Jan. 5—Father Nelson H. Baker signed the articles of incorporation for Catholic Charities in Buffalo in 1923.

And now, a century later, the organization thought it only fitting that he serve as the patron for this year's appeal.

"We usually have a saint," said Deacon Steve Schumer, president and CEO of Catholic Charities. "We figured, close enough."

Father Baker, the founder of Our Lady of Victory charities, is on the way to being declared a saint, after being elevated to venerable status in 2011. And he was among the organizers of Catholic Charities, gathering 16 institutions into one group in October, 1923.

Officials announced a goal of raising $9.5 million for the Appeal 2023 on Thursday at the kickoff for the annual drive at the Delaware Avenue headquarters.

And as the organization providing social services for Western New York kicks off its 99th appeal, it again turned to Baker, the "padre of the poor," to provide inspiration for the drive.

"Right now, in particular in Buffalo, there is no shortage of events that have generated need," Schumer said. "It seems we jump from one tragedy to another. Many of these things have very real impact on peoples lives."

"We see the effects of the current economy in our community and across the country," Bishop Michael W. Fisher said. "The cost of groceries, rent and utilities are climbing at concerning rates. Imagine the challenges for individuals and families who struggled to make ends meet before this time. Catholic Charities will be an avenue for relief for many people every day."

During its first year in operation, Catholic Charities served about 12,500 people. Last year, Catholic Charities' programs and services supported more than 134,000 people, families and children.

The goal of the first appeal was $262,116, and more than $325,000 was raised, said Adam Sumlin, this year's appeal chairman. While there were some large donors last year, 30,000 people made donations as the appeal topped its $9.5 million goal in June.

"Community support through the annual appeal is crucial. The funds raised ensure these programs and services can continue providing hope for those who may be especially struggling during these times to make ends meet, or who are facing challenges impacting their health and well-being," Sumlin said.

The annual appeal helps fund 57 programs and services administered by Catholic Charities across 80 locations.

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