Deacon James Casa of Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, is presented with the Light of Hope Award for Burlington County during the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton's virtual gala on Sept. 30. Screenshot photo
Deacon James Casa of Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, is presented with the Light of Hope Award for Burlington County during the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton's virtual gala on Sept. 30. Screenshot photo
Pandemic restrictions might have changed the nature of this fall’s fundraising events for both Mount Carmel Guild and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton – but it didn’t seem to hamper the response of dedicated supporters.

Both organizations saw funds exceed their financial goals for the livestreamed events, making the 2020 online galas some of the most successful to date.

“The number of registrants was 125 – so less than the normal attending our in-person event – but we know that people watched in groups and that people still are watching it,” said Mary Inkrot, Mount Carmel Guild executive director of the virtual gala held Oct. 16.

Although MCG is still calculating its proceeds, “we definitely surpassed our goal,” she noted.

Catholic Charities’ virtual Guardian Angel Benefit of Hope on Sept. 30 also experienced exceptional support. “The 90-minute, livestreamed event raised $310,000 – exceeding its $260,000 goal – that will support more than 60 programs we offer in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties,” CCDOT reported.

“It was a spectacular event that expanded our reach and shined attention on our honorees in a mighty way,” said Marlene Laó-Collins, CCDOT executive director.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., spoke in pre-recorded messages for each event.

“Thanks to the generosity of so many, the Mount Carmel Guild has supported and served the poor, needy, elderly and sick of Mercer County and beyond for over 100 years. … I am pleased to express my gratitude for and pride in this great organization,” he said.

About Catholic Charities, he noted, “Without your generosity and help, we just could not accomplish the tremendous good that has been our legacy since 1913 – your legacy, as our benefactors and friends.”

Special guest host Joe Piscopo – comedian, actor and New Jersey native – hosted the Catholic Charities event, with more than 1,000 people tuning in.

Deacon James L. Casa of Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, Catholic Charities’ Light of Hope honoree for Burlington County, said of the virtual gala format, “If we could bring the message of Catholic Charities to a wider audience, isn’t that great? That’s what we’re really all about.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted need within the diocesan community. “During the early days of the pandemic, our home health nurses did phone calls and took care of medication management outside the home,” Inkrot said.

The Guild’s Community Support program saw an average 1,400 household visits per month from April to June, and there has been an increased demand at its food pantry. But community response to the need has also been remarkable.

“The parishes have been wonderful, many stepping up with very large food drives,” Inkrot noted. “And we know they will step up again to help with our very large Thanksgiving food distribution and with toys for the children at Christmas.” The Guild also received some generous funding, she pointed out, to provide help with COVID-19 related utility and housing issues.

“We are really proud of our Virtual Gala,” Inkrot said, “and [we] encourage everyone to watch and see for themselves what the Guild is really about. 2020 was intended to be a big year of celebration, recognizing the many members and parishes that helped us for 100 years. We hope to have a true celebration next year.

To watch the Mount Carmel Guild virtual gala, visit https://mtcarmelguild.org/. To watch the CCDOT Guardian Angel Benefit of Hope, visit https://www.catholiccharitiestrenton.org/.