Recognizing 14 Incredible Volunteers with Caritas! Honors

by Foster Dennin | April 10, 2024

Volunteers are the heart of Catholic Charities, providing essential support, expertise and talents as the agency serves those facing challenging circumstances. In fiscal year 2023, 3,640 volunteers contributed more than 75,000 hours of service, demonstrating their unwavering dedication and commitment to helping those in need.

Fourteen exemplary volunteers were honored on April 10, 2024, at a Caritas! ceremony at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Each of these exceptional volunteers brings unique skills, experiences and talents to their support of Catholic Charities.

“It’s wonderful to celebrate these wonderful people whose actions speak louder than words. They spend their time and give their gifts and talents to people who’ve asked Catholic Charities for help. These volunteers bring hope. They contribute to our culture of caring. We are grateful for them and hope they will tell all their friends to come volunteer, too,” said Maggie O’Neill, director of Catholic Charities Volunteer Engagement Office.

The honorees were:

Dr. Michael Barna

Dr. Michael Barna, who received the Msgr. Geno Baroni Award for Advocacy. Dr. Barna serves in the Volunteer Medical Clinic and is passionate about providing superior medical services to as many people as possible. He creates protocols and research resources for patients to maintain best practices. He shares his knowledge with his fellow clinicians and his student interpreters to better serve the Latino community. Dr. Barna gives total attention to the patient in front of him and fosters an environment of caring. As a Catholic physician, he upholds the dignity of every human life and embodies Catholic moral teaching and ethics.

Ines Campusano, who was nominated by the agency for the Catholic Charities USA Volunteer of the Year Award. Campusano has volunteered at Catholic Charities for 15 years, assisting volunteer efforts, the food pantry and food distributions at the Spanish Catholic Center in Northwest D.C. At age 95, Campusano is a dedicated, passionate and joyful volunteer. She helps coordinate volunteers and assists in mentoring new volunteers. Campusano supports the dignity of each person and plays a critical role in reaching the community in which she serves. 

Josh Magnus, John Small, Bill McDermott, Mylene Mendoza, Mary Leibolt, Charlotte Birch and Adam Trzeciak

Charlotte Birch, Mary Leibolt, Josh Magnus, Mary McCormick, Bill McDermott, Mylene Mendoza, John Small and Adam Trzeciak, all received the Father John O’Connor Award for Empowerment. The volunteers nominated for this award stand out for their tireless support of fighting food insecurity. Montgomery County Family Center and have worked to implement new practices and technology, as well as assist Catholic Charities staff in engaging more volunteers. This group contributes to the culture of caring and is integral to the management of the food pantry and distributions at the agency’s location in Silver Spring.

Individual program divisions also named honorees. They were:

Maria Mercedes Aguila

Maria Mercedes Aguila, who received the Newcomer Network Volunteer of the Year Award. Aguila volunteers for the Immigration Legal Services team and provides efficient administrative support along with completing translations for clients. Through her assistance, the Immigration Legal Services team has been able to provide free translations of client documents for immigration cases. Aguila’s professional work ethic has been invaluable to the team, creating an efficient environment that strengthens the staff’s ability to provide quality legal services to clients.

Mary Ellen Hrutka

Mary Ellen Hrutka received the Family, Parish and Community Outreach Department Volunteer of the Year Award. Hrutka is an advocate for those facing economic hardship and is an important asset to the Financial Stability Network and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. She is out in the community working to help people access the services they need and connects clients to various other Catholic Charities services such as the Welcome Home Reentry Program, Compass and the Trafficking Victims Assistance Program. Her work with those experiencing houselessness stands as a testament to her on-the-ground work and tireless commitment to those in need. 

Scotty O’Connell

Scotty O’Connell, who received the Adult and Children Clinical Services Volunteer of the Year Award for her work at the Susan D. Mona Center dental clinic in Prince George’s County as a dental assistant. O’Connell is a passionate volunteer who is ready to assist any client and works to develop a rapport with patients to build a positive relationship. She is a caring individual who treats all patients with dignity and respect, embodying the mission of Catholic Charities. Her abilities and professionalism help the clinic to achieve its goals and create a healthy and efficient workplace.

Sister Mary Louise Wessell, who received the Central Services Volunteer of the Year Award for her work as a professional development instructor. Sister Wessell is an enthusiastic teacher who enhances the work of the Professional Development Department by facilitating multiple training courses each quarter. Her ability to effectively share her knowledge and relatable experiences in her trainings has been important to exposing new employees to the mission of Catholic Charities. 

“The contributions of our volunteers are invaluable, and their dedication to serving those in need is truly commendable,” O’Neill says. “We are deeply grateful for the time, energy and expertise that each volunteer brings to Catholic Charities, and we are inspired by their unwavering commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.”

Celebrating the 2024 Caritas! Honorees