Those with Mount Carmel Guild were presented with a challenge when they realized the coronavirus pandemic would continue to interfere with their plans past the summer months.

The inner-city Trenton diocesan outreach had to determine new ways to observe the agency’s annual gala and celebrate its 100th anniversary year. The solution: hold a virtual gala Oct. 16 and postpone the centennial celebration until next year.  

“We hope that longtime Guild members will be joined by many new friends who recognize the critical need for the basic care services we offer,” Mary Inkrot, executive director, said of the virtual gala.

The gala will go live online at 7 p.m.; highlights will include messages from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and Judith Persichilli, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, among others. The gala link will be sent to all who register at www.MtCarmelGuild.org/gala. The event is free to attend, and all are invited to log on.

The gala’s traditional silent auction will not be held virtually, Inkrot said, but there will be a link allowing guests to donate, subscribe to sponsorships or place ads in the digital commemorative journal. While there will not be a presentation of awards during the online gala, Inkrot said supporters will be celebrated for their contributions during the centennial celebration.

“Our gala is our biggest fundraising event, and its success is key for our ability to continue to serve,” she said, offering praise to her staff for their work during the pandemic with the Guild’s two largest ministries: the Home Health Nursing Program and the Community Support Program, which operates the food pantry.

Inkrot commented on how this year’s gala would underscore the importance of the programs the Guild has offered since its founding in 1920, saying, “While the specific core programs have changed over the years … our commitment to serving the truly vulnerable care receivers of Trenton and the greater Mercer County area has remained steadfast with their unfailing support of those in need in the community.”  

She went on to explain how its core programs have operated during COVID-19. The food pantry shifted to morning-only hours, suspended registration requirements and now serves anywhere from 20 to 100 households daily, reaching more than 23,000 individuals. The staff has also provided food bags to other local nonprofits for delivery to their homebound.

“We are grateful to our many partners, including the generous individuals who donated to food drives, for keeping us well-supplied to meet the increased demand,” Inkrot said. 

Meanwhile, those in the Guild’s Home Health Nursing program changed their routines during the pandemic by not visiting patients in their homes from mid-March through June. During this time, she said, the nurses communicated with patients by phone to determine needs, assist with prescription orders and deliver food when needed. She noted that in the 2020 fiscal year, the nurses visited 44 patients, 11 of whom have been with the program for four or more years. 

Jane Chrnelich, who co-chairs the gala with Susan Evans, reflected on the unexpected chain of events taking place within the past year.  

“Last year at this time, we were beginning to plan our centennial celebration, never thinking that a few months later we would be in the middle of a pandemic, sharing concerns about our family’s health, our care receivers’ health, trying to provide for the increased need of Guild services, resources and quickly learning how to switch an annual event from an onsite to a virtual,” she said. 

However, with Mount Carmel Guild’s 100 years of experience in providing support for the Trenton community, Chrnelich said, “We will be there for the uncertain times ahead.”  

“We are looking forward to a wonderful and exciting virtual event on Oct. 16, an event that will showcase the Guild’s mission in action and help to provide the funds that the Guild needs to continue meeting the needs of our care receivers.”