Meet Some of Our Volunteers!
“Good works are links that form a chain of love.”
St. Mother Teresa
On National Volunteer Week and throughout the year, we celebrate the 50+ dedicated volunteers of Saint Catherine Center/Academy who help us in so many ways. We are so grateful for all they do!
Below, meet Anthony Minopoli, Jeanie and Tom Tisdale, Kelly Weldon and Helen Bergner, Morgan Stanley, Steve Donahue, Andy Toner, Lynn Wetmore, Nancy Murphy, Mary Claus, and Charles Chiusano…
ANTHONY MINOPOLI – involved since 2011
As a boy, Tony’s younger brother, who has special needs, was involved with Camp Teepee at the Catholic Center in Bridgeport. It was there that he met Sr. Eleace King, IHM, whose dedication and vision were instrumental in the creation of Saint Catherine Academy. Knowing how this experience benefitted his brother, Tony did not need much persuasion to become involved with the Center. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, he has offered sound financial advice, strategic focus and a strong connection to the Knights of Columbus community ever since.
Says Tony… “It has been a tremendous experience helping to solidify the Center and being involved with the creation of our adult program. I have come to so appreciate all the wonderful people and have so enjoyed working with Helen Burland, the tremendous staff, and our truly dedicated board. I have been blessed to be there on a few PB&J Fridays and nothing puts Christmas in better perspective than the annual Christmas pageant. At the end of the day, those special people will never know that no matter how much I am involved there, they have given me way more in return. It is truly a special place and I look forward to being involved for many years to come.” (pictured with wife Karen)
JEANIE and TOM TISDALE – involved for almost 20 years
Always looking for ways to make a difference, Jeanie was instrumental in the creation of the Library program at the Center, recruiting other members of the Order of Malta to help. We now have a dedicated cadre of volunteers who run the program every week, reading to our students, engaging them, and inspiring in them a love of books. At least once a year, her husband Tom will join her in reading, and bring his entire law office team to help out on PB&J Fridays. Together they truly are a dynamic duo.
Says Jeanie … “Before there was a formal adult program, Tom and I would go to the adult dances and be there to get folks onto the dance floor! Today I read to the students at Saint Catherine Academy. Why do I do it? Witnessing the teachers and aids work so hard and lovingly to find the ways to teach each individual student, and then getting to see the students grasp the information, and use it, makes my heart full! I love every minute I get to spend with the people that make SCA a school of love and transformation!”
KELLY WELDON and HELEN BERGNER
Meet two volunteers who have responded creatively to our stay-at-home situation! Kelly serves on our Board of Directors. Her connection to Saint Catherine Center has been a family affair since her parents, Jerry and Kay Luff, were involved in the first days of the Academy. Helen, a member of the Order of Malta, is known in her circle for her creative crafts. The two teamed up to create craft projects for our students and young adults to do at home. They started with Easter wreaths, and have continued the spring theme this week with spring greeting cards to decorate, as well as a button project featuring 200 paper buttons in different shapes and colors to sort or design some fun geometric art.
Says Kelly … “When Saint Catherine kids smile, I see God. They are pure love, and through their smiles I am reminded of my baby sister Valerie, who had special needs. She brought such joy and meaning to our lives.”
Says Helen … “I find crafting to be creative and relaxing. I am blessed to have many crafting tools and I like to make things with them and share the joy with others! Hopefully the at-home art projects will brighten the kids’ day and help them feel connected to their friends and teachers, whom I am sure they miss. It’s been fun to see them post pictures doing their art projects!”
Last summer, MORGAN STANLEY volunteers joined our adults in a spring clean-up and planting at the Center last June. It was a great experience for all involved. Many of the Morgan Stanley team members also generously supported our programs through a Christmas designation. Thanks to all of you at Morgan Stanley, for your time, talent, and treasure!
STEVE DONAHUE – involved since 1999
In 1999, Steve Donahue was asked by then Superintendent Armand Fabbri to be part of the first School Advisory Board for Saint Catherine Academy and he has been an active member ever since. Steve is an important voice as a member of the Executive Committee, providing perspective as a parent and advocate for people with disabilities. You will also see him spreading the peanut butter on the assembly line and enjoying the company of our students at most every PB&J Friday.
Says Steve … “I am proud to support an organization that provides a home away from home and a quality education and support for our deserving students and young adults. Saint Catherine’s has Catherine’s has grown tremendously over the years under the exceptional leadership of Helen and the dedication of our staff who provide such stability and kindness to each student. I feel honored to be part of a Board that is active, competent, and involved in the operation of the Center. One of the highlights for me is participating in making the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the students, where I have been known to abscond with a wayward sandwich. Saint Catherine’s is a very special place.” (pictured with wife Moreen and son Michael)
ANDY TONER – involved since 2018
Since Andy took responsibility for the complex job of organizing the maintenance of our fleet of nine vans, he has saved us countless hours of staff time in driving and waiting. In addition, he is a key volunteer in our vocational program, joining staff at job sites and providing needed support and supervision as our students learn and practice new job skills. Thank you, Andy!
Andy says, “Having retired in the middle of 2017, I was looking for ways to volunteer and give back to the community. St. Catherine’s is a special place. The staff and the students are truly a pleasure to work with and I am happy that I am able to help them. St. Catherine’s has given me a way to give back but it has also given me a great deal of pleasure to spend time with some of the students.”
LYNN WETMORE – involved since 2015
Lynn is a regular volunteer with the Academy’s Vocational Training Program, assisting staff and students each week at various worksites in the community. With Lynn’s support, our students are able to try several different locations to help them practice new skills and better define their areas of interest.
Says Lynn, “My faith led me to Saint Catherine’s. By volunteering at the school I knew I would be giving back to the church community as well as helping these special children… It is rewarding to feel that my little part—and I mean little!—is appreciated by both the staff and the children… I like being that extra person/friend for them to talk to and share their stories with. It truly makes my day.”
MARY CLAUS – involved since 2005
For a long time, Mary was regularly seen alongside Gina Barber in the weekly Art Class at the Academy. Now she continues to assist us in our Vocational Training Program, mentoring students at their worksites. Mary brings a special joy to her service.
Says Mary, “I volunteer at Saint Catherine because I truly love the students! Each time that I walk through the door there is such a joy and feeling of unconditional love that radiates through the children and the staff.”
NANCY MURPHY – involved since 2011
On the third Friday of every month, Nancy organizes the volunteers who partner with us in our “PB&J” community service project. Supplies are purchased, fellow volunteers from the Order of Malta and others are coordinated, and together with our students and staff, 300 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are made for Merton House. This project dates back to 2008 and continues to be an excellent gateway for volunteers to join the community at Saint Catherine Center/Academy.
Says Nancy, “The students at Saint Catherine Center are so enthusiastic to give back to their community by making PB&J sandwiches for the less fortunate at Thomas Merton House. Our volunteers from the Order of Malta love to participate in this fun ministry. We love PB&J Fridays at SCA!”
CHARLES CHIUSANO – involved since 2007
It’s hard to measure the many ways Charles serves Saint Catherine Center. From the significant responsibilities of serving as Chairman of the Board, to delivering food to our many community dinner-dances, and toys to our students at Christmas, Charles brings his let’s-get-it-done attitude and a generous heart to everything he does.
Says Charles, “For me, volunteering is a very selfish thing to do. I have always gotten more out of volunteering at Saint Catherine Center than I have put into it—more faith in the goodness of others, more faith in the work done at the Center, and more faith that Jesus will help us have the resources we need to continue our work.”