During the relentless coronavirus pandemic, those already facing tough times financially, emotionally and spiritually only saw their struggles intensified.
With the 20th annual event not permitted to be held in-person at the historic Union League Club in Chicago, event organizers got creative.
On Jan. 30, sponsors and donors stepped up, logged on to their devices, raised a glass and participated virtually, still managing to surpass the giving goal of $110,000. While participants may have lacked the close camaraderie of an in-person event, they still raised more than $113,000, said Evangelina Sage, special events manager for Catholic Charities.
“Our donors rallied up and gave us full support and the numbers show it,” Sage said. “Catholic Charities is certainly grateful for their loyalty and support. Certainly, with Covid, we did very well. The loyalty of our donors is exceptional. It is beyond words.”
Funds raised support the self-sufficiency program which provides housing and related services to homeless families. It assists parents in obtaining and retaining secure employment, preventing or interrupting the generational poverty cycle.
Linda Bock, a 30-year-old single mother of two, is one of the program’s success stories. Via a pre-recorded testimonial, Bock shared her story of moving to Illinois from Missouri in 2017 “with just some bags of clothes.”
“I am beyond grateful for this program,” she said. “It has led me through a dark tunnel that I didn’t ever see coming out of. Without this program I would have kept trying and failing … Every time I took two steps forward I got pushed back 10 steps.”
Caseworkers guided Bock through the complexities of building a new life, budgeting, securing childcare so she could work, enrolling her in college courses, preparing a resume and prepping her for job interviews. The charity helped pay for Christmas dinner and gifts for her children, and even set up her and her children with counseling to manage anxiety and depression.
That support continues today with regular check-ins from caseworkers and additional assistance and counseling provided to deal with the unprecedented stresses of the pandemic.
Bock said she returns the kindness by giving back to others in the program. She owes the program “for everything,” she said.
The virtual event, which attracted more than 100 guests, also included presentations by actor and vintner Kyle MacLachlan and co-chairs Joe Glunz, Jr., chief executive officer of Louis Glunz Wines, and Erin Reardon, executive vice president from First Bank.
Joe Glunz Jr., whose family began their wine business in Chicago 130 years ago, said his father Joe Glunz Sr. founded the d’Vine Affair.
The family typically donates wines to the gala from 50 to 100 wineries from all over the world. This year those who participated in the benefit picked up their wines and brought them home to enjoy during the virtual event.
The Glunz family did well financially and Joe Glunz Sr. always believed in giving back and supporting Catholic Charities, Glunz Jr. said.
“We have always been given opportunities and blessings that have worked out well for us and we need to give back as much as we are blessed with,” Glunz Jr. said.
Father Wayne Watts said though Covid made the event challenging, it was successful and he is “grateful” for all involved.
“There is a ton of need with the pandemic,” Watts said. “People losing their jobs… the d’Vine Affair funds our family self-sufficiency programs. These people are just coming out of a hole then get the setback of a pandemic. They need our help more than ever. Catholic Charites is there to help all the time no matter their race, no matter their creed… The needs of the people continue to grow. Whether it is single moms or families… we meet them where they are and we move them from the point of despair to self-sufficiency. That is the goal.”
View the recording from the event.
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Amanda Marrazzo lives in the far northwest Chicago suburb of Algonquin. She has been a news reporter for 25 years, including 17 years writing for the Chicago Tribune. She is married with two adult daughters and two dogs.