Ralph W. Emerson, Jr. – “Buddy,” as everyone knows him – hasn’t been able to relax much since he retired in March as senior vice president of M&T Bank. One of the best-known businessmen in Baltimore, his endless graciousness and kindness help make him a prime target for boards, events and more. For his deep and enduring personal commitment to the greater good, Catholic Charities will honor him with its Distinguished Service Award at “A Movement to Love: An Evening With Catholic Charities” Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Emerson began attending some Catholic Charities events more than 30 years ago, and his involvement grew into a family affair and a long-term labor of love.
“The personal involvement on my part became a family one very quickly, and has left an indelible imprint on us, our thoughts on giving, on the importance of community and the beauty of what can be done when people come together,” Emerson said.
One of the Emersons’ first service events as a family was picnic for a Head Start of Baltimore City school. Emerson’s wife, Susan, helped find the park location. Their young children, Troy and Shannon, volunteered to help. Decades later, the Emersons still serve Catholic Charities’ Head Start of Baltimore City programs, personally donating and helping coordinate M&T Bank’s participation in the annual Christmas store for Head Start families.
A few years ago, son Troy put together an outdoor gas grill for the men of Christopher Place Employment Academy, an intensive residential program at Our Daily Bread Employment Center that helps men transition from homelessness, addiction and incarceration to a life of self-sufficiency. Troy spent much of the day talking with the men, and then had a cookout with them and his mom. When it was over, the Emersons gave the men the grill as a gift.
“To this day, Troy says it was one of the most impactful days of his life,” the elder Emerson said. When he chaired Leadership Maryland, he brought the class to visit with the Christopher Place men.
Emerson’s impact on Catholic Charities is arguably much bigger. He helped establish its celebrated biennial Dragon Boat Races in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and was still cheering on the M&T Bank team when it finally won the championship in 2018. He took the lead on studying how Catholic Charities might work with the Cherry Hill community to make its struggling town center a vibrant, useful space that is now coming into an exciting new collaborative chapter. He made significant commitments of time and energy to helping raise funds for programs and capital.
Additionally, he has served on the Board of Trustees for more than a decade, including roles on its Executive, Finance, and Development Committees.
“Catholic Charities, its incredible employees and its magnificent mission helped me to grow,” Emerson said. “I have always believed you learn so much more when you are participating in community not-for-profit activities where you have to develop communication, persuasion, collaboration, and true understanding of what defeat or loss can really look like.”
Along with Emerson, two others will be recognized for their outstanding contributions to the community in living Catholic Charities’ mission.
Sr. Helen Amos, RSM, will receive the Msgr. Arthur F. Valenzano Joyful Servant Award. Sr. Helen is the executive chair of the Mercy Health Services Board of Trustees. She has spent nearly a decade working tirelessly on The Journey Home, a plan to end homelessness in Baltimore. She chairs the city’s Leadership Advisory Group dedicated that cause. Commissioned to recognize a joyful life and spirit in service, the award honors the spirit of the late rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who served on the Catholic Charities Board of Trustees until his passing in 2015.
Eighteen-year-old Lauren Cole will be honored with the Anne Lindsey Otenasek Youth Service Award. Four years ago, she and a few friends began donating treats to My Sister’s Place Women’s Center. Moved to compassion for women recovering from addiction, she has brought her homemade baked goods and hand-crafted menus every week to the Narcotics Anonymous group at the center. The award is in memory of another teen and longtime Catholic Charities volunteer who was lost in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Along with celebrating clients’ successes, “A Movement to Love: An Evening with Catholic Charities” will also recognize five Catholic Charities employees who exemplify the organization’s mission and commitments to dignity, compassion, humility, collaboration, excellence and integrity in an outstanding way.
Tickets, which include heavy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, dessert, and parking, are available at catholiccharities-md.org/annualcelebration.