Adelphia’s Ballroom in Deptford Township was packed on March 1, as nonprofit agencies, family and friends gathered from across the South Jersey area to recognize nine individuals selected by the Nonprofit Development Center of Southern New Jersey for their outstanding contributions to the local community.
Among the award recipients was Patrick Barry, director of Refugee and Migration Services at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, who was recognized with the “Employee of the Year” award. Also in attendance were many colleagues from Catholic Charities including all the staff of the Refugee Resettlement program, family members and several friends.
Barry works with people during some of the darkest hours of their lives as they flee war-torn or post-conflict regions of the world. He coordinates their arrival and integration into the South Jersey community. He and his team work in an environment of unpredictability, navigating ever-changing arrival schedules, complicated government requirements, and miscommunications due to language barriers.
Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities, introduced Barry during the event ceremonies.
Noted Hickey, “Patrick is responsible for hundreds of human lives. And he is often confronted with unexpected and stressful situations, but he never fails to maintain levelheadedness and immediately comes up with a course of action when necessary. He is truly wise beyond his years, and takes on a world of responsibility.
“No one can do a better job than Patrick at making new arrivals to our country feel welcomed, excited and hopeful about their future in spite of everything they’ve suffered. He is a remarkable person,” added Hickey.
In his acceptance speech, Barry thanked his staff, interns, volunteers and supervisors, as well as the work done by the other organizations there that evening. “I am humbled and honored to be here in the same room with so many incredible individuals who advocate for those less fortunate,” he said.
He concluded his remarks with a story about a particular refugee.
“It’s a story about one refugee who escaped a war-torn country and the genocide that took place there. She arrived at the Philadelphia airport. She didn’t know a word of English. She had with her just one suitcase. But she was determined, and realized that the key to success was pursuing education, which she did at Temple University. She exemplifies resilience in the face of hardships, and she personifies the American dream. And that refugee is here tonight — my mother.”
The room was filled with a mixture of teary eyes and smiles as Barry’s mother, who fled the horrors of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, stood up to have her picture taken with her son and his award.
Patrick Barry, 34, has spent the past five years working for Catholic Charities, and in 2015, was appointed the director of Refugee and Migration Services after working for the agency’s Veterans’ Assistance Program (Ready, Vet, Go).
The mission of the Refugee and Migration Services program is to ensure that newly arrived families have housing, job opportunities, education and access to English classes. Staff assist these immigrants in their journey toward self-sufficiency, assimilation and cultural immersion.
Other agencies that received various awards that evening included Holman Automotive, Cathedral Kitchen, Land Dimensions Engineering, Hopeworks ‘N Camden, Millville Neighborhood Alliance, Archer, Center for Nonprofits, Capehart Scatchard, TurnKey Title, LLC, and Camden Area Health Education Center.