On This Journey, There Is Still Hope

Posted on February 22, 2018 by Sandy Strk  |  Share

My Chance to Find Hope

By Sandy Strk

Catholic Charities Marketing Manager

Sandy Strk, 4th from left, with fellow Catholic Charities New York staff.

The theme of last weekend’s NYS Association for Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, 47th annual Legislative Conference, an association focused on empowering and revitalizing people and communities, hit home for me and my colleagues.  It’s theme, “On This Journey, There is Still #Hope” offered encouragement I need now as school shootings and conflict dominate the news.  As a new member of the Catholic Charities team my eyes were wide open to the impact we have by banding together.

The weekend offered a prime opportunity for advocacy and relationship building with our New York State elected officials.  There was so much going on; so many interesting workshops from which to choose.  But what made the biggest impact on me was one powerful workshop, Strategies to End Gun Violence, that was pulled together after the recent horror in a Florida school.  I also felt lucky to be able to share our new free Find Help App so people facing all sorts of crises can access help at their fingertips.

The weekend started off with the Chairman’s Reception on Friday, February 16th at the Convention Center in the Empire State Plaza. I had the opportunity to meet with various borough presidents, senators and assembly members.   It was a night filled with great music, opportunities for networking and discussing the mission and work we do at Catholic Charities. After working with so many of our elected officials it was nice to meet them in person and put a name with a face. I left the reception fired up for the all day workshop the following day.  



Rise and Shine!

The Catholic Charities team was up at 6:45 am Saturday morning and ready to kick off a busy day. The conference was held at Empire State Plaza by the state capital.  What a beautiful location! The buildings were so impressive and had been renovated since the last time I was in Albany back in the 90s. Catholic Charities made sure we were represented by purchasing a booth for the day. We were excited to set it up and get ready for our meet and greets.

Free Find Help App

Catholic Charities Find Help App being showcased in Albany

We recently launched a free app called Find Help. Catholic Charities of New York is going mobile to help deliver services for New Yorkers—non-Catholics and Catholics alike—in four critical areas of need: Housing, Food, Immigration and Substance Abuse.  We had material prepared to handout explaining the programs and services we offer to assist the poor and vulnerable in New York City and communities in the Hudson Valley. While some members of the team stayed behind and manned the booth, others were taking turns attending the workshops that were available for all conference attendees.

Workshop Smorgasbord

There were so many workshops to choose from but I wanted to name a few key ones I was excited to attend- Equity and Justice for New York State Women/Sexual Misconduct, Community Engagement and Race in America, Strategies to End Gun Violence.

Strategies to End Gun Violence

Eddie Silverio, middle standing, and fellow Preventing Gun Violence speakers.

Strategies to End Gun Violence was sponsored by Assembly member Taylor and Assembly member Richardson.  Eddie Silverio, Director of Alianza, a division of Catholic Charities that empowers children and communities, was one of the panelists invited to speak at the workshop. I was honored to be able to support Eddie by attending the workshop and taking part in this key topic facing America today.

Speaking from the Heart

Eddie spoke from the heart about his personal experiences regarding gun violence in the communities he serves.  He spoke about the importance of taking time to listen to our children and work on finding solutions together as a community.

In the recent wake of school shootings in Florida, there are so many kids fractured; every child from that building was impacted in some way. We have to think about how every child, not just in Florida but across our nation is affected from this issue.

Turn Off TVs and Have Conversations

Eddie stressed that we have to turn off those TVs, music; we have to have a dialogue and have those conversations. Go back to best practices and create stakeholder committees for children in the schools and for the people around the schools. He gave an example of a kid being jumped in Washington heights and how Eddie went about protecting him. 

Are You Willing to Be a Safe Space?

He reached out to the local bodegas; the salon people etc. in the neighborhood asking them, “Are you willing to be a safe space”? If something was happening a child could walk into these safe places and make sure they don’t get beat up or killed. Eddie stressed the need to have to have caring adults around and give kids safe places.

There is no easy answer to end Gun Violence but the dialogue was started and will not end at the workshop.  I spoke with Eddie when I got back to our corporate offices to talk about the next steps. He said they were already creating individual sessions at each high school site and the Alianza cultural center to create open dialogue. They are going to talk about the recent school shooting in Florida, how students have been impacted and the help they need. He is working with the Manhattan Borough President and the NYPD to on bring back police and youth dialogue.

Rolling Up Our Sleeves

The work that Catholic Charities does and continues to do daily warms my heart.  I left the conference this past weekend filled with pride and an eagerness to go back to work.  I felt honored to have had the opportunity to meet our elected officials that will be helping Catholic Charities in its mission to service and help others. It is a blessing to have attended the conference with the same mission-minded colleagues, an experience I will treasure as I look forward to our work ahead.