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Covenant House – Worthy Cause?

Stephen Chernin-Getty Images
Stephen Chernin-Getty Images

Anything that gives you the chance to turn your life around is a worthy cause.

And Covenant House is one of those.

This despite the scandal back in the late 80’s that marred its good reputation.

Just a quick background, according to this article published in the New York Times following the death of its founder, Father Bruce Ritter.

In 1969, Father Ritter founded Covenant House on the Lower East Side of Manhattan as a shelter for runaways. By 1989, the organization had become an immensely successful international charity, with programs in 15 cities in North and South America.

Covenant House, which at its height served as many as 25,000 youths, began to founder in late 1989 when two men accused Father Ritter of having had sexual relations with them when they were teen-agers.

He was later accused of misusing Covenant House money. Father Ritter denied the accusations of both financial and sexual misconduct, and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said there was not enough evidence of financial misconduct to charge him with a crime.

Father Ritter resigned in February 1990, saying in a prepared statement: ”The controversy that has surrounded me for the past three months has made it impossible for me to lead Covenant House effectively.

Therefore, after a great deal of thought and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that in the best interests of Covenant House and, most especially, for the well-being of thousands of street kids, I should resign.”

Many will take into account the past scandal to rationalize not giving to such a worthy cause.
However if you were to see the lives that the charity has saved, you might think differently.

According to this account:

Once-troubled youths tell their tales at Covenant House gala…this past Wednesday when they got some help in the form of a $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser at NJPAC.

The benefit included teens and young adults performing alongside Broadway performers and telling their stories

Like Duane Aurich’s.

At 19, he started doing drugs. But then, a little over a month ago, a sense that he did not want to end up in jail like his parents overtook him. He decided he wanted to change his life.

He said…”My parents sold drugs and I ended up being in a gang,”. “My dad’s out (of jail), but my mother committed suicide in prison. I’m trying to get my life on track — if I have kids, I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”

Aurich said he found help to turn his life around at Covenant House.

Jill Rottmann, the agency’s executive director says that Covenant House serves about 2,000 homeless adolescents a year in New Jersey. The organization, has crisis centers in Newark and Atlantic City and programs in Elizabeth and Montclair, and runs on a budget of $9 million a year.

For the past nine years, the agency has held the fundraiser “A Night of Broadway Stars,” in which youth and young adults perform and tell their stories.

Rottmann said the event raises about $850,000 for New Jersey’s Covenant House, which mostly serves people ages 18 to 21.

20 year old Erick Henry said when he was kicked out of Atlantic City’s Covenant House for bad behavior, his worries were a long list that ran through his head, like: where to take a shower, where to find a bathroom, how to eat and how to sneak back into the abandoned house he was living in without the police noticing.

By January, he said, he had learned his lesson. Now back at Covenant House, Henry got his GED and a job. When organizers asked him to speak Wednesday, he wondered whether people would like him but knew he wanted to speak.

“I’m happy that someone wants to hear my story,” Henry said. “Somebody will actually listen.”

First and foremost is the conviction on the part of the candidate to change his or her life. Without the support of charitable organizations like Covenant House, I wonder if their goals could be met.

Do you give to charity…and which ones do you consider worthy charities?

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