Stephen Carattini

Stephen Carattini

January 25, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The 2015 Sign of Hope campaign ended Jan. 5 after raising $2.6 million, about $800,000 less than the previous year.

While it is the first time in its 32-year history that the annual Catholic Social Services' fundraising campaign failed to exceed the previous year's results, the organization's officials appear satisfied.

After all, they never set a financial goal for the campaign. Instead, they asked for prayers, volunteers and donations, and they got them all.

The Sign of Hope campaign helps fund shelters and counselling for women and children escaping domestic violence, as well as support for women facing crisis pregnancies and homes for people living with HIV and AIDS.

CSS hosted an evening of thanksgiving and celebration for the 2015 campaign at St. Joseph's Basilica Jan. 5. The event included Mass with Archbishop Richard Smith and a reception.

Stephen Carattini, the CEO of Catholic Social Services, says people gave what they could to the Sign of Hope and he is satisfied with the results.

Carattini said none of the agency's 130 programs will be affected by the apparent shortfall, and he actually announced the creation of a new Catholic counselling service.

While Sign of Hope has typically been a fundraising effort, Carattini noted the critical importance of the campaign being a time of invitation and engagement for CSS.

THREE REQUESTS

"We came to the community with three requests: the first was to consider praying with and for us, the second was to consider volunteering with us, and our third request was to consider making a financial gift in support of our work," explained the CEO.

"I'm very pleased to report that in all three areas we saw an increase."

In terms of the agency's prayer request, more than 200 people have joined CSS for an online video prayer. Weekly prayers are sent to individuals by email, giving supporters an opportunity to actively pray with the agency throughout the year.

About 700 active volunteers give their time and talents to the agency and its clients. This includes more than 70 people who volunteer with Welcome Home, a program that provides companionship for formerly homeless individuals.

Another 25 volunteers have chosen to support CSS' newest ministry, the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre, to provide hope and comfort to vulnerable women who are experiencing an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy. Another 1,100 have contacted CSS to offer their help with the resettlement of refugees.

250 NEW DONORS

Finally, in terms of giving, almost 3,800 individuals, schools, businesses, organizations, foundations, and religious orders made a financial contribution to the Sign of Hope.

"This was an increase of nearly 250 benefactors over the past year, and we are very grateful for that," Carattini said, noting that most of these benefactors are individuals.

With the parishes' contribution included, Sign of Hope campaign has received more than $2.6 million to date. In 2014, the campaign raised $3.4 million.

Much of the decrease can be blamed on the slow economy. "Last year oil was at a $110 a barrel and we also had very generous corporate benefactors that contributed to the campaign," Carattini pointed out.

"This year obviously the corporations and businesses had to be very cautious with regards to their donations."

The fact that CSS no longer directly fundraises in the parishes did not hurt the campaign, the CEO said. Parishioners now contribute to the archdiocesan Together We Serve campaign and CSS gets a portion of the total.

GREAT BLESSING

Carattini estimates this year it will receive $340,000 from Together We Serve, which replaced several special collections, including a CSS collection, that had previously been taken up in parishes over the course of a year.

"This has been a great blessing to us because it means we don't have to ourselves go to the parishes to try and organize campaigns," the CSS leader said.

"The archdiocese, through Together We Serve, takes care of all of that on our behalf so we are very blessed."

This is the first time since CSS started fundraising separately from the United Way in 1984 that Sign of Hope did not set a fundraising goal. None was announced when the campaign was launched in Giovanni Caboto Park in mid-September.

NO EFFECT

Carattini said the fact the campaign did not raise as much as the previous year will not affect CSS' operations. "Not at all," he said matter-of-factly.

"The Sign of Hope is not our only source of funding. We have funds that come in to us through a lot of other sources. This year we anticipate we will continue to operate all of our current ministries as well as launching our new Catholic counselling ministry in April."

Carattini expressed his gratitude to God for the generosity of those in the community who agreed to pray for CSS, volunteer in its programs or make a financial donation. "This is just a beautiful testimony to the generosity and kindness of our community."