SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered Oct. 25 for the 2017 Catholic Community Services Humanitarian Awards Dinner at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Among them were Sahar, an Iraqi refugee who has started her own small business; a couple of young people whose future is in jeopardy because, as participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, they are uncertain whether they will be able to remain in the United States; numerous CCS volunteers; a handful of local politicians; and numerous clergy of various faiths.
Dignitaries included the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; the Right Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah; Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox; and Greg Hughes, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives.
Tony Sansone, president of the CCS board, thanked those present for “serving the most vulnerable among us.”
At the beginning of the dinner, a brief video showcased Sahar, a beekeeper who has started her own small business, selling honey.
“Sahar is beautiful example of the basic human desire to overcome hardship and fulfill our dreams,” Sansone said. “CCS has been privileged to be a part of her success story, having helped her achieve self-sufficiency in a new land. Her hard work and determination are characteristics we see in our clients, who come from all walks of life.”
Other CCS programs include the immigration team, which processed more than 200 DACA applications after it was announced in September that the program would not be renewed and only one month was given for the renewal applications to be filed; the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden, which each month provides assistance to more than 2,300 households; and the Weigand Homeless Resource Center in Salt Lake City, which helps an average of 450 each day.
These programs could not exist without donors and volunteers, Sansone said. “We cannot do this without you and are truly grateful for your support. … With your continued support, CCS will always be here to relieve the suffering of all those who are in need.”
The keynote speaker at the event was Lt. Gov. Cox, who also was presented with the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year award for his work “to create a more just and inclusive environment, helping the most vulnerable in our society to feel safe.”
In his remarks, Cox said, “I believe our country is suffering from the soft bigotry of low expectations. The time has come for us to expect more of ourselves and more of our fellow human beings.”
It is not too much to expect that homeless people obey laws and follow rules, because “there is nothing compassionate about allowing crime to infiltrate our most vulnerable population,” Cox said. “But jails can never be the answer to the continued decay and epidemic of addiction. While justice is critical, mercy must be our watchword. We have a responsibility and that is why we are here tonight, to provide every opportunity, including jobs, training, substance abuse treatment, mental health services – anything they need to turn their lives around.”
More also must be expected of public officials and of every individual, Cox said, adding that those in the room that night already have committed to helping others.
“You are raising expectations and exhibiting the love and patience that invites others to change, too,” he said.
Other awards presented included:
Humanitarians: Richard Oliver and Bryant Marcum, who founded Faktory, an ad agency that donates its services to CCS;
Partner of the Year: The Salt Lake City Police Department, whose officers “work with community partners to find lasting solutions to difficult situations, and this includes keeping staff, volunteers and our clients safe along Rio Grande Street,” according to CCS;
Lifetime of Service: Jerry and Shari Seiner. In a video tribute to Jerry Seiner, who passed away in February, former rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo recalled Seiner as “a person who got involved, rolled up his sleeves and helped to solve problems. … If he knew the need, Jerry was there.”
In addition, Tony Healy was recognized as CCS’s Volunteer of the Year and Dennis Kelsch was named Employee of the Year.
At the end of the evening, Bishop Solis extend profound gratitude to all of those present for their support of the mission of the Church and Catholic Community Services, and thanked those who work at CCS for being “the living face of Christ who brings hope to the world.”
Businesses, organizations, and people who partner with CCS do not only make a difference in individual lives but also are “changing our world to be a better place to live. … My dear friends, this is the way to build a better world, a civilization of love, justice and peace. And you know what? This is the sure path to heaven,” he said. “Thank you for changing this world to be a better place for all of us, whether rich or poor, documented and undocumented, yellow, brown, black or white. After all, we are brothers and sisters. We are one God’s family, and we deserve a better world for everyone.”
In his closing remarks, Bishop Hayashi said that he appreciated the message that people who are in need do still have a great capacity, “and with a little bit of help they can achieve that capacity in their lives.”
People who were born in better circumstances have the responsibility to help others because “God did not give this to us in order that we would horde it, or simply try to get more,” he added.