June 16, 2004
Gala celebrates the helping hand of Catholic Community Services
With the New York skyline as a background, guests of honor with Archbishop Myers at the 30th annual Catholic Community Services gala included, left to right, Charles Kushner, chairman of Kushner Companies and co-chair of the dinner; Veronica Smith, recipient of the Spirit of the Heart award; Montel Houghton, recipient of the Spirit of the Heart award; Anne Evans Estabrook, named Humanitarian of the Year; Henry J. Amoroso, chairman of the Catholic Community Services Board of Trustees, and Phillip Frese, executive director of CCS. The gala took place in Jersey City.

Two personal testimonials to the benefits provided by agencies of Catholic Community Services (CCS) in the Archdiocese of Newark touched the hearts of nearly 400 guests attending the 30th annual CCS gala.

“Spirit of the Heart, a Celebration of Faith, Hope and Charity,” was held at the Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson.

For the first time, the Spirit of the Heart award was presented to two CCS clients who demonstrated resilience of heart and spirit to achieve positive change in their lives in the face of adversity.

Most Rev. John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, who hosted the evening, presented the Humanitarian of the Year Award to Anne Evans Estabrook, Spring Lake, chief executive of Elberon Development Company and president of David O. Evans, Inc., a property management and construction company.

Archbishop Myers noted, “We can look at CCS as having a history of 101 years of working to change the lives of people in need. But in reality, the men and women who have helped CCS share a tradition reaching back more than 2000 years of answering the call of our Lord.” The archbishop commended Estabrook for being “a stalwart and steady supporter of the work of CCS, of the Archdiocese and all of its institutions.”

Illustrating the work of the many agencies under the auspices of CCS, the recipients of the Spirit of the Heart award, Montel Houghton, Jersey City, an 11-year-old boy who was referred to the CCS Family Resource Center two years ago, and Veronica Smith, Newark, now an instructor for CCS Workforce Development Certified Nursing Assistant program, told their stories during the program.

Smith worked in the health care industry for 24 years and also provided day care in her home for working mothers. The two jobs allowed her to own a house.

A merger of the hospital where she worked resulted in the loss of her job, and, ultimately, her house. She became homeless until CCS assisted her in regaining her career and a home.

Smith explained that even though she and her seven children were homeless and living in a shelter sponsored by CCS, she never lost her faith in God, and today has an apartment and a job.

Montel was referred to the Family Resource Center of CCS two years ago, having suffered a number of personal losses.

His foster grandmother, who accompanied him to the gala, encouraged him to participate in services offered by CCS. He enrolled in the Family Resource Center’s after school program, and excelled in art and photography.

A display of his works was featured at the gala. Henry Amoroso, chairman of the board of CCS, thanked the co-chairs of the event, George Zoffinger, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports Authority, and Charles Kushner, chairman of the Kushner Companies, and the guests for their support of CCS. Amoroso announced that the gala had raised over $1 million.

“These funds will enable us to sustain and build upon our mission to provide help and create hope in the lives of people in need,” he stated.

Phillip Frese, executive director of CCS, thanked the over 1,000 employees of CCS for their “dedication and devotion” to the mission of CCS. “They truly make this organization what it is,” he said. He noted that staff of CCS works to provide shelter to the homeless, help the unemployed, and provide food for the hungry and services for immigrants.

Proceeds of the gala benefit programs and services of Catholic Community Services which serves people who are homeless, hungry, ill, disabled and poor in Essex, Union, Hudson and Bergen County.

Zoffinger, who was master of ceremonies, said, “It is a privilege to be part of an event that generates much-needed funds for one of New Jersey’s oldest and largest nonprofit, nonsectarian social services agency.”