On May 28, over 200 people gathered at St. James Parish Center in Arlington Heights to celebrate FCN's bi-annual thanksgiving dinner called "FCN Day." This varied collection of supporters included sponsors, donors, priests, women religious, youth, and friends of the Foundation. St. James parish, under the leadership of Fr. William Zavaski, has been an ardent supporter of the Foundation and its work since its inception, providing spiritual and financial support as well as housing and countless volunteers to assist in FCN's work. The evening was an opportunity to thank and recognize the community and particular individuals for their support. A delicious Indian meal was provided free of charge by Vishnu Vilas, in Schaumburg as well as live entertainment by the Nocchi Family Band.
Numerous speakers shared personal reflections about how their involvement in the work of the Foundation has impacted their lives.
Father William Zavaski of St. James Church, Arlington Heights and his congregation have been great supporters of FCN. In his opening speech he said, "Dr. Geetha and Tom are a great blessing for our community and their presence has a valuable impact on all of us. They are relentless workers who have dedicated their lives to serve the poor and needy. Through FCN we are able to reach out to the needy".
JoAnne Mullen-Muhr, Chairperson of FCN shared some reflections from her trip to India in January of 2008. She highlighted the fact that she and her daughter experienced exceptional hospitality from the people they met at each of the projects sponsored by FCN. She was deeply impressed with how efficiently the different projects were run and the impact the Foundation had on individuals’ lives. Among the projects she visited were schools, a home for the elderly, an embroidery training center, and a school for the hearing impaired. FCN not only addresses the daily needs of the individuals it cares for, but it also gives them hope for a better future. The chairperson identified joy and compassion as the hallmarks of the Foundation’s work with the poor. Quoting JoAnne from one of the Foundation’s brochures, “School children are learning, laughing and growing healthy. Elderly are smiling, enjoying companionship and living with dignity. College students are aspiring to professions once beyond their dreams.”
Dr. Geetha Yeruva co-founder said that her encounter with Blessed Mother Theresa inspired her to dedicate her life to the less fortunate. Dr. Geetha spends her time here inspiring and appealing for support. When in India her time is spent in providing medical services to the poor. She shared the story of Lilly who, with the support of FCN for the past six years, has completed bachelors in nursing with distinction. Lilly now assists with medical work of FCN.
Tom Chitta, co-founder and president, thanked everyone gathered for their support. He told the audience that the United States is a great country and is blessed in many ways.
Father Frank Cimmarusti, the first sponsor of FCN Shared the following. “My opportunity to visit the senior complex and the schools in Kadapa and the country side helped me see the respect given to the elderly and the safety and security they were able to have in their sunset years. I also saw the high regard for education and wonderful opportunities the children received in the area of education which would not have been without FCN in their lives. Of course meeting Narendra, my sponsored student was most special for both of us”.
Father Bob Hasenkamp, a priest from Kansas City traveled to attend FCN Day. In his own words, “I have known Tom and Geetha for some years now. They continue to be an inspiration to me by their commitment to the poor, so I am grateful for the opportunity to be with them this evening. In 2003 I traveled to India to see firsthand the work of FCN. We visited some of the people in the villages where Tom and Geetha work as well as the Health Center and Home for the Elderly. Needless to say, I was amazed to see how many children, college students and elderly as well as entire families are touched by the Foundation's work,. Dr. Geetha is an incredible woman who serves thousands of people in the outlying villages with love, compassion, and good humor. I presently sponsor two students in India. Jayanth, an engineering student and Suvarna, studying to be a teacher. I feel very blessed to be associated with FCN’s mission to the poor”.
Jim and Connie McDonough of Algonquin who are sponsors of FCN said, “It is our joy and privilege to be a sponsor for Mallika Annaluri. She has written us beautiful letters that tell us about her life and education and always of her appreciation for our sponsorship. Her letters are handwritten with pretty designs on the borders. We share her letters with many people. I greatly admire and appreciate the gentleness, sincerity and focused intention of Dr. Geetha and Tom. It is a reminder to us that we are all commissioned to be a gift to one another. For most of us it is costly to go to India but we can give our resources here to those people who are serving there, namely FCN”.
Roland and Sandy Ley one of the many sponsors said, “We have been sponsors for Shiva.for five years and he is now 17 years old and doing very well in high school, which is located away from his home. We are very proud of how well he is doing. We also have been buying buffalos $ 300 each for the home for the Aged each year so that the elderly there would have sufficient milk. We welcome you to join us in this special project”.
Then Roland and Sandy offered a little song for a toast that goes like this:
"I think that we ought to have a drink,
I think that we ought to have a drink,
I think that we ought to have a drink, for the benefit of Geetha and Tom,
For the benefit of Geetha and Tom,
For the benefit of Geetha and Tom,
I think that we ought to have a drink, for the benefit of
Geetha and Tom"
Sister Frances Cunningham, Mission Office Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Sister Madge Karecki, Mission Office Archdiocese of Chicago who have been of great support to FCN were guests of honor.
Sister Fran in her words: “I am happy for this opportunity to be with you. Sister Madge and I represent Mission Offices in the Archdiocese of Chicago and Milwaukee and one of the things we do best is to make it possible for missionaries like Tom and Geetha to tell their stories in parishes throughout our respective dioceses. Story telling of this nature is really mission education and it is an invitation to those who hear the story to become part of someone else’s life. Mission is about building and strengthening relationships. It is about advocating justice for those whose voices are not heard. Mission is about honoring the presence of God in the lives of others. Mission will always be about transformation of oneself as well as the structures of our society.
I have known Tom and Geetha for a long time. I know that they are committed to a vision of mission that includes both opportunities for people to have what they need and opportunities for transformation. In designing a program that focuses on sponsorship as a means of building relationships they have demonstrated their ability to draw upon the people like you who respond to others in a spirit of solidarity.
Each of us has something to give to others and something to receive from others. No one is so rich that she or he has nothing to receive and no one is so poor that she or he has nothing to give. (Pope John Paul II) Each of us is changed in the act of giving and receiving.
Thank you for the wonderful way in which you have shared hospitality tonight and in which you continue to support The Foundation for Children in Need”.
Sister Madge shared the following: “I am very pleased to be with you as together we celebrate and give thanks for the work of the Foundation for Children in Need.
Though I, myself, have not been to India I know the needs of people there because I spent 21 years working among the people of South Africa. So I am here, not to tell you of my experiences in India, but to encourage all of you who support the work of FCN.
We who are the Church have been called to share in the mission of Christ, to reveal the love of God for all people. Faith is not private, it is personal and it is meant to be shared. Think of the quality of the witness of FCN and share your blessings wherever you are!”.
Tom and Geetha honored Fr. Bill Zavaski, several priests, Sister Fran and Sister Madge who have been supporting the Foundation in Indian traditional way with a shawl.
The FCN Day was coordinated by Pat and Nancy Moroney and Brian and Mary Jo Reynolds and many volunteers.