Catholic Charities E-News
Serving Southwest Florida 
In This Issue
Farm Worker Housing
Interactive Playground
New Soup Kitchen
45th Anniversary
Thanksgiving Food
Christmas Cheer
Heron Creek Foundation
Faith and Action
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 Winter 2013
Greetings!  We invite you to take a few minutes to learn more about the work of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. If you have any questions, reply and let us know. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your colleagues, friends and family.

Catholic Charities Event Season    

The Catholic Charities fundraising event season is now happening. We just marked the 24th Annual Catholic Charities Ball in Sarasota with an evening to remember on January 26, but there are many more opportunities to have a good time doing good for others!

Upcoming events include:
~ Mardi Gras Madness on February 12 in Sarasota ~
~ Our Mother's House Wine Tasting on February 28 in Venice ~
~ Venetian Ball on March 2 in Fort Myers ~
~ Boots and Bandannas on March 9 in Lake Suzy ~
~ Emerald Ball on March 16 in Naples ~
~ AFCAAM Golf Tournament on April 12 in Fort Myers ~

Click  HERE for more event information.

Farm worker community ready to house families

Sister Ann De Nicolo (front row, left to right), Sister Cathy Buster, and Peter Routsis-Arroyo all of Catholic Charities mark the opening of Casa San Juan Bosco with community, diocesan, and government officials.

Arcadia--It was eight years in the making but the opening of the $10 million Casa San Juan Bosco farm worker community was a joyful celebration with about 300 people in attendance that included a blessing ceremony and a fiesta with a mariachi band. 


"It is an honor and privilege to stand here today for the opening of Casa San Juan Bosco," said Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. The Catholic Charities housing development consists of 53 three and four bedroom homes along with a community center, playground, computer lab, bus shelter, community garden and soccer fields. "This is going to be a beautiful community where people can live with dignity," he said.


"This new community will provide an opportunity for decent and affordable living for farm workers," said Keith Keene, the Mayor of the City of Arcadia. "We welcome Casa San Juan Bosco to Arcadia."


"What a marvelous example of cooperation between governments and faith based organizations," said Rev. Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish. "So many people worked so hard for so long." The Boca Grande parish paid for the community center with a $500,000 donation.

Representatives from USDA, DeSoto County, City of Arcadia, Florida Housing Finance, Florida Nonprofit Housing, National Development, Brooks and Freund, the Diocese of Venice, the Florida Catholic Conference, and Gulf Citrus Growers were in attendance.


Click HERE to read a related story on


Click HERE to view a related story on WINK News. 


New playground brings classroom outside       


St. Martha's Early Learning Center Program Director Jamie Van Dyke (right) interacts with the children on the new playground.

Sarasota--St. Martha's Early Learning Center of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. hosted a blessing event of their new playground. Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice conducted the ceremony.


Two anonymous donations totaling more than $100,000 afforded St. Martha's Early Learning Center to renovate the playground and the interior of the two school buildings.


"The concept for the new playground is to integrate learning that happens inside of the classroom with learning outside of the classroom," said Jacquie Crombie, Director of Catholic Charities of Sarasota and Manatee Counties. "Our curriculum focuses on math, reading, science and writing, so we incorporated all those aspects into various areas on the playground."


The playground features a weather station, sign language center, butterfly garden, steel drums and xylophone, and grow garden. New tricycles and riding toys also are included with some in the shape of a police car, taxi, ambulance, and fire truck. "We teach the students about different professions and jobs and now they can role play while on the playground," Crombie said.  


St. Martha's Early Learning Center offers affordable, quality early childhood education. Most of the students that attend the Catholic Charities program are from low-income families or even homeless. The center also provides a food pantry for students and their families. For more information about the preschool, please call 941-366-1395.


Casa Maria Soup Kitchen opens in Immokalee

Bishop Frank Dewane blesses the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen at Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities. 
Immokalee--Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. opened its first soup kitchen, called Casa Maria, at Guadalupe Social Services. Bishop Frank Dewane conducted a blessing ceremony and soup was served to about 80 supporters.


Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities assumed the responsibility for the existing soup kitchen, clothing room, and shower program in January from the Guadalupe Center. The two social service organizations are located next door to each other on South Ninth Street and have similar names but are not affiliated.

"The history of Immokalee cannot be told without mentioning these two organizations. They have served the needy here for over 30 years," said Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. The soup kitchen serves about 75-100 people a daily hot meal Monday through Friday. 


"We will continue the ministry that the Guadalupe Center started," said Armando Galella, Director of Catholic Charities of Collier County. "Those who come here will now receive additional services available through Catholic Charities."


Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities offers a Food Pantry, a Financial Assistance Program, Citizenship and Immigration Services, School on Wheels, and special efforts such as Back-to-School Assistance, Undy Sunday, and Holiday Food and Gift Programs. For more information, please call 239-657-6242.  

A celebration of 45 years of service     
Tom and Judy Fahey were among the many supporters that attended the 45th Anniversary Celebration of Catholic Charities of Collier County. 

Naples--Catholic Charities of Collier County hosted a 45th Anniversary Celebration at St. John the Evangelist Parish. More than 100 people attended the event that was underwritten by the Fitzgerald Brothers Foundation.

Catholic Charities of Collier County first opened its doors in 1968 with initial funding of $20,000 from the Archdiocese of Miami and the United Way. Over the past 45 years, an estimate of some $30 million has been devoted to serving tens of thousands of people in the community.

"Catholic Charities exists because of so many of you in this room," said Armando Galella, Director of Catholic Charities of Collier County, to those at the celebration. "You believed there was a reason for Catholic Charities to exist in Collier County."

Catholic Charities of Collier County has three office locations with two in Naples and one in Immokalee. Services and programs include:
  • Emergency assistance with rent, utilities, prescriptions.
  • Emergency groceries at two pantries. 
  • Mental health counseling for individuals and families.
  • Psychology services for abused children.
  • Daily meals at Casa Maria Soup Kitchen plus clothing closet and shower program.
  • Legal services for immigrants and eligible refugees.
  • Weekend food for two hundred homeless children.
  • English tutoring for isolated women. 
  • Academic support for refugee youth.
  • Underclothing, socks and school supplies for underprivileged school children.
  • Holiday gift and food distributions. 
For more information about Catholic Charities of Collier County, please call 239-455-2655.

Cardinal Mooney students donate Thanksgiving food

Cardinal Mooney High School students surround the donated food items.  

Sarasota--Students of the Cardinal Mooney High School St. Vincent de Paul Society donated over 400 pounds of food to Bethesda House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. The food was used for Thanksgiving baskets for the clients that come to the HIV/AIDS community center. Bethesda House typically distributes around 130,000 pounds of food each year to about 4,000 people in need. The program is committed to providing services with love, compassion, dignity and respect to those suffering from the disease. For more information about Bethesda House of Catholic Charities, please call 941-366-1886. 

Christmas Cheer event provides necessities for many

Christmas Cheer Hostesses Dr. Jacqueline Kelly (left to right), Vicki Doyle, Jane Norton, Diana Kelly and Cindy Mercurio surround Sister Ann De Nicolo (Center) of Catholic Charities of DeSoto County. 

Sarasota--Catholic Charities of DeSoto County was blessed with "Christmas Cheer" when a year's worth of toiletries was donated from a generous group of women. For the past nine years hostesses Jane Norton, Vickie Doyle, Cindy Mercurio, Jacqueline Kelly and Diana Kelly have invited friends to a holiday party with one goal in mind:helping families in need.

This year more than 125 women attended and each brought items to be dispensed by Catholic Charities to the poor living in Arcadia and the surrounding communities.

"Last year 859 households received items donated by the ladies. That is about 3,000 people," said Sister Ann De Nicolo, Director of Prevention and Support Services at the agency. "Before coming to this event, I checked our supplies and we had only three bottles of shampoo left. So this is good timing. We like to help our clients preserve their human dignity. No one should have to beg for the basic necessities," she said.

For more information about Catholic Charities of DeSoto County, please call 863-494-1068.



Program receives funding from Heron Creek   

Financial Assistance Program Director Mary Koctur was presented a check for $2,000 from the Heron Creek Community Foundation. 


North Port--The mission of the Heron Creek Community Foundation is to support charitable organizations that serve North Port citizens. The Financial Assistance Program of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. will now be able to assist many more people living in the community because of a $2,000 grant from the foundation.  


The monies will be used to help families and individuals experiencing an emergency need for rent or mortgage assistance to get them over a short term crisis. These one-time grants often are given to those who are at risk of becoming homeless.   


"Fear of losing their home is a reality for many low-income families when they face a financial hardship," said Koctur. "This assistance is often what they need to get back on track."


For more information about the Financial Assistance Program of Catholic Charities, please call 941-244-9490.   



Catholic Charities addresses critical issues  


Anthony Antuono (left) of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center and Sharon Aragona of Catholic Charities coordinated the Faith and Action Conference. 


Venice--Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. hosted the Faith and Action Conference at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat and Spirituality Center. About 45 people came to the all day event that included breakfast, lunch, and a Mass. 


Catholic Charities staff members offered two sessions at the conference: Experiencing the Many Faces of Homelessness and Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking.

"These are serious issues facing our communities in Southwest Florida," said Sharon Aragona, Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. "Catholic Charities feels it is important to inform the public about homelessness and human trafficking and offer information on how to take action."

Catholic Charities hopes to offer more Faith and Action Conferences in the future. For more information, please call 941-488-5581. 


Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. serves the ten-county area of Southwest Florida.