Mary Jo Gugino-Colligan started her mission 10 years ago when she founded Angels of Mercy with her husband, Joe.
Angels of Mercy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transformation, restoration and hope for women in need. It started over a dining room table with eight of Gugino-Colligan’s friends in response to her desire to help women.
“We certainly have grown from there,” said Jennie Gugino, Gugino-Colligan’s mother. “Within two years we moved out of her home, and found a need to serve out of an office located at 692 N. Winton Road. Our very first fundraiser, again, was an answer to a request for monies to support our cause.”
Italian-American Law Enforcement Officers of Greater Rochester host an annual pasta dinner to benefit the organization. Along with contributions from the community, Joseph Floreano was an important contributor and was supportive of the needs of Angels of Mercy. As a result, to organization expanded its services in needed areas.
The Dress a Girl Around the World program, of which Angels of Mercy is the state ambassador headquarters, works to end child sex trafficking around the world and locally. The group expected to make 100 dresses in their sewing efforts, but a simple request to the community resulted in 150 women volunteers and 500 dresses after one event. The program has since sent 450,000 dresses around the world.
Angels of Mercy now serves 14 missions within the Rochester area with its yearly coat drive. Its annual 5K walk and run works to end sex trafficking along with its combined efforts with local agencies and law enforcements. Educational presentations are available for human service agencies, schools and churches.
Gugino-Colligan is a survivor of domestic violence, and her experiences inspired her to help other women who recently got out life-controlling circumstances, have low self-esteem and feel unworthy of the life purposed for them.
The Butterfly Boutique is a place where women in need receive five outfits for free. The new clothes are donated by community members throughout Greater Rochester. The program has served over 10,000 women.
“Their experience is profound,” Gugino-Colligan said. “Each person is met with unconditional love and told they matter. Their past is the past. Today is brand new, and we are here to support them. As they begin to choose and try on the garments of grace awaiting them, a metamorphosis takes place. Excitement fills the air as our volunteers swiftly move to help them choose their outfits, accessories and whatever they need. We explain that the clothing not only changes the outside appearance, but their inner most being, because they are a precious gem. Self-esteem is vital and something we all need. It’s like beauty from ashes.”
The Hearts in Motion program prepares women for the workforce during a 12-week mentoring program. The program features workshops and trainings that cover achievement of educational and career goals, physical health and financial freedom, development of inner emotional and spiritual strength and development of abilities for life-affirming choices. Angels of Mercy carried out two cycles of Hearts in Motion in 2016.
Angels of Mercy is committed to aiding women and girls in need. Its mission and focus is to help women achieve freedom, dignity and restoration through its programs and services.
“We offer women the opportunity to become independent through an array of programs and services,” Gugino-Colligan said. “Our belief is that every woman should be able to spread her wings and fly, and discover her true purpose for life. A mess can be turned into one’s message and their test a testimony.”
Angels of Mercy will host a 10th anniversary celebration from 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Our Lady of Mercy High School, 1437 Blossom Road, Rochester. The event will feature performances by Judith Ranaletta and the RocCity Singers with guest soloist Toni Dolce.
Call (585) 506-6814, email angelsofmercyny@aol.com or visit angelsofmercyny.org for information.