Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (from left), Ed White, executive director of the National Grid Foundation and Vincent Colonno, executive officer for Catholic Charities with the grant check for $125,000. (Catholic Charities photo)
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (from left), Ed White, executive director of the National Grid Foundation and Vincent Colonno, executive officer for Catholic Charities with the grant check for $125,000. (Catholic Charities photo)

Erica Wright was simply overcome with emotion that she couldn’t speak.


All this from a simple act of charity. 


Wright, who received energy assistance last year through the Catholic Charities Emergency Energy Assistance Fund (EEAF), was at the Pastoral Center in Albany on Thursday, Jan. 9, to talk about how the National Grid Foundation and Catholic Charities had affected her life on the day a record $125,000 grant was announced.


Katie Powers, who works as a case manager/program assistant at CoNSERNS-U in Rensselaer, jumped in to talk about Wright, who had a job with the state until health problems forced her to go on disability, making it difficult to pay her bills.


“I had the pleasure to work with Erica at CoNSERNS-U with her heating costs … for her National Grid bill,” Powers said. “She was working for the state doing great in her life; a young woman, vivacious. Unfortunately, these health conditions have made it so she has lots of doctors’ appointments, lots of co-pays, lots of bills.”


“We were able to help with the payment and get her light switched to her new apartment, so she could live on her own. … She is so inspirational. If you knew how hard this young woman worked, you would be amazed.”


Ed White, the executive director of the National Grid Foundation who presented the check to Catholic Charities, was equally impressed by Wright, saying, “Erica, you did a fabulous job.”


“On behalf of the board of directors and everything you do, I want to thank you all,” added White, speaking directly to the staff of Catholic Charities in attendance. “If not for the work that you do, our work wouldn’t go nearly as far. We recognize that it’s hard. We recognize that there aren’t unlimited resources; it’s difficult to make those tough choices. … Thank you on behalf of everyone. And Erica, keep working hard.”


This is the 12th year the Foundation has provided a significant grant to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany to help people such as Wright and families in need of energy assistance. 


“It’s easy for us who are able to meet our expenses to take the heat for granted; the very ordinary things,” said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger. “It’s hard at times for us to really put ourselves in the shoes of those that really are challenged to make decisions that make a difference between paying for a heat bill and being able to get to work or even feed their families


“Not only does (the grant) help individuals … but it actually helps families. I don’t know how to express how grateful I am that this partnership has continued for 12 years.”


Vincent Colonno, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, said he expects the grant to help 1,500 people and over 600 households that need energy assistance in the 14 counties served by Catho¬≠lic Charities and the Diocese. 


“There is no question there is always a need for emergency energy assistance. I don’t have to tell you how cold it is out there today,” said Colonno on the cold and blustery day. “And just imagine yourself with no heat and then you have to now figure out, ‘What am I going to do? Is it the food, my medicine, what do we do?’ Some hard decisions need to be made and the small setback really causes some problems for the family.”


Colonno added he wants the community to see the grant as a challenge. 


“Help us to contribute to the Emergency Energy Assistance Fund,” he said. “And by doing that in addition to what we have in the foundation, it allows us to serve more people and expand our services.”