Catholic Charities gets $1.5M grant

State Sen. James Tedisco, third from left, presents Catholic Charities with a Senate citation recognizing a $1.5 million grant award he helped land for the agency. The citation was presented Tuesday at the Sir William Johnson Downtown Park in Johnstown. Pictured from left are: Matthew Terleckey of Reality Check; Tricia Terleckey, community engagement coordinator; Tedisco; Denise Benton, director of youth services; Morgan Rossi of Reality Check; Sarah Kraemer, Reality Check coordinator; and Patrice Vivirito, program coordinator for Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — State Sen. James Tedisco announced Tuesday that Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties has for the second time been awarded a $1.5 million, five-year Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities’ grant.

The grant obtained by the East Main Street-based agency will service Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties, officials said.

Primary goals of this grant are to: reduce the impact of retail tobacco marketing on youth, establish tobacco-free community norms through tobacco-free outdoor air policies, reduce secondhand smoke exposure through smoke free housing policies, reduce tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies, and reduce tobacco industry presence on social media.

Attending a ceremony Tuesday at the downtown Sir William Johnson Park was Tedisco, Fulton County’s senator, who presented a Senate citation to the agency in recognition of the grant he helped receive.

Tedisco said the work of Catholic Charities is “extremely important” in the community. He said the agency’s anti-tobacco efforts are leading the way.

“We want to thank you for your leadership,” the senator said.

The downtown park was selected as the setting for the announcement to “highlight that the city of Johnstown implemented a citywide municipal policy for parks and buildings, which is exactly the type of policy work this grant will continue to do,” officials said. The city in recent years banned tobacco products from city spaces and parks.

“We worked with the city of Johnstown to make their parks tobacco-free,” said Patrice Vivirito, Catholic Charities’ program coordinator for Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery Counties, or ATFC.

She indicated ATFC will continue to engage local stakeholders, educate community leaders and the public, and mobilize community members and organizations to strengthen tobacco-related policies that prevent and reduce tobacco use. Efforts will also focus on reducing youth exposure to harmful tobacco marketing in retail settings, limiting exposure to secondhand smoke, and reducing smoking imagery in movies.

Officials said the grant is funded at $300,000 annually to engage community stakeholders and youth to change policies and norms about tobacco and tobacco use.

A news release issued by Catholic Charities indicated that the $1.5 million will go toward “tobacco control.” The agency says funds will “support prevention and reduction of tobacco use through youth action and community engagement.”

“This grant builds on previous grant-funded tobacco control work by our organization to better provide more comprehensive programming across the three counties,” the release said. “As part of this grant, all counties of New York State will have access to the resources of a community engagement program and the adult-guided, youth-driven component known as Reality Check. The grant was awarded by the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control.”

“Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease in this country so this is extremely important work,” said Tricia Terleckey, community engagement coordinator. “We are proud to be part of a statewide effort to prevent youth smoking, particularly youth e-cigarette use. Teen vaping has become an epidemic not only in our three counties, but across New York state and the country.”

A Reality Check portion of the grant will continue to educate the youth of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery Counties on the manipulative marketing practices of the tobacco industry and by doing so, prevent today’s youth from using tobacco, smoking or vaping, the release said. Reality Check youth lead the fight by speaking out against tobacco companies and speaking up for living in a tobacco-free environment. They educate community members and leaders and advocate for policies and action against tobacco.

In the previous five-year grant cycle, ATFC successfully worked to implement tobacco-free outdoor policies and smoke-free multi-unit housing policies for the following entities: parks and municipal buildings of the cities of Johnstown and Amsterdam and the villages of Speculator and Hagaman, beaches in Speculator and Mayfield, Amsterdam Housing Authority, Gloversville Housing Authority, St. Johnsville Housing Authority, Trackside Homes, Indian Lake Senior Housing, Wallins Corners Apartments, Johnstown Professional Office Complex, Argersinger Building, Mountain Valley Hospice, Fonda Fairgrounds, Rama Real Properties, River Ridge Living Center, Tribe Fitness, Paws Up Certified Dog Training, Enea Family Funeral Home and All Hay Farms.

These policies reduce the impact of tobacco and limit exposure to secondhand smoke where Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties’ residents live, work and play.

ATFC-HFM is part of a network of statewide contractors funded by the state Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Program, working to change the community environment to support New York state’s tobacco-free norm. Locally, the grant is held by Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties. Since 1976, Catholic Charities has served area residents by providing services such as substance abuse prevention, food pantry, domestic violence advocacy and dispute mediation. For more information please visit or call 518-848-3061.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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