The selfless and longstanding efforts of individuals and organizations who work to help those in need will be recognized in a special way during the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s 33rd annual Guardian Angel Dinner Dance.

After two years of being held as a virtual event due to the pandemic, the gala will return in-person Sept. 24 in the Hyatt Regency, Princeton. With the theme, “Back in Black Tie,” the gala serves as Catholic Charities’ signature fundraiser, raising much-needed funds to support the 100,000 people the organization serves annually, regardless of religious affiliation or ability to pay.

The agency’s executive director, Marlene Laó-Collins, said of the annual event, “It honors those who support the mission of Catholic Charities, it gives donors the opportunity to see how their contributions make a difference and it raises money to ensure the agency can continue providing life-saving services. The event also honors a very deserving client who has not only benefited from the services of Catholic Charites – but has thrived,” she continued.

“One person, one family at a time, we help people who struggle with substance use, behavioral health concerns, food insecurity, homelessness or domestic abuse,” said Laó-Collins. “Our doors are open to everyone. To do this lifesaving work, we rely on a network of volunteers and supporters who share our commitment to serve the most vulnerable among us.We are excited to gather in person once again to recognize their efforts and honor their roles in answering our call to serve others.”

The evening will include the presentation of awards to people and organizations in recognition of their work on behalf of the region’s most vulnerable citizens. The awards and recipients are:

Stephanie Peddicord, president of the Center for FaithJustice, Lawrenceville, will receive the Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award, which recognizes an outstanding leader who is committed to humanitarian causes; a devoted advocate of Catholic Charities and the betterment of humanity in general, and one who compassionately strives to improve the quality of life of people across all economic and social lines.

Peddicord has worked in the non-profit arena for many years, the past 20 of which have been advancing the public good through service and leadership. In her role with CFJ, she works to inspire future leaders by providing opportunities to serve those in need and teaching about justice in the Catholic tradition. Early in her career, she served as assistant vice president at CCS Fundraising, where she helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for educational and religious organizations. She has also held senior leadership positions at Covenant House in Philadelphia and Interfaith America in Chicago. In 2009, she founded Peddicord Consulting, LLC, a firm empowering small non-profits. She, along with her husband and two children, reside in Pennington and are members of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville.

Four Light of Hope Awards will be presented in recognition of a person or organization in each of the four counties of the Diocese for their support and commitment to the work of Catholic Charities in their community.

The Marlton Woman’s Club, recipient for Burlington County, has provided in-kind and monetary support to Catholic Charities’ Providence House Domestic Violence Services in Burlington County for decades. While the club supports a variety of causes, many of them are champions for women and girls. The club regularly conducts drives, collecting goods needed at the safe house. In recent years, club members have celebrated Mother’s Day at the safe house - collecting purses, cosmetics, jewelry and other gift items for the women. The 45-member charitable organization is a chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and was founded in 1964.

Paul Kolano is the Mercer County honoree. As a graduate of a Catholic high school and Notre Dame University, South Bend, Ind., Kolano has been formed in the spirit of service to others. Ten years ago, when Kolano was looking for a new community service opportunity, he noticed an ad in the bulletin of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, looking for people to join Catholic Charities’ Mercer County Board.

Ever since, the Boston native has supported the agency and its mission. He also served on the board of trustees for five years. Kolano is currently employed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a director of institutional sales for their Stock Plan Business. He and his wife, Wendy, reside in Princeton with their youngest son Jack, while Paul’s three older children reside in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

St. Veronica Parish, Howell, is the recipient for Monmouth County. The parish has a decade-long history of supporting Ocean County’s Community Services initiatives. Drives conducted by the parish have provided Easter baskets, food, clothing, school supplies and backpacks.

Father Peter James Alindogan, pastor, said the parish’s social concerns ministry gives according to the demands of those in need.

Josie Esquivel of Sacred Heart Parish, Bay Head, is the recipient for Ocean County. Esquivel and her family moved to Bay Head in 2001 and enrolled their twins at the Ranney School in Tinton Falls. There, she was recruited for the finance committee and asked to serve on the board of trustees.

Esquivel’s family learned about Catholic Charities through their membership in Sacred Heart Parish. Esquivel joined the agency’s Ocean County board and after serving for several years, was invited to join the board of trustees.

In Sacred Heart, Esquivel serves as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, reader, parish counselor and president of the Rosary Altar Society.

Hitesh Patel will be given the Corporate Citizen of the Year Award, which recognizes a business that partners and supports Catholic Charities’ goals and mission.  Patel is an owner of Rapps Pharmacy, which assisted Catholic Charities in obtaining needed medication for clients and now serves the agency’s Delaware House, the PACT teams and the Intensive Residential Program.

When Catholic Charities was holding clinics to vaccinate vulnerable Trenton residents without insurance, Rapps Pharmacy acquired the vaccines and made it possible.

“We enjoy a phenomenal relationship with Catholic Charities,” Patel said. “The staff is very well trained and well-educated. They are always planning in advance to care for the most underserved population.”

“Ruben” will be presented this year’s Client Achievement Award. The award honors a Catholic Charities client who has demonstrated great courage, persistence and hard work in overcoming hardship.

After years of struggling with addiction, several trips to prison, and one life-altering attack, Ruben received life-saving counseling services from the agency. While in recovery, Ruben was notified that he would be receiving full custody of his two young children. Through his counselor, he learned about Linkages, a temporary housing program and he and his children moved in. After completing his addiction counseling in December of 2021, Ruben and his family were able to secure permanent housing in Monmouth County. Rueben works part-time as a barber, and he is in the process of taking classes to earn his GED.

Persons wishing to attend the GADD, sponsor a table, advertise in the event program, donate auction items or otherwise support Catholic Charities can contact Leslie Anne Alpaugh at 609-394-5181, ext. 1154 or email: [email protected].