regional online Narcan training programs. They also participated in Catholic Charities’ pop-up community resource events and food pantries to provide one-on-one Narcan training.

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