For generations, the Vukelic Family has weaved threads of gold into a tapestry of love for the fragile, vulnerable, neglected, and rejected children here at "Father Baker's." The family has been, and continues to be, loyal friends and supporters of the OLV Charities. In fact, their relationship goes back to the time when our saintly founder, Father Baker, was overseeing the organization.
You see, Eugene Vukelic's parents, Stephen and Katherine, ran a restaurant called the Phoenix Café on Simon Avenue near the OLV campus. Father Baker, himself, frequented the restaurant a couple times a month for its good Croatian cooking. While enjoying those tasty homemade meals, he often conversed with family members. It was during those conversations, that "the Padre of the Poor" received advice and a sense of warm fellowship from the Vukelics.
Gene and his siblings grew up in the shadow of OLV National Shrine and Basilica. At the age of six, he remembers coming home from school to hear the sad news that Father Baker had died. Gene remembers: "I'll never forget the sadness on my father's face, for he and Father Baker were quite close."
So it's no wonder that, as an adult, Gene continues the family tradition of supporting the OLV organizations' work and mission. For more than 25 years, Gene and his wife, Carole, have been a part of Father Baker's legacy of caring. He was an important sounding board to Msgr. Robert Wurtz, the third successor to Father Baker and a man who led the organization for many years. Both he and his wife served on OLV Human Services board of directors. In addition, Gene chaired and sponsored some of our fundraising events such as the Friends of Father Baker Reception. He is a strong supporter of Father Baker's Cause for Canonization and generously gave to OLV Charities' capital campaign program. And now, their children are also involved and committed to the tradition of giving!
When asked why he is so involved with "Father Baker's," Gene says: "There's something spiritual about the relationship. The mission is so compelling and real. Once you get involved, you experience the feeling, the sensitivities of reaching people and making them feel better physically, helping them think better, giving them confidence again, and helping them to grow to their potential."
Gene is Chairman of Try-It Distributing Co., Inc., a family owned and operated business in Lancaster, New York. The company is built on family values and the belief that community service are fundamental.
"I believe that the more you give, the more successful you are," he says. "When one looks at the OLV Charities ─ the history, the business model, the value system ─ it is obvious that the money goes to helping people, advancing much-needed services, and maintaining the Basilica, a gem in the Lackawanna area."
"As a donor, I feel my family has an impact on the OLV Charities through our financial support, our advice and assistance, and our networking by getting others involved in this great mission, says Gene. "In doing so, we've become part of the team."
The cherished relationship with the Vukelic Family is a rich treasure for our organization…for which we are extremely grateful! For through their unwavering generosity and loving support, they make a profound difference in the lives of disabled children and adults, troubled youth and their families by helping them heal, rebuild their lives and giving them a hope-filled future.
Throughout our history, bequests have played an integral role in shaping the future of OLV Charities. Our Victory Remembrance Society honors those individuals and families who have put our organization in their estate plans.Learn more