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LAKE CHARLES – Two very special individuals, Debbie Warshaw and Annie Hachtel, were honored as individuals who gave of themselves for the betterment of those in need at the annual Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana Jazz Brunch, held at the Lake Charles Country Club.

The Caritas Award, which is given to someone who exemplifies a life of selfless giving, was awarded posthumously to Debbie Warshaw, a member of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church whose generosity of spirit, time, talent and treasure exemplified what stewardship as a disciple of Christ is meant to look like. She went about assisting Catholic Charities with her humble, kind and cheerful manner and brought others along to join her. Others were drawn into the mission of Christ because of her enthusiasm, good nature and Christ-like magnetism. She died last December on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe after a valiant battle against cancer.
   The award is given to one who leaves us a legacy of love. The word “caritas” is a Latin word meaning “love” – a love beyond self, beyond family, beyond friends, beyond country. It is a compassion for all humanity, a commitment to the well-being of others.
(Photo at left: Debbie Warshaw received posthumously the Caritas Award, represented by a large framed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Annie Hachtel was honored with the St. Peter Claver Award at this year’s Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana Jazz Brunch. Presenting the awards was Sr. Mary Vianney Walsh, R.S.M, director of Catholic Charities. Pictured above are members of the Warshaw family as well as Annie and her parents along with Sr. Mary Vianney. Pictured are Jennifer Dees, Allyson Barbry, Jamie Warshaw, Joseph, Dees, Christopher Warshaw,  and Michael Warshaw. On the right side of the Our Lady of Guadalupe image are Annie (holding her award plaque), Sr. Mary Vianney, and Annie's parents Candace and Rudy Hachtel.)

Nine-year old Hatchel, who was honored with the St. Peter Claver Award which is given to an individual who demonstrates particular concern for the poor, took it upon herself to collect blankets for the poor and homeless of the community last winter. Her initiative caught on among neighbors and friends. She surprised Sr. Mary Vianney Walsh, RSM, Director of Catholic Charities, with a huge box filled with warm blankets right at a time they were most needed.
Always looking for another way to serve, Annie raised $708 at her Haiti table the day of brunch by offering her paintings, vases, and artwork for sale. The money will pay one year's tuition for five students attending a school in Begin, Haiti, sponsored by her uncle Phillip Conner. He got involved with the school, St. Matthew’s, several years ago along with a number of others. They traveled there perhaps a year ago to see the facility, meet with the staff,  and develop a plan to go forwarded. A fundraiser was held last November and that is when Annie got involved.
Sr. Mary Vianney Walsh, R.S.M., the director of Catholic Charities, gave her annual report to the overflowing crowd of supporters and introduced the award winners.
During the year 2014, Catholic Charities provide rental and mortgage assistance through the homeless prevention program of $132,667; utility assistance of $38,237; $15,842 through the Beat the Heat air conditioning program; distributed 3,461 boxes of food; gave $12,170 for funerals; provided prescription assistance of $6,864 and helped with employment and identification expenses with $9,230.
The “Beat the Heat” program is done in conjunction with the Vernon W. Joseph Assembly #22 Fourth Degree Knights of Peter Claver and Stine Lumber.
   In her comments, Sr. Mary Vianney said, “The contributions of food and money made by you have allowed us to offer rice, beans, meat, poultry, fresh vegetable, and fruit. The money helped in stopping light and water shut offs, provided rent money to those families who have been homeless, funeral assistance to those without the means to bury their loved ones, medications for those who are choosing to not take their medications so they can eat, air conditioners for seniors and those disabled, and gasoline those who might to get to work.
“Your contributions as volunteers has  offered the hands, face, and heart of Christ to those experiencing hard times due to loss of work, those becoming the responsible parents to their grandchildren,  those who have lost children due to drugs and lifestyle.” she continued. “You have helped those with physical and emotional limitations and those who are dissipated from alcohol and drug abuse.”
She also noted what was revealed during the year to the staff of Catholic Charities.
“There has been an increase need for food as food stamps have been decreased to the families,” she said. “Seniors are particularly vulnerable. A study done showed that many over 70 caring  and supporting children and grandparents are having to choose between medications and food.
   “More families are homeless because it is difficult to find shelters and government grants  on which we depend have become more demanding regarding criteria for qualifying,” she continued. “We understand the reality that as a Catholic organization we may at sometime not qualify for grant money because of our beliefs. We need to extend all our Catholic Charities Services to the entire diocese, but have difficulty due limitations of grants.”
Some of these grants won’t allow providing help outside the corporate limits of the City of Lake Charles or can only be used within Calcasieu Parish, Sr. Mary Vianney noted.
“This has been a challenge but w applied for a grant this year for just this need and are awaiting word. We need more reliable and consistent resources but the question, as we embrace the teachings of the Catholic Faith, is will we be able to receive government grants at all because of the beliefs of our Faith.”
She also pointed out that many more volunteers came to Catholic Charities last year, including families; youth groups; student groups; ACTS groups, Knights of Columbus; Knights of St. Peter Claver; and those just retiring or retired.
Pre-brunch entertainment was provided by Grammy nominated local saxophonist Mickie Smith. Bishop Glen John Provost played several piano numbers (including old favorites “As Time Goes By” and “April in Paris” for those assembled and Carl Broussard, his wife, Julie, and Terry and Carl Broussard provided post-brunch entertainment in the form of a medley of songs from the 1970s.

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