Catholic Charities Wants You to Skip the Lunch, Make the Donation (Andy Telli, Tennessee Register)

Posted 05/22/2015

Catholic Charities of Tennessee wants people not to come to their Pathways to Possibilities fundraising luncheon. They don't want them to worry about taking time out of work in the middle of the day and find parking.

But they do want people to make a donation as if they were attending a luncheon to support all the work Catholic Charities does to help people facing a wide variety of needs.

Catholic Charities is hosting a phantom luncheon. "We're treating it really as if we are having a luncheon and doing everything but having a luncheon," said Mark Barry, director of mission advancement for Catholic Charities.

Although the invitations sent to people asking them not to come to the luncheon are done tongue-in-cheek, Barry said, the message is quite serious. "Our needs are still there," he said. "The programs that have been benefitting from the contributions (from the previous two Pathways to Possibilities luncheons) are still in need."

The previous two years, Catholic Charities held an actual Pathways to Possibilities luncheon. More than 200 people attended each and both were successful, Barry said.

From the beginning, the fundraising effort has had two objectives, Barry said. "One is financial but there's very much a community education objective as well." The agency is trying to build financial support from donors by first educating them on all the ways Catholic Charities helps people in the community, he explained.

In recent years, Catholic Charities has improved its efforts to better connect with the community. "But there are still a lot of people who don't know who we are or know only one small aspect of what we do," Barry said.

"Once they know about it, they'll be more inclined to want to support it," Barry said.

In planning the first luncheon two years ago, the staff was brainstorming about what the message should be and what it is Catholic Charities does, Barry said. The answer was "we give people hope."

"When people come to us, they've often run out of possibilities. They come to us looking for help and they don't have any other solutions," Barry said. But because Catholic Charities has a more than 50-year history of serving the community, has a wide variety of programs to address different needs and knows about and has worked with so many other social service agencies in the area, the staff can refer people to the Catholic Charities program or another agency that can give them the help they need, he said.

Catholic Charities programs serve people from the womb to the end stages of life, Barry said. The programs include the North Nashville outreach, which provides emergency assistance; a job training center, the Family Empowerment program that works with Safe Haven Family Homeless Shelter to help homeless families; counseling programs; adoption programs; refugee services helping new arrivals to the United States find housing and employment; and senior programs for those living at home as well as the adult day care program.

"We often think of need in terms of economics, but there are so many other needs that people will come to us for," Barry said, whether it's a crisis pregnancy, refugees who need help acclimating to American culture, or a family that needs help caring for an elderly loved one during the day.

Funds from the Pathways to Possibilities fundraiser "supports a lot of what we do," Barry said.

Donors can designate how they want their contribution to be used, Barry said, but a majority of the funds raised are unrestricted. "Most of the money goes to ... wherever the greatest need is," Barry said. "So they are very important to us."

Not having to pay for an actual luncheon, means more of the money can go to helping the programs, Barry said.

The effort has several presenting sponsors, including the Knights of Columbus insurance agency, Copperweld Bimetallics, Taylor Pigue Marchetti and Blair law firm and Chris and Bubba Donnelly. Other sponsors include, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LBMC, Wirtgen America Group, Crowe Horwath, The Human Capital Group, U.S. Trust, Deloitte, Holladay Properties, Rogers Group and Nova Copy.

There are table captains now in the process of "filling their tables," Barry said. With a traditional luncheon, the table captains would be limited to eight or 10 people, he noted, but with a phantom luncheon, the captains are free to fill their tables with as many donors as they like.

Donors can visit Catholic Charities website,, to make a contribution to the Pathways to Possibilities campaign. They should click on the "Donate" tab and then scroll down to "Pathways to Possibilities."

If people want to make a credit card donation but can't do it online, they can contact Barry at (615) 760-1028 or

People can mail checks to Catholic Charities, 30 White Bridge Road, Nashville, TN 37205.

The campaign will be wrapped up in mid-June, Barry said.

The co-chairs for the phantom luncheon are Katherine Duck and Greg Mays and the Pathways to Possibilities Campaign co-chairs are Portia Wells and Ned Spitzer.


Making a difference since 1962. CATHOLIC CHARITIES

2806 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
Office: (615) 352-3087
Fax: (615) 352-8591

© 2018 Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc.