GTA Catholics mobilize to assist 225,000 people in need

-Donor offers $500,000 to inspire generosity at home-

TORONTO, Feb. 26 /CNW/ - Catholics in the Greater Toronto Area are turning their attention from Haiti to home with the launch of the $12 million annual ShareLife parish fundraising campaign, helping ShareLife agencies assist more than 225,000 people in need in our area.

The Archdiocese of Toronto has launched its annual charitable appeal, ShareLife, in its 224 parishes. The annual fundraising campaign, conducted from February to July, supports more than 40 Catholic agencies in the area - primarily social service agencies - through annual allocations and one-time grants. This campaign follows on the heels of a successful disaster relief appeal that raised nearly $4 million for the people of Haiti.

"Parish and schools across the Archdiocese of Toronto were incredibly generous in their support of Haitian earthquake victims - we're sincerely grateful for their efforts. Now, we're asking people to turn their attention to our own communities," said Michael McBride, volunteer chair of the ShareLife campaign. "Sadly, we see tragic circumstances and lives torn apart each day here at home. While they may not garner the same attention as natural disasters, we need to address the pain and suffering that is present in our neighbourhoods. The pressure on our agencies is greater than ever, with more than $800,000 in unmet needs identified this year."

ShareLife social services agencies, such as Good Shepherd Centre, Covenant House, Street Haven at the Crossroads, and the Catholic Family Services network, offer counselling and support to more than 225,000 people throughout the Greater Toronto Area, regardless of their background or beliefs. Last year, the ShareLife parish campaign raised $11.4 million and the overall campaign (including corporate, school and parish contributions) reached $13.7 million. The overall goal for the 2010 campaign is $14.15 million.

"Our goal is ambitious but we are committed to helping address the practical needs of some of the most vulnerable, troubled and marginalized people in our midst," said Arthur Peters, executive director of ShareLife. "This is a tangible opportunity for the Catholic community to make an impact that can change lives forever."

Matching gift challenge offers additional incentive

Helping the 2010 ShareLife campaign toward its goal, an anonymous parishioner has stepped forward with a gift challenge. Through the ShareLife Community Challenge, all new and increased gifts to the campaign will be matched, up to a total of $500,000.

"Donors are more familiar with gift matching programs following the intense publicity around the federal government's matching commitment for Haitian relief. We're extremely grateful to build on that awareness for our own campaign this year," said Peters. "We hope our supporters will recognize the opportunity the ShareLife Community Challenge provides to increase the impact of their contributions, maximizing support for the critical work of our agencies."

Contributions from people who did not donate to the campaign in 2009 will be matched dollar-for-dollar. And, for donors who contributed last year, the amount of any increase over their 2009 gift will be matched. The ShareLife Community Challenge applies to all gifts made to ShareLife, through its parish, school and corporate campaigns, up to July 31, 2010.

ShareLife, the charitable annual appeal of the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, raises and allocates funds to support care and outreach to those in need in our communities and around the world through a network of Catholic agencies. The Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada's largest diocese, is home to 1.9 million Catholics and 224 parishes, stretching from Toronto to Georgian Bay and from Mississauga to Oshawa.

SOURCE SHARELIFE

For further information: For further information: Bill Steinburg, communications manager, ShareLife, Tel: (416) 934-3411, ext. 558, cell: (416) 708-9655, bills@archtoronto.org

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