Greensburg Diocese awards honor local, international charitable works
This year’s recipients of the Greensburg Diocese’s Catholic Charities’ Salt and Light Awards are being recognized for helping those in need at home and abroad.
Barbara Zucconi of Rostraver, who received the Humanitarian honor Thursday at the 21st annual Communities of Salt and Light Award Dinner, organizes the Christmas Angel Tree program at St. Anne Parish in Rostraver and volunteers with the Fresh Express summer food distribution for Rostraver and North Belle Vernon.
For the Christmas program, she gets requests from local schools, a foster home and the Catholic Charities organization for apparel or other items needed by local families. Parishioners pick a card with a choice of the needed items and fulfill them in the form of a holiday gift.
Since the program began in 1998, the number of cards has grown from 33 to as many as 250.
“I always list a choice of different items on the card,” Zucconi said.”Most times, every item on the list is fulfilled.”
“It’s so rewarding. Our parishioners are so gracious. They say, ‘This is the best gift I bought this season.’”
Zucconi, who directs faith formation programs at her parish and leads a prayer shawl ministry, also is a hospital minister and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
The dinner at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon recognizes the good deeds of parishioners and organizations in the diocese while also raising money to provide residents emergency food, electricity, water, sewage and heating.
To date, it has raised $1.27 million to help nearly 9,000 recipients in Westmoreland, Armstrong, Indiana and Fayette counties.
An all-time high 537 tickets were sold to Thursday’s event.
Bishop Edward C. Malesic noted this year’s honorees have an international reach.
“It shows how connected we are, to our neighbors and to people halfway around the world,” he said. “It lifts us all up to want to be better.”
Dr. Primo Bautista, a retired Greensburg pathologist, and his wife, Henna, a retired nurse, received the Philanthropy award at the dinner. Each winter, since 1999, they’ve returned to their native Philippines as part of a mission by the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania, providing medical and surgical care to those in need.
Repairing a child’s cleft lip is a frequent procedure during the week-long mission, which also provides food for the kids.
“The day before the surgery, these kids cannot talk, they cannot swallow,” Primo said. “After the surgery, their mother sees them talking and eating. It’s the most dramatic effect.”
The need is great, Henna noted.
“We start at 7 o’clock in the morning, and you can see them lined up at 5 o’clock for their turn,” she said.
“The only regret we have is we can’t take care of all of them,” Primo said. “The only gratification we have is that we will go back.”
The couple belong to the Legion of Mary at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Greensburg. Legion members visit the sick and homebound and encourage people to visit the parish. The Bautistas also support the diocese’s International Priests program, hosting events at their home for the priests, several of whom are from the Philippines.
The Shop With A Cop program operated by state police at the Greensburg station was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Human Service Organization.
Trooper Stephen Limani, who has led the nonprofit program since it began in 2008, said it has raised nearly $400,000 and provided shopping trips for more than 3,000 children affected by crime or other unfortunate circumstances.
Local and state police nominate children and accompany them as they shop. According to Limani, the officers “get just as much enjoyment out of it, or more.”
With funds raised through an annual gun bash, golf outing and ugly sweater contest, the value of each shopping trip has increased from $50 to $150.
Limani was touched when a high school-age girl referred from a foster care program used most of her shopping voucher to buy pajamas for other children in the program. She was going to return the remaining $12, but officers chipped in a few extra dollars so she could buy herself earrings, Limani said.
“It’s stories like that that make me feel good about what all of us are doing,” he said.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .