Service Minded -- At the annual gala, the Mount Carmel Guild presented awards to honorees are pictured from left, Terri Riley, Sister Pat McGinley, Maryanne Wagner, Dorothy Zadworny, Jane Chrnelich and Maureen Cozzi. Also honored were seven Knights of Columbus from Mercer County.
Service Minded -- At the annual gala, the Mount Carmel Guild presented awards to honorees are pictured from left, Terri Riley, Sister Pat McGinley, Maryanne Wagner, Dorothy Zadworny, Jane Chrnelich and Maureen Cozzi. Also honored were seven Knights of Columbus from Mercer County.

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

Women and men who answered God’s call to charity through service to the local Mercer County community were feted during the Mount Carmel Guild’s 21st annual gala held Oct. 21.

To view photo gallery on this story, click here.

Before the throng of nearly 250 people in attendance including guild staff members, volunteers, board of trustee members and family members and friends of the honorees, Karen C. Ranbom, the board of trustees president, spoke of how the evening recognizes the contributions of the honorees have made as leaders in their respective fields while still making it priority to volunteer to help others in need.

The honorees, who were presented with the guild’s 2016 Community Service Award were: Jane Chrnelich, former school nurse in St. Paul School, Princeton; Maureen Cozzi, business manager in St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square; Sister of St. Joseph Pat McGinley, pastoral associate in St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville; Terry Riley and Maryanne Wagner, co-chairs of the social concerns committee in St. George Parish, Titusville; Dorothy Zadworny, religious education program coordinator in St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton. Also recognized for their collective outreach were seven Mercer County Knights of Columbus councils – Ewing, Hamilton, Lawrence, St. David the King, St. Gregory the Great, St. Hedwig and Trenton.

Other dignitaries at the gala included Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress, diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services, who led the invocation, and Brian Duff, vice president of the board of trustees who presented the awards along with Ranbom.

Dominican Sister Loretta Maggio, director of the guild’s emergency assistance program, gave a compelling address in which she recounted the experience of a client who received compassionate assistance from the guild. A group of students from Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, were on hand to greet and serve as hosts to the guests.

Marie Gladney, the guild’s executive director,  noted the annual gala, which includes a dinner and silent auction, is the guild’s major fundraiser with proceeds benefiting the agency’s Emergency Assistance Program which has been open since 1921, and Home Health Nursing Program, available since 1941.

In 2015, the guild assisted an average of 8,897 households with a three-day plus supply of groceries, while in 2014, the agency assisted 8,400 households. Clients are eligible to receive food assistance once per calendar month. Also, the summer of 2016 marked the guild’s fifth year to offer the Feeding Families Program in which much needed groceries were given to some 200 families with children who are home from school during the summer months. In addition, the guild distributed to families 250 Easter baskets, Christmas gifts to 257 families and at Thanksgiving, distributed to 739 families provisions for a holiday meal which included a turkey and all the trimmings.

Gladney went on to tell how 77 families received funds for utility assistance that totaled the amount of $12,417.

The nursing staff of two full-time registered nurses visited more than 100 patients in 2015 to monitor blood pressure levels, check Coumadin levels, fill insulin syringes, allowing elderly patients to remain in their homes. Twenty persons received prescription assistance totaling $1,290.

Extending appreciation for the support of the honorees, donors, board members and staff who “provided a wonderful time for our 245 gala attendees,” Gladney said that planning for the gala begins in January and the fundraising committee and nominating and restaurant raffle and wine pull subcommittees put in many hours to make the gala a very enjoyable evening.” Adding that many of the committee/subcommittee members are former honorees, Gladney said, “The Guild is truly blessed!”

After receiving their award, each honoree was invited to the dais to offer remarks about why they may service to their community a priority.

Along with acknowledging her fellow honorees and a host of people including family members and her pastor for their support, Cozzi credited her now deceased father as being a “big influence in the early years” of her faith journey and someone who was inspirational in leading her to a “lifetime commitment to service and helping those in need as I approached adulthood.”

Though Cozzi earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration and then held a long-time career working as information technology executive on Wall Street in New York, she came to realize that she was being called by God to become more community service minded. Her initial outreach began serving with the United Way campaign at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY in the mid-1990s which required her visiting area homeless shelters, soup kitchens, day care centers and halfway houses.

“I had no idea that right there, under my nose, tucked away behind the storefronts and office buildings, in the alley ways of Wall Street were the invisible people who were hungry, in pain, lonely, abandoned, addicted and abused,” she said.

“The stark contrast of encountering these dozes of hurting and needy people, right there in the midst of the world’s epicenter of wealth, was shocking and left a lasting impression on me.” Cozzi’s other volunteer opportunities included the Loaves and Fishes program in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, and she is currently on the executive board of trustees of Interfaith Caregivers of Greater Mercer County whose mission is to meet the special needs of frail and homebound elderly and people with disabilities in Mercer County. She also joined with a core team to form the Mercer County chapter of 100+ Women Who Care, which helps county non-profit organizations. She is also a benefactor of The Sisters of Life, a religious congregation of women devoted to the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of all human life.

Through her parish position, Cozzi has learned more about Mount Carmel Guild and “the many ways that St. Gregory’s has been assisting the guild in fulfilling its mission.”

“In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is my great privilege and honor to accept this award on behalf of the good, kind and generous people of St. Gregory the Great Parish,” she said.

In her 56 years in religious life, Sister Pat has served in various ministries including as a teacher in a Catholic school, a parish director of religious education, a pastoral associate in St. David the King Parish, West Windsor, vicar for ministry and faith formation in the Diocese of Las Vegas and as the special executive assistant to the president of Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y. Her current assignment is as pastoral associate in St. Ann Parish.

In accepting her award from the guild, Sister Pat said that it is “a goal and the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph to live a life consecrated to God, totally in service to the dear neighbor.”

“We gather here tonight to celebrate the many people who believe in the gift of service given freely to the dear neighbor, a gift for all ages,” she said. “I extend blessings and congratulations to all the nominees.”

An enjoyable gala highlight for all was witnessing Trenton Catholic Academy students serve as hosts in which they welcomed guests and assisting with distribution gift auction tickets.

“Helping others is always a god thing, so I wanted to be a part of that,” said sophomore Ruth Domah, a first time gala volunteer.

Noting that it was a “nice experience” when he helped with last year’s gala, Kenneth Arias, a junior, was happy to return to help again this year. “I know Mount Carmel Guild helps people with their food pantries and works to get rid of hunger,” Arias said. “I was happy to be part of an event that raises money for the guild which is such a great cause in this area.”

Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, TCA president, smiled as she watched her students happily give of their time and talent at the gala.

Noting that the guild staff had requested high school volunteers to help with various duties throughout the evening, Sister Dorothy said, high school students are also “required to complete a certain number of service hours a year and this is a great opportunity to fulfill those hours.”

“This year especially, during the Year of Mercy, serving at an event like the Mount Carmel Guild Gala, allows our students to support organizations that live out the Corporal Works of Mercy of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty,”  Sister Dorothy said.

“This is an opportunity for the students to put their faith into action.”