Pictured are those women, men and businesses named honorees for the 31st Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton's Guardian Angel Dinner Dance scheduled for Sept. 26. Courtesy photo
Pictured are those women, men and businesses named honorees for the 31st Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton's Guardian Angel Dinner Dance scheduled for Sept. 26. Courtesy photo
From a farmer to a golf association to a man who beat drug addiction and now advocates for others, the people who Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton will honor at its 31st annual Guardian Angel Dinner Dance are symbols of hope for people in need.

The gala, set for Sept. 26 in the Hyatt Regency, Princeton, 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.

“Today, we are in uncharted waters, as we collectively face a pandemic that has upended our lives,” said Marlene Lao-Collins, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s executive director, referring to the coronavirus.

“That’s why I am ever so grateful for the continued support of our donors and volunteers. Last year, as we developed our long-term strategic initiative, we could not have predicted the crisis we face today – widespread business and school closures and indefinite quarantines of the public, mandated by all levels of our government. Yet, here we are. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, as an essential service, continues to operate. This agency is a beacon of light in the midst of this madness for those who truly need us.”

Several people and organizations will be honored for their work on behalf of the region’s most vulnerable citizens. The Client Achievement Award honors a Catholic Charities client who has demonstrated great courage, persistence and hard work in overcoming hardship. The Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award will be presented to an outstanding leader who is committed to humanitarian causes, is a devoted advocate of Catholic Charities and the betterment of humanity in general, and compassionately strives to improve the quality of life of people across all economic and social lines.

The Light of Hope Award recognizes a person or organization in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties for their support and commitment to the work of Catholic Charities in their community. The Corporate Citizen of the Year Award recognizes a business that partners and supports Catholic Charities’ goals and mission.

Thomas J. and Juidthann C. Keefe, the Richard J. Hughes, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Humanitarian Award recipients, have supported Catholic Charities since 1998 and served on the GADD planning committee for several years, including as chairs in 2017. The couple attends St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake. Tom has had an extensive corporate career background while Judi worked in New Jersey public education.

Deacon James L. Casa is the Light of Hope recipient for Burlington County. Deacon Casa, who ministers in Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, has been a member of Catholic Charities’ Burlington County board for nearly 10 years and sits on the agency’s social policy committee. He is retired from the Burlington County freeholders, where he worked for 24 years as a transportation advocate for senior citizens and people with disabilities. He created a free transportation program that served the clients of Catholic Charities’ Delaware House.

Mary Jo Herbert, the Light of Hope recipient for Mercer County and member of St. James Parish, Pennington, has supported Catholic Charities since 1991. Her late husband, Michael Herbert Sr., received the Light of Hope Award for Mercer County in 2004 and served on Catholic Charities board of trustees. Her son, Michael Herbert Jr., currently serves on the board of trustees.

Dr. Jack V. Kirnan of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, will receive the Light of Hope Award for Monmouth County. He has supported Catholic Charities for many years and served on its board of trustees since 2014, chairing its strategic planning board and serving on its finance committee. After a career in senior leadership positions in the financial services sector and in higher education, he is currently president of Kirnan Coaching Associates, LLC, a firm providing executive, career and life coaching.

Oceanaire Women’s Golf Association of Waretown will be presented with the Light of Hope Award for Ocean County. The association has raised more than $100,000 for Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Ocean County through an annual Partner in Peace event for the past six years in which a luncheon and golf outing is hosted.

Robert Brooks, the Client Achievement Award honoree, conquered a longtime cycle of substance abuse addiction and incarceration after he reached out to Catholic Charities for help in 2017 and began counseling in Partners in Recovery where he also learned to manage symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder. In recovery, he began a new men’s trauma support group at Catholic Charities and, also authored a book on his journey. He currently works as a peer mentor in Catholic Charities’ Early Intervention Support Services program in Hamilton and serves on the agency’s behavioral health consumer advocacy council.

Stark & Stark of Lawrenceville, will be honored as the Corporate Citizen of the Year. Since its founding in 1933, the law firm has been committed to active participation in and support of the community. Many of the firm’s attorneys and staff volunteer in their communities.

All GADD honorees will be formally announced at a kickoff event in the Hyatt Regency, Princeton, which this year has been postponed to July 9.

Persons wishing to attend the GADD, sponsor a table, advertise in the event program, donating auction items or otherwise supporting Catholic Charitie can contact events coordinator Barbara Yuson at byuson@cctrenton.org or call 609-394-5181, ext. 1159.