Calling Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities of Herkimer County… “To Serve and Empower Those in Need”
Maureen Petrie joined Catholic Charities of Herkimer County 18 years ago as a Program Assistant for the Agency’s Prevention Council. Today, Maureen is the Executive Director who oversees a staff of 40 professionals and is assisted by over 250 volunteers who serve over 11,000 clients living throughout Herkimer County. Herkimer County, like most of upstate New York, has seen its share of challenges in recent times. Challenges brought on by societal issues with attendant problems such as rural poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, hunger, illness, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, crime and domestic violence.
So great and varied is the need that sometimes the social service agencies of government are stretched thin, backlogged and unable to assist. Maureen says that people in need are often told to “call Catholic Charities”, and when that happens, the phone rings in her office located at 61 West Street in Ilion, New York. According to Maureen’s Program Director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Rae Raffle-Maxson, “people call us for everything and we will go anywhere.” “Everything” has meant answering cries for help such as working with clients to insure that they have heat and basic needs, finding housing for the homeless, rescuing a senior person who was literally starving and living on popcorn, providing shelter for run-away youth, victims of domestic violence, counseling, suicide prevention, working with schools in the district to provide substance abuse and violence prevention services, and providing services to seniors such as transportation and companionship.
“We will go anywhere” – Fran Reina, Driving for The RSVP RIDE Program of Catholic Charities
The geography of Herkimer County, the longest county in the state, is vast and mostly rural. One of the greatest challenges faced by seniors living in remote locations is the lack of transportation to medical facilities located in distant urban centers such as Cooperstown, Utica, Rome, Syracuse and Albany. For 32 years, the RSVP RIDE Program, managed by Catholic Charities of Herkimer County, has recruited volunteer drivers to transport seniors to medical and health services. Today, there are 16 volunteer drivers who last year alone clocked 127,340 miles driving 384 passengers. There are 9 additional volunteers who donated 2,188 hours to support the program.
Five years ago, Fran Reina of Frankfort, New York and a parishioner at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, retired from his career as a financial adviser and was looking for ways to volunteer his time. He applied and was accepted as a driver for the RSVP RIDE Program. Since then, Fran has logged thousands of miles and hours driving his passengers to a multitude of medical appointments throughout Herkimer County and beyond. Fran says that many lasting friendships with his riders have developed. It’s not just about providing a ride, but also providing companionship, comfort and compassion to seniors feeling the stresses of illness and advanced age.