The Baltimore Waterfront Marriott was the site of An Evening with Catholic Charities on April 16. An audience of 650 supporters, friends, and employees attended the annual dinner that highlights the achievements of the agency.

The theme for the evening, Celebrating Improved Lives, was presented in three videos that featured the life-changing assistance clients received from three Catholic Charities programs: Christopher Place Employment Academy (CPEA), a residential employment program for formerly homeless men; Kinship Care, a support service for relatives providing custodial care for children; and Sarah’s House, a transitional housing program for homeless families.

Volunteer Anne Shelton and employee Ray Wright received Distinguished Service Awards and the sophomore class of Loyola Blakefield was given the Anne Lindsey Otenasek Youth Service Award. The following are biographies of the award recipients.

Distinguished Service Award Recipient: Ray Wright

Ray Wright, St. Vincent’s Villa Director of Residential and Clinical Services, (center) receives the Distinguished Service Award for 30 years of dedicated service at St. Vincent’s Villa from (left) Board President Katie Ryan Lekin, Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, Most Reverend Denis J. Madden and Catholic Charities Executive Director William J. McCarthy, Jr.

After 30 years of service at St. Vincent’s Villa, Ray Wright has made an indelible mark at the residential treatment facility for children with emotional and behavioral challenges. Starting his tenure as a teacher’s aide, he has also served as a senior residential treatment counselor, unit director, and assistant director of residential services. Today he continues to be a formidable presence as the director of residential and clinical services.

Throughout each position, Ray distinguished himself as a strong and steady force, endearing himself to the children, staff, and families. “Ray understands the importance of relationships and how they make a difference in resolving conflict and building bridges,” says St. Vincent’s Villa Administrator Ezra Buchdahl.

Being on call for the evenings and weekends, makes Ray an invaluable team member who has routinely made personal sacrifices with his family and friends to honor his commitment to the program.

Addressing the audience at the Annual Dinner on April 16, Ray commended his family and co-workers for their support throughout the years, stating that his job was a labor of love. Whether dispensing chocolate or advice, Ray always provides sage counseling.

Child and Family Division Director Mark Greenberg assessed the effect Ray has had on the program by stating, “I’ve watched over the years your ability to attract talented people with an affinity for our work and mission, and it’s because they want to be like you.”

Distinguished Service Award Recipient: Anne Shelton

Volunteer Anne Shelton (center) receives the Distinguished Service Award for service at four Catholic Charities programs from (left) Board President Katie Ryan Lekin, Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, Most Reverend Denis J. Madden and Catholic Charities Executive Director William J. McCarthy, Jr.

Anne Shelton continues to prove that her heart knows no bounds, having made an impact as a volunteer at four Catholic Charities programs, with each effort having a lasting impact.

Her association began in 1984 by making a monthly casserole with her mother for St. Joseph, Texas’ delivery to Our Daily Bread (ODB). With her mother’s passing, Anne continued to make the same recipe for delivery in her memory.

In 2003, Anne became a volunteer at ODB, serving faithfully with the group from St. Joseph each Wednesday.

When My Sister’s Place Women’s Center opened in 2008 as a comprehensive resource center for homeless women and their children, Anne formed a group that continues to provide, prepare, and serve a delectable monthly lunch of meatloaf, vegetables, and bread pudding to 175 women.

In 2009, Anne requested a list of needed supplies from Training Manager Michael Jones of Our Daily Bread Employment Center who provided her with a list of 50 pens, notepads, and folders. Within two weeks, Anne returned with oversized bins full of the requested items in addition to flash drives, lanyards, ID badges, and gift cards, valued at $2,000.

Anne and St. Joseph repeated their efforts for the Work 4 Success program, donating an additional $5,000 worth of supplies.

In the summer of 2010, Anne heard about a need at My Sister’s Place Lodge that is home to 40 women with mental health disabilities. She once again organized a group of volunteers from St. Joseph to transform the courtyard into an oasis with outdoor furniture, a storage bin, hanging plants, and original silk screens by artist Pat O’Brien.

Lodge Supervisor Rhonda English says of the rehab effort, “Ms. Anne and her entourage of friends, family, and parishioners from St. Joseph made a miracle happen.”

Anne Lindsey Otenasek Youth Service Award: Loyola Blakefield Freshman Class

Loyola Blakefield Dons receive the Anne Lindsey Otenasek Youth Service Award for volunteering at St. Jerome’s Head Start early childhood education program.

For the past six years, students of Loyola Blakefield have logged approximately 2000 hours of volunteer service in the classrooms of St. Jerome’s Head Start, an early childhood education program for low-income children and their families.

The effort began with the freshman class in 2006 with students volunteering two to three times a month. Since then, the entire freshman class has spent time interacting with three- and four-year-old students, giving them attentive care.

The students dive into their duties, often, reading stories, building block towers, singing songs, and giving classroom instruction. The Loyola Dons also willingly transform themselves into horses who carry children on their backs and trees that children climb upon.

This personable interaction helps the children expend their energies and more importantly, know that they are deemed important in the eyes of these young men. Another benefit is that the boys model and reinforce positive male behavior.

Head Start Director Mary Gunning says, “Volunteering is a gift of love, a performance of faith, an act of sharing, an adventure of spirit, and a journey of kindness and thoughtful caring. These volunteers bless us in so many ways and show us what it means to love, serve, and teach.”