14 May

Let’s Do It. Let’s Get A Refugee Choir Going at Bishop Maginns

by Jon Katz

I’d like to raise $1,000 right now to get a choir up and running at the non-profit (tax deductible)  Bishop Maginns High School in Albany. They might need more money to start a music program, but this would get them started.

Bishop Magins Principal Mike Tolan wrote me today the school is  excited to work with me and the increasingly famous Army Of Good. You people deserve to be legend.

“Yes,” he wrote, “all donations are tax deductible. Give us a few days to organize our wish list, the choir budget, and other items of need. I am confident that your advocacy will help build this school into a true beacon of Christian mission and service.”

The school has become a sanctuary and a refuge  for refugee children, whose lives have been upended in their home countries.  Many are in desperate need. It lifts the heart so see how happy and engaged they are at Bishop Maginns.

Mike, as he agreed to be called, said he thought any amount we chose to get started would be wonderful for a music program. They’ll get more specific later.

A venerable high school right in the middle of Albany, Bishop Higgins has embraced it’s role as a school for the needy and the poor and the vulnerable. There are more than 35 Karen students from Myanmar in the school, their tuitions are very low, their scholarships generous.

I met Susan Silverstein, the art teacher yesterday and I could see she is in desperate need of art supplies. She is a passionate advocate for her students and for the need to support their creativity. She needs everything and is helping to prepare an Amazon Wish List.

I will share it with you once it is set up.

We are working to set up a process for people to submit money directly to the Bishop Maginns school so they can keep track of your donations and make sure you get a tax-exempt letter and receipt. This may take awhile, as Mike Tolan suggests. I favor eliminating middle-men whenever possible.

I’d also love to handle the choir set-up through my blog. It’s an emotional thing, a marker, an act of good faith, and of  faith.

The school is a Catholic School, but the faith is not required of any of the students, many of whom practice the Karen faith, which is centered around symbols and rituals. There is no proselytizing or intent to convert.

They do practice the call of Jesus Christ to help the poor and the needy, and that is what the school is about, especially now. Bishop Maginns is now the last Catholic high school in Albany, and the only one focusing on the refugees..

If you are okay with it, and don’t mind making a non-deductible donation until the school sets up its own program I’d love to get going with fund-raising for the choir, you can hear two of the school singers here. You can send a donation to Jon Katz, Bishop Maginns Choir Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Or you can contribute via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com.

I’d like to raise at least $1,000 to get the choir going – instruments, chairs, etc. Music lifts the heart. If I get more, I’ll be delighted to send it right over to the school. I am going to speak to a class there soon.

Over the next week or so, as the school gets organized, you can contribute via the new Bishop Maggins Wish List now under construction or contribute directly to the school, which can keep records and sent out tax-deductible forms to you.

Small contributions are as welcome as larger ones.

Maria said “well, you could just wait,” but we both laughed. I’m afraid I can’t wait. I’d love to get some help to them right away, if you’d heard those kids singing you would know how I feel. I’d love to let them know we are here, and for real.

There is no better or more worthy cause I know of right now.

To be clear: The money you send the school down the road will be tax-deductible. The money you send me will not be.

So I’d like to get going: Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com, or check, Jon Katz, The Bishop Maginns Choir Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y. 12816.

And thanks.

“If I may quote Bogie, ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” wrote Principal Tolan.

Me too.


  1. Jon How did you find the school and Mr. Tolan? A perfect fit for your fund-raising abilities! Mr. Tolan seems so appreciative.

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