Sun Shine: Church’s intervention divine for dozens of area students

Contemporary American life is filled with stuff to do, which makes it very difficult for many folks to carve out precious time in order to voluntarily help a worthy cause. Sometimes, it takes a little “incentive.”

In Robert Pape’s case, it was a pizza.

Specifically, a garlic pizza … from the first incarnation of Wonder Bar on Shrewsbury Street.

“I’m originally from Albany (New York) and I’m of Italian descent, so I’ve had my share of pizza,” said Pape. “But that garlic pizza was something else.”

Pape didn’t say whether he enjoyed the spicy pie, but the three men who shared the meal with him on that day in 1989 on the city’s East Side convinced him to volunteer in a new program that would allow children from financially strapped families to attend schools run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of  Worcester.

Grace Clark, a freshman at Assumption, is among the many area students who benefit from the Worcester Diocese scholarship program.

Courtesy Assumption College / Be Like Brit

Grace Clark, a freshman at Assumption, is among the many area students who benefit from the Worcester Diocese scholarship program.

The students were to be given almost full scholarships or extremely discounted tuition rates.

That year, the fledgling endeavor allowed seven or eight kids to take classes in Catholic schools. Since its founding, the program has slowly grown.

Sun Shine: A daughter of Vernon Hill, St. Vincent

Jully Khattar is a confident, accomplished woman.

Jully, with her dog Trixie LuLu, a Havanese

Courtesy Jully Khattar

Jully, with her dog Trixie LuLu, a Havanese

She has her real estate broker’s license, a solid job, and is known as a prolific advocate and fundraiser for agencies who serve families dealing with chronically debilitating maladies. She has a long-time girlfriend and lives in a relatively peaceful and leafy corner of the city.

An award-winning volunteer and community leader with a dog named Trixie LuLu, indeed, she would seem the picture of serenity.

Except, creeping up on her 30th birthday, Jully still lives with her parents, is relegated to the first floor and needs help to walk. Oh, and she missed last summer.

Like most stories, you have to start at the beginning.

Sun Shine: Charlene’s cause

For Charlene Sangenario Dumais, it was her life’s passion to nurture the abandoned, mistreated and homeless animals that she encountered volunteering at a local animal shelter and working as a surgical veterinary technician at VCA Northboro Animal Hospital.

It was because of this love of animals and her tireless effort toward their well-being that Charlene’s family, friends, and coworkers started the nonprofit organization Paws for the Cause after Charlene’s diagnosis of breast cancer.

Charlene Dumais, right, with Paws for the Cause director Melissa Dudley.

Courtesy Paws for the Cause

Charlene Dumais, right, with Paws for the Cause director Melissa Dudley.

“Charlene was a really great person and everyone loved her,” said Denise Sangenario McNeil, Charlene’s sister and a dental hygienist from Worcester.

“She really knew how to make a person feel welcome. She loved working with animals and loved what she did. She definitely was able to tap into people’s hearts.”

Instrument Giving Ceremony

Sun Shine: Outreach program strikes inspiring chord in Main South

There is no dispute that Main South has seen better economic times.

But even when the gritty neighborhood was riding the crest of the city’s golden industrial age, there was little chance that passersby might be soothed by the sounds of classic chamber music wafting from the teeming tenement houses and the three-deckers that served as home to the working class.

Chamber music, after all, was for the snooty — the folks who lived on Salisbury Street.

Time, of course, can change things.

Neighborhood Strings

Mark Henderson / Worcester Sun

The Neighborhood Strings Teen Group performs at the Instrument Giving Ceremony last Friday night at Straight Up Cafe on Main Street.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, over the past couple of years, chamber music has unexpectedly made a tiny footprint in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood, and, curiously, its ardent aficionados are a small group of kids.

Sun Shine: ‘Why Me’ family gives back

After they lost their young daughter to cancer 15 years ago, the Capaldi family of Auburn showed their appreciation for Why Me with a fundraising event.

They’ve kept it going every year.

The 13th annual Bella’s Ball, named after 15-month-old Isabella Rose Capaldi, will be held Feb. 13 at The Manor restaurant in West Boylston.

The Capaldis are among many who have benefited from the caring and comforts of home offered by Why Me in Worcester and its Sherry’s House, a temporary residence for families affected by childhood cancer. Bella’s Ball is just one example of the nonprofit’s impact.

Isabella Rose died 15 years ago, but she's been helping other children with cancer in the Worcester area for the past 13 years.

Courtesy Why Me

Isabella Rose died 15 years ago, but she’s been helping other children with cancer in the Worcester area for the past 13 years.

“Why Me provides emotional and financial support to families with children with cancer. It means a great deal to us,” Isabella’s father, Ralph Capaldi, said. “For us, every step of the way, they knew what to say, when to say it, and why to say it.”

Best of the Sun … so far

However much time you’ve spent along for the ride — our membership does indeed continue to grow! — we sincerely thank you, and hope you enjoy this review of our top journalism and storytelling.

Sun Shine: Project New Hope unrelenting in support of veterans in need

For the past five years, Project New Hope on James Street has been helping military veterans throughout New England reacclimate to civilian life, offering free weekend-long retreats focusing on mental and physical issues affecting veterans, and providing support and assistance to nearly 500 veterans’ families and their loved ones.

Project New Hope’s President and CEO William Moore, a disabled Air Force veteran, founded the organization in 2010 and has helped hundreds of veterans and their families facing issues of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, military sexual trauma, drug and alcohol abuse and more.

Bill Moore shakes hands with Patriots owner Bob Kraft during a Gillette Stadium ceremony honoring Project New Hope and nonprofits like it.

Courtesy New England Patriots

Bill Moore shakes hands with Patriots owner Bob Kraft during a Gillette Stadium ceremony honoring Project New Hope and nonprofits like it.

The New England Patriots recognized Moore and Project New Hope Sunday, Dec. 20, as a Patriots Difference Maker of the Week, a weekly recognition of charitable organizations throughout New England.

Sun Shine: Compassion, help at any hour from Pathways for Change

In a small office on Main Street, trained counselors are answering calls around the clock from victims of sexual violence.

The free 24/7 hotline managed by Pathways for Change, a nonprofit focused on addressing the impact of sexual assault and abuse, has counselors working the phones every day to provide support to victims of sexual violence.

pathwayslogoAccording to the organization’s counseling director, Heidi Sue LeBoeuf, who oversees the hotline services, Pathways receives upwards of 1,000 calls per year, and the hotline itself is what sparked the beginning of Pathways for Change.

“The very first thing that came out of this agency was the hotline. It was the hotline first, and then the agency built up around it,” LeBoeuf said.

Founded in March 1973, Pathways for Change was one of the first rape crisis centers to open in Massachusetts. It serves 47 cities and towns in Worcester County.

Sun Shine: Much-needed help on the menu at Community Servings

The holiday season is in full swing and for many people it marks the time of year to help the sick and less fortunate.

In Worcester, one organization is helping individuals with chronic illnesses and their families get the food and nutrition they need all year round.

Last month alone, Community Servings delivered more than 5,000 meals throughout Worcester to 55 residents and their 31 dependents and caregivers.

Community Servings volunteers work on food preparation. Volunteers are also needed for delivering meals to homebound individuals.

Courtesy Community Servings

Community Servings volunteers work on food preparation. Volunteers are also needed for delivering meals to homebound individuals.

The recipients of these meals suffer from HIV/AIDS, cancer, renal illness, diabetes, and a wide range of other severe ailments and illnesses. all of which keep them bound to their homes.

Sun Shine: Charity begets charity at Sweetpea animal shelter

Following a devastating fire at Sweetpea For Animals animal shelter and boarding kennel last Sunday night that took the lives of nearly 50 cats and dogs, thousands of people from the Worcester area and from various parts of Massachusetts, the nation and the world have rallied around the Paxton shelter to offer support.

As of Saturday morning, more than $123,000 had been donated by nearly 3,000 people on Sweetpea’s GoFundMe page. Donations range anywhere from $10 to $1,000 and the organization is well over halfway to their goal of $200,000.

Not only locally, but nationally, folks have rallied around the Sweetpea animal shelter following a Nov. 21 fire.

Courtesy Sweetpea Animal Shelter & Boarding Kennel

Not only locally, but nationally, folks have rallied around the Sweetpea animal shelter following a Nov. 21 fire.

All but $5,000 of the donations have come in after the Nov. 22 fire. The GoFundMe page was set up in February.

The nonprofit shelter was founded in 2000 and is run by president Dick Clark of Rutland, a retired animal control officer and Worcester Voke grad; and Clark’s daughter and Sweetpea’s shelter manager, Melanie Kenadek of Warren, a Worcester State alum.