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Honoring those who help 'improve the world'

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One of the privileges I have is participating in our annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, a time when we thank our volunteers for their tireless work and commitment to Catholic Charities and the people we are so privileged to serve. All totaled, last year more than 2,600 people chose to give their time to Catholic Charities, donating upwards of 170,000 hours of service.

The luncheon affords us an opportunity to honor staff-nominated "exceptional" volunteers. This year we honored six individuals and two groups for their invaluable service.

Suha Abdeen, the youngest of our extraordinary volunteers, spends one day a week at our Malden Early Education and Learning Program. Suha has a gentle way about her, and is thoughtful and reflective in the way she interacts with infants and children, responding to their cues and individual needs. A full-time college student, Suha has arranged her schedule so that she can continue her volunteer work.

Myrielle Brisson was a teacher in her native Haiti, and brings those skills to her volunteer work at the Haitian Multi Service Center. For more than five years, Myrielle has been helping seniors learn English as well as basic literacy skills with creativity and patience.

Jacki Canali has volunteered for more than 10 years at Catholic Charities North, where her nurturing and steadfast commitment to bring love and respect into the lives of isolated elders makes her an exceptional Companions for the Aging volunteer. Jacki is committed to helping dispel the loneliness so often experienced by those who are homebound and also expertly mentors other volunteers in their service.

Anthony Norton has been a mentor and friend to 15 year old Austin for over 2 years as part of the Laboure Center's T.E.A.M. Program (Together Engaging Adolescents through Mentoring). When the two first met, Austin was living with his grandmother and in need of a dependable man in his life; Tony, a transplant to Boston from L.A. wanted to get connected to his new community and was happy to share his time and hoping to make a difference. The compassion and friendship that Tony has shared with Austin has made the challenges he faces both at home and in school more manageable.

Tess Regan was a student intern from New England School of Law working for Catholic Charities' Immigration Legal Services. Tess was so dedicated to the clients that she served that she continued to work well beyond the terms of her internship. Whether working clients who were tortured in their country and are now seeking refuge in the United States, immigrants who were victims of violence or crime, people seeking citizenship to be able to vote in the next election, or helping with DREAMers workshops, Tess has been an inspiration to the entire ILS team.

Jim Wilcox is an invaluable volunteer in our Lowell Food Pantry. Jim is reliable, responsible and fully committed to our cause. From unloading the food bank truck, receiving donations, organizing food items, checking expirations dates, welcoming and assisting food pantry guests, Jim has done it all.

Foster Grandparents, a Catholic Charities program funded by the Corporation for National Service, has been the source of hundreds of retired volunteers for over 20 years. These amazing volunteers work between 15 and 40 hours per week in daycare centers, Head Start programs and elementary schools with children who cherish their help. They read books, help with elementary math skills, monitor lunch hours and most importantly support classroom teachers. We are proud and honored to be associated with this fantastic group of elders who choose to spend their days in the company of children.

GROW Associates Inc, is an Avon based non-profit committed to "design services that capture and support the needs of those adults with intellectual disabilities." Each day for the past three years the volunteers from GROW Associates have arrived together to assist food pantry guests at Catholic Charities South. The GROW volunteers bring an enthusiasm that is unmatched and a commitment to the mission of Catholic Charities that comes naturally -- treating all people with dignity and respect. Our staff volunteers and guests all look forward to this collaboration and the joy they bring to our pantry.

We are forever grateful to not only this year's exceptional volunteers, but to all of our volunteers, who bring to life the words of Anne Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Our communities are truly enriched by their commitment to service.

Go to www.ccab.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities at Catholic Charities.

Deborah Kincade Rambo is the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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