Changing Lives… Building Communities

13 Apr, 2011 | News

Libba Claude Named a Finalist for Catholic Charities USA 2011 National Volunteer of the Year

Today, Catholic Charities USA announced Libba Claude as one the finalists for their 2011 National Volunteer of the Year Award.

An extraordinary woman who donates her time and resources to the hundreds of families from The Children’s Center at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York, Libba Claude was recently honored with the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award.  Operated by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, The Children’s Center is a unique model program that unites children and their incarcerated mothers.

Catholic Charities USA's National Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes the invaluable contributions volunteers make in helping to reduce poverty in America.  Volunteering at their local Catholic Charities agencies, these committed servants have secured housing for the homeless and working poor, assisted refugees in adjusting to their new lives in the United States, provided meals for the hungry, advocated on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, and done so much more.

Each year, more than 260,000 volunteers assist local Catholic Charities agencies efficiently and effectively serve nearly 9 million people of all faiths and diverse needs.  The spirit of compassion, fellowship, and dedication shines brightly in the remarkable men and women who have been named finalists for the Catholic Charities USA 2011 National Volunteer of the Year Award.

“We are proud of this national recognition of Libba Claude for her selfless service and tireless contributions to the women at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility,” says Robert Siebel, Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.  “Through the years Mrs. Claude has kept children and their incarcerated mothers closely connected, despite the physical separation imposed by their circumstance. “

The 2011 award recipient will be announced during National Volunteer Week, April 11-15, and will be honored at Catholic Charities USA's Annual Gathering in September in Ft. Worth, Texas.

The finalists are: Libba Claude, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens;Theresa Meurs, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington; Donna Usedling, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Ft. Worth; Michael Schuette, Catholic Charities of Southern Illinois; Marion Slack, Catholic Social Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Nancy Zabawa, Catholic Commission of Summit County, Diocese of Cleveland; and Jody O’Connor, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Chicago.

Libba Claude, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens:

Libba Claude’s service to The Children’s Center began more than fifteen years ago, when she first volunteered as a driver for the Center’s visitation programs.  Traveling across the state, she brought children back and forth to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility so that they could enjoy visits with their mothers, who were often serving long sentences. 

Soon after she became a Children’s Advocate, acting as a liaison between an incarcerated mother and the various entities that impact her child , such as guardians, schools, hospitals, social workers, social service agencies and the family court system. 

In 2005, hoping to create a more normal environment for children to visit with their incarcerated mothers, Mrs. Claude tirelessly raised funds for a playground and garden to be constructed adjacent to the Facility’s Visiting Room. 

Thanks to Mrs. Claude’s dedication The Children’s Center “Patio” is a beautiful and welcoming site that hosts joyful reunions and sun-filled visits for mothers and their families.  The Patio includes a basketball court, jungle gym, bench swings and picnic tables.  “What a joyful, beautiful place we have created for our visiting children,” says Mrs. Claude.  “There is no greater thrill for me than to hear the peals of laughter and squeals of delight coming from the children as I work in the garden that surrounds the area.”

An effective fundraiser, Mrs. Claude gives generously of her time to support many of The Children’s Center’s other initiatives, including the annual Holiday Program, where incarcerated mothers are able to select new toys donated by the community, and present it to their children on Christmas day.  

Most recently, Mrs. Claude arranged for The Children’s Center to be the beneficiary of a new 15-seater passenger van to bring children back and forth from the Facility for visits.

Mrs. Claude believes her motivation to give to those in need was inherent. Born and raised in North Carolina, she remembers the dedicated commitment of her parents to their own local community.   Her father, a practicing lawyer and judge, accepted country ham and fresh vegetables from clients in lieu of payment and her mother supported the war effort by helping to roll bandages.   Mrs. Claude notes, “My parents continued in their charitable endeavors until old age stopped them.  When I was still quite young, I spent my meager Christmas savings making a basket for a needy family.  Outreach has always been a priority in my life.”

Mrs. Claude has accomplished a lifetime of good work by selflessly giving her time, talent and resources to a host of not-for-profits and boards throughout the area, including Northern Westchester Hospital, St. Matthew’s Church in Bedford, The East Side House Settlement and Henry Street Settlement. In 2006, Mrs. Claude received the Sarah Powell Huntington Leadership Award from the Women’s Prison Association. 

As evidenced by her ongoing and wholehearted commitment, Mrs. Claude’s heart, though, resides with the women incarcerated at Bedford Hills and their families.  “I know that I have found my ministry in my prison work,” says Libba. “Being ‘in the trenches’ with these women and their families has brought me enormous gratification and pleasure.   For that, I am thankful every day!”
For more information on CCUSA’s Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist, visit Catholic Charities USA.