May 6, 2017

Montague Catholic Social Ministries holds second annual awards event

Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

Heart To Heart, Donna

Father Stanley Aksamit (left), pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish, and Our Lady of Peace volunteer Donna Tozloski (center) attend Montague Catholic Social Ministries’ Second Annual Heart to Heart Reverse Raffle and awards dinner.

GREENFIELD — One hundred and fifty people were honored at the Montague Catholic Social Ministries (MCSM) Second Annual Heart to Heart Reverse Raffle on May 5 at the Country Club of Greenfield. All of these people volunteer their time, and/or services to MCSM throughout the year.

Funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) helps to support MCSM, which in turn offers emergency basic needs, family and parenting groups, family support, home visiting programs and a women’s center.

“Ten percent of our annual funding comes from the ACA,” said Susan Mareneck, MCSM executive director.

“This funding allows us to pay our full time staff, which isn’t covered by other grant monies. ACA funding also helps to maintain the organization and the services it offers,” said Mareneck.

MCSM was founded in 1994 by local clergy in response to a crisis of violence in the community. Montague Catholic Social Ministry’s mission is to listen and respond to the requests of our neighbors and to build on the strengths they have to meet their own needs.

Heather Wood Treme, co-director of MCSM, has organized the Heart to Heart event the past two years.

“We want to draw our community’s attention to all of the support and partners that we interact with in order to do what we do every day,” said Wood Treme.

“Our partners allow us to open the doors to everybody and to never say no,” added Wood Treme.

Wood Treme explained what a reverse raffle is and that prizes are donated by local artists and business owners, with the largest cash prize being the last prize.

“It’s a way for folks who maybe don’t have time (to volunteer), or actual capital to invest in MCSM, they can help us by donating their crafts, their time, and enable us to build our community that way,” explained Wood Treme.

Irene Woods was one recipient of the Keeping Children of Franklin County Safe mission award for helping found the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin. Woods, director of the center, explained how the Children’s Advocacy Center, established in February 2016, might help the process of reporting abuse be a little less stressful for the minors involved.

“Children that disclose physical abuse or sexual abuse, oftentimes, are interviewed multiple times,” said Wood. “We are able to interview children that have made any disclosures of sexual or physical abuse. If there is a report of child abuse, we call the family, and the family brings the child in to meet with an interviewer.”

“We have the forensic interviewer at the center, who does the primary interview with the child. To do a joint interview with the police, the prosecutor and child protective workers, they are all present, but they’re in another section of the house, and they watch the whole interview on a monitor. The forensic interviewer also has an earpiece if any of the other three collaborating partners has questions to direct to the minor,” Woods explained.

“Last year we interviewed 122 children. This year we have 33 cases that are going to be prosecuted, so, to me, that’s very significant,” added Woods.

Another group honored was the Unsung Heroes and Heroines of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Turners Falls.

Parishioner Donna Tozloski, who attended Catholic elementary and high schools, says she volunteers because everybody needs help and it’s something that she is able to do.

Twice a year, parishioners at Our Lady of Peace help do a mass mailing for MCSM.

“It’s really huge. We take up two whole rooms and finish around 2 in the afternoon, if we’re lucky. Then we ship it down to the post office. It’s a team effort,” said Tozloski, who volunteers each week in her parish office as well.

“I answer the door. There are many folks that need help. Many times I refer the people at the

door to MCSM. It’s great. People do come back and thank me for referring them and they are

very grateful,” added Tozloski.

Other honorees were sociology professor Carolyn Jacobs, Annual Friends of the Ministries; Sisters of St. Joseph, Loyal Partner of the Ministries; Lesley and Kyle Cogswell/Friends of Gill-Montague Schools, Volunteers of the Year; Steven Dacycsynand and the Montague Elks Lodge,  Outstanding Local Partner of the Ministries; Jimena Cabezas de Pareja, Beyond the Call of Duty/Community Organizer; and Sister of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Rosa Torres and her community, the Shared Mission Award.