By Melanie Sisinni

            ERIE — On Thursday, October 12, Gannon University’s Yehl Ballroom will be decorated and ready for guests to arrive at the Catholic Charities Helping Hands Gala. The yearly event honors members of the Diocese of Erie, whose contributions to the community go above and beyond the standard, and also serves as a significant fundraiser for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie.

         This year, the recognition is split into two categories: The Helping Hands of Service award and the Helping Hands of Justice award. 

            Erin Tubbs, executive director for Catholic Charities, said the choice to offer two awards this year will be explained during the gala, but this shift is motivated by a desire to recognize individuals who provide distinct forms of assistance.

         “With the restructure of Catholic Charities, we are refocused on charity and justice,” said Tubbs. “We’re giving out an award for folks to honor their service work, meeting those immediate needs. This year, we’re also giving out the Helping Hands of Justice Award to honor the work being done looking at long-term solutions and systemic changes that can improve situations and lessen the need for meeting those immediate needs.”

Dr. Warren and Christine Beaver, Helping Hands of
Service honorees.
Photo/Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie

         The Helping Hands of Service award nominees are Dr. Warren and Christine Beaver, long-time parishioners at Our Lady of Peace Church. The couple has been recognized for their unwavering dedication to their church and the community within the Diocese of Erie. Over the years, they have extended their helping hands to numerous individuals in the Diocese of Erie, particularly those affected by homelessness, poverty and illness. Their extensive involvement includes roles such as members of the Pre-Cana team, pre-baptism facilitators, leaders in various church programs, volunteers for community outreach initiatives and roles as Eucharistic ministers. Warren, a retired physician, has been an integral part of the Erie medical community since 1991. Christine, also retired, worked as a Licensed Social Worker at St. Vincent Health Center and Women’s Care Center/Adoption by Choice.

         The Beavers said, “We are quite honored and humbled for being chosen by the Catholic Charities Board for this event. Honestly, we are so thankful for our many blessings, and we feel called to be an active part of our Catholic Church in the Erie Diocese. We really don’t believe we do anything extraordinary; we are just living out our Catholic faith.”

         Tom Loftus, a devoted member of Holy Cross in Fairview, has been named this year’s Helping Hands of Justice honoree. Throughout his involvement with the church, Tom has served in various capacities as a pastoral council member, a lector, Eucharistic minister and chair of the Religious Education Board.

Tom Loftus, Helping Hands of Justice award honoree.
Photo/Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie

         With his late wife, Mary, Tom established an endowment through the Catholic Foundation to support Catholic Charities, aiming to address current and future challenges in the Erie Community. Furthermore, Gannon University annually hosts the Thomas J. and Mary H. Loftus Lecture on Catholic Thought and Action series, which brings prominent speakers to enrich the educational experience for Gannon students and the community.

         Funds raised through the Helping Hands Gala will go directly toward helping the many ministries sponsored by Catholic Charities.

         “It’s helpful to think of Catholic Charities as an umbrella,” said Tubbs. “Each of our Catholic Charities agencies is separate and distinct and they each serve different purposes. Together, the agencies are a network that form Catholic Charities, all carrying out the charitable work of the diocese.”

         Some of the agencies under Catholic Charities’ umbrella are the St. Elizabeth Center, offering a thrift shop, food pantry and other resources in Oil City, and the Good Samaritan Center, a homeless shelter for men in Clearfield. 

         Other agencies have been around for decades. Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services, for exmple, will celebrate 70 years of service this year, while the St. Martin Center recently celebrated 50 years. While the agencies are committed to meeting the immediate needs of the poor and impoverished, Catholic Charities also tries to help those in need become self-sufficient.

         “As we move forward, we’re trying to make a more concerted effort of not just helping people today but helping them so they can help themselves tomorrow,” said Tubbs. “What does it look like to be long-term planning with folks so that a year from now, they don’t necessarily need to be back at the food pantry every two weeks?”

         Tubbs said one of the roles that Catholic Charities plays for the network is fundraising, with the Helping Hands Gala being the largest fundraiser of the year for the charities it aids.

         Tina Espin, fundraising and development coordinator for Catholic Charities, describes the grant process for the agencies.

         “We distribute the funds from the gala twice a year through a granting process with our agencies,” said Espin. “We are fortunate to be able to help them with both capital needs and needs for direct services.”


         Tickets for the gala are currently for sale on the event website, where donations can also be made to Catholic Charities. In addition, bidding for the Helping Hands Gala silent action is currently open now through 6:30 pm on the day of the gala. Items up for auction include:

  • Dinner for six with Bishop Lawrence Persico in his residence.
  • Autographed T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers jersey
  • Autographed Sydney Crosby puck
  • Day passes to six different museums — three in Erie and three in Pittsburgh 

         The auction, ticket sales and more information about the event can be found here: Helping Hands Gala | Powered By GiveSmart