March 29, 2019

Archbishop to speak at St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities gala

By Natalie Hoefer

When St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany holds its annual “Giving Hope-Changing Lives” gala on April 25, it will mostly resemble those of years past.

But a few things will be different—a new venue, and for the first time in the event’s history, the archbishop of Indianapolis will offer a keynote address.

After all, this is an event four decades in the making.

For 40 years, St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany has served women, children, families and others in need in southern Indiana.

For more than half of that time, the Giving Hope-Changing Lives gala has served as one of the organization’s major fundraisers.

As in years past, several people will tell their story at the event of how the organization helped them. And as in years past, two of those who helped the organization assist others will be honored with the Spirit of Hope Award for their dedicated service.

This year’s Spirit of Hope winners are Tex Very and Page Walker.

Walker served on the organization’s advisory board from 2003-12, including four years as vice-president and two years as president.

During those two years, he encountered an unusual task: he had to serve for several months as the organization’s interim executive director.

“It was a daunting task,” admits Walker, a former banker. “To run an agency like that for even a few months was a challenge. But everything fell into place.”

Mark Casper, St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ current executive director, says that during Walker’s time on the board, “Page was very engaged—understanding the issues facing the agency, willing to ask the tough questions and always willing to help with a solution that reflected the ownership he took in St. Elizabeth’s mission.”

Walker, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville, retired from the board in 2012. But he still serves on the organization’s development committee, where Casper says Walker “helped lead the charge in community and individual donor growth over the last 20 years to support the growth the agency has experienced to meet the needs [of all the programs] we do today.”

Casper also calls him “a quarterback” at the organization’s annual fall reverse raffle fundraiser, “making sure the event runs smoothly and is financially successful.”

Walker says he is motivated by the agency’s efforts to “help out so many people in need.

“What really impresses me is that roughly 95 percent of all the funds we collect are used in St. Elizabeth programs. Not many organizations can say that.”

More comfortable behind the scenes, Walker says he is a little uncomfortable with the recognition offered in the Spirit of Hope Award, but that he is also “surprised” and “grateful” to receive the honor.

His co-recipient Very feels the same about receiving the award.

“I was surprised, really, because there are a lot of deserving people,” he says.

In fact, it is the people of the organization who inspire him.

“The staff is very dedicated, and they have so many dedicated volunteers,” Very says emphatically. “Mark [Casper] has done an outstanding job. He can get so many balls in the air and yet seem like he’s never in a hurry or stressed.”

Casper has nothing but praise for Very as well. He notes that Very is in his 12th year serving on the advisory board and is in his 15th year on the development committee—including serving as its chairman for the last 11 years.

“During Tex’s time as development chair, St. Elizabeth has doubled the amount of sponsorship support for our events,” Casper says. “This covered the cost of the event expenses rising as attendance has grown from 300 to 700 supporters, allowing us to engage more people in St. Elizabeth’s mission.

“Tex’s biggest strength is that he is a connector. He knows everyone and is not reluctant to talk to them about their opportunity to be involved with St. Elizabeth.”

Very and his wife, members of St. John Paul II Parish in Sellersburg, also serve as members of the St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ team that helps the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana’s White Flag effort in New Albany. Once a month between November and March, the team helps care for those in need of nighttime shelter when the temperature is below 35 degrees.

Very says he started helping St. Elizabeth years ago because he “saw so many other dedicated volunteers, and thought if I could help, I would.”

And now those people can say the same about him.

Receiving the Spirit of Hope Award “shows you’ve been making a difference,” Very says. “I don’t do it for the acknowledgment. But if it comes, it’s appreciated.”
 

(The Giving Hope-Changing Lives gala will take place at the Kentucky International Convention Center, 221 S. 4th St., in Louisville, Ky., on April 25. A cash bar and silent auction bidding on more than 100 items will take place from 5:30-7 p.m., followed by dinner. After a live auction from 7:45-8:30 p.m., Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and others will speak. The Spirit of Hope awards will be presented at 9:15 p.m., and the event will end around 9:30 p.m. RSVP by April 4 by calling 812-949-7305 or e-mailing info@stecharities.org.)

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