September 21, 2023
By Katie McFadden
Jesus, Mary and Joseph walk into an awards ceremony. That isn’t the start of a joke, but rather they will be among the honorees at this year’s Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Bishop’s Humanitarian Award Dinner on Thursday, September 28.
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) sponsors more than 160 programs dedicated to helping others in need, especially children, seniors, veterans, individuals with developmental disabilities and more, but this year, they’re recognizing some members who have gone above and beyond in their service. Next Thursday at Cipriani Wall Street, Rockaway’s Jesus Linares and Mary Whelan will be among five honorees being recognized for all the hard work and dedication they’ve put into aiding the nonprofit’s mission. They join Joseph J. Lynch, Partner at Nixon Peabody, and John Rafferty, CEO of WATCH GUARD 24/7, and William R. Guarinello, former President and CEO of HeartShare Human Services of New York.Mary Whelan, a Rockaway resident for more than 31 years, started working with Catholic Charities more than 10 years ago. She serves as CCBQ’s facilities manager, handling the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit’s headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn. However, it is the work she did over the last few years during the Covid crisis that Whelan believes is the reason why she’ll be receiving the Ubi Caritas Award next Thursday.
“What I think spearheaded them in choosing me was during the Covid crisis because I couldn’t just sit home. We were delivering food to all of the parishes in Brooklyn and Queens. Kids came in and we packed up food and served 52 parishes. In total, throughout the pandemic, we offered $7.5 million in food assistance. I made a few phone calls, and we went from 100 bags of food to 2,000 each week during the Covid crisis,” Whelan said.
Jesus of Nazareth will be receiving the Bishop’s Humanitarian Award. Jesus Linares, an alum of Nazareth High School and a Rockaway resident for more than 20 years, will be recognized for his efforts to help CCBQ with services provided by his moving company, BRS Business Relocation Services. Linares has been in the moving business for more than 37 years. He started helping Catholic Charities about six years ago after speaking with Mary Whelan, who said they could use his help. Soon after, Linares became a board member.
Working with CCBQ, Linares says over the years, he’s been able to acquire furniture for the nonprofit that offers housing services to those in need, among other charitable work. “I do a lot of work at AT&T and they had been downsizing and relocating and part of that is liquidation, and they wanted to get rid of office furniture, so I called Mary and said, ‘rather than throw it out, do you want it?’ I arranged with CCBQ and got them a bunch of furniture and it was free, which they really appreciated, and I was able to offer delivery services for free. It was a lot of furniture, I’m talking 15 truck loads over the last two years.”
Both Whelan and Linares say their inclination to help others comes from the way they were raised. “It’s an honor to be recognized, although I don’t like to be recognized in this way because I’m pretty shy. I do these things without anyone knowing just because I want to, and I like helping the community,” Whelan said. “I attribute my upbringing to the reason why I enjoy helping people. I grew up with Irish immigrant parents, a family of five kids and when somebody needed help, my mom would always help or would recruit my dad or the kids. If a neighbor needed gardening done, we were all there. If someone needed food, my mother would make extra dinners. She was the one providing turkeys for others during Thanksgiving. And my dad has a soft heart for helping widows with kids and senior citizens. My parents came from nothing, so they knew what it was like to need help.”
Linares says to him, the Bishop’s Humanitarian Award he will receive on Thursday, is really for his parents. “It feels good, but it’s not about me. It’s my parents. They deserve this honor. They had the gall to leave Cuba as Castro took over and came here in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s. A lot of this has to do with my mother and father’s belief in God and constantly going to church. I think my mother holds the record for the most rosaries owned by a person. We were always at church. My father died after Hurricane Sandy, he lived to 90 and my mom lived to 93, and I think it was their belief in God and doing the right things that got them through,” Linares said.
Both Linares and Whelan will be joined by tables of family and friends at the dinner, including others from Rockaway. The event takes place at Cipriani Wall Street (55 Wall Street in Manhattan) on Thursday, September 28. A cocktail hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with the reception starting at 7 p.m. The event will be emceed by comedian, actor, and musician Joe Piscopo. Tickets can still be purchased and come at a high price tag, but the dinner serves as a fundraiser to help CCBQ continue to provide the services it does for children and seniors. For tickets or to make donations towards CCBQ, head to www.ccbq.org or call 718-722-6202
“Catholic Charities has a big reach, and they do a lot of good work for people and being a part of them has been good for me. This is going to be a good event and all funds raised will go toward our programs. We don’t take one penny from that,” Whelan said. “It goes back to the community, especially to senior citizens and children.”