Formed in March 2016, Catholic Action Montreal (CAM) is emerging as an effective local network for volunteer services, spearheaded by its new executive director, Judy Wong.

Operating largely as a volunteer agency, CAM's mission is to continue and "revitalize" the faith-inspired charitable service undertaken by the Montreal English-speaking Catholic community for almost two centuries. The charitable organization was founded by Bishop Thomas Dowd, V.G., after Catholic Community Services decided to a step away from its Catholic identity with a name change to Collective Community Services.

Since Wong assumed duties Aug. 1, CAM has moved quickly to respond to local needs and has set up a volunteer portal through Better Impact, Inc. Launched in October, the software provides volunteer management platforms for non-profit organizations; to date, 20 potential volunteers have registered with CAM.

CAM membership numbers 180; 70 attended its annual general meeting Sept. 13 at Loyola High School, during which Wong was officially introduced by the 11-member board.   

Initiatives undertaken

CAM is actively supporting a diocesan-led initiative to assist families seeking asylum. When two floors of the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires parish rectory in Montreal's east end were transformed into a temporary shelter for asylum seekers, CAM stepped up to the plate. Together with students from Loyola High School, they helped furnish and clean the facility. The Sacred Heart School of Montreal will provide the next clean-up Dec. 16.

CAM has helped the families settle in their new homes by co-ordinating the collection, storage and moving of donated furniture. They've worked with parishes such as Our Lady of Pompei, St. John Brébeuf and St. Luke, who offered storage space, furnishings or food collection. A Go Fund Me page has been set up to raise funds for the project; with more than half of the $5,000 goal being reached. To date, CAM has helped find living quarters for up to 15 families from Le Pont or referred by the Social Action Office.

CAM has also reached out to Notre-Dame-de-la-Rue, founded by Fr. Claude Paradis to respond to the needs of the city's homeless. Appeals on behalf of the ministry appeared in CAM's October newsletter, asking for clothing and volunteers for food preparation.

LaSalle's 50+ group, a seniors drop-in centre, is also receiving support from CAM, working together with the Foundation of Catholic Community Services.

"The group, which has grown to 200 members, needs assistance in obtaining their charitable status, for instance," says Wong. "The community is energetic and a home for so many of our seniors. I am happy to help them [in whatever way] so they can grow."  

Wong ready for CAM

Judy Wong comes equipped with the skills and drive needed to bring CAM to the next level. As its first executive director, Wong will be drawing from her 35 years of corporate experience, including 30 years in the metal industry serving as division president and corporate adviser for an international corporation.

"I've also built companies from scratch," explains the parishioner of St. Edmund of Canterbury, including an aerospace processing centre in Chengdu, China, which opened June 2014.

In 2014, Wong volunteered as a fundraising campaign manager at Jesus Light of the World Parish, having successfully raised over $360,000 to help fund much-needed building maintenance and repairs.

Together with her husband of 28 years, they've raised two children.

"The people I meet are just wonderful...with their own incredible stories. In helping them, I feel grateful," says Wong.