Tom and Lisa on their wedding day. They are toasting with glasses of champagne.

Donor Spotlight

Valentine’s Day Edition: Tom & Lisa

Over the course of 100 years, it’s bound to happen: two people falling in love while working here at Catholic Charities. Decades later, Tom and Lisa Pilewski still have the kind of enduring love for each other that people dream about.

It all started when Tom, a young Pennsylvania native looking to do some good in the world, joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in 1988. He was sent to Syracuse, where he applied to work at Vincent House, a neighborhood center that is still operated by Catholic Charities of Onondaga County to this day.

Lisa, a Long Island native who had a passion for working with children with special needs, just so happened to be working at Vincent House as the Elementary Coordinator.

They connected instantly, starting as friends and getting to know each other during group outings. “We really did hit it off right from the beginning,” said Tom. “About three months after we met, we went on our first date…an SU game.”

They hit it off so well, in fact, that when Tom’s one-year volunteer commitment ended, he decided to stay in Syracuse.

“It’s not uncommon for people to want to go to a different city with each commitment,” said Tom. “But I was having such a great time with Lisa and at Vincent House that I just didn’t want to leave.”

A year and a half after that SU game, Tom proposed. He took Lisa to Green Lakes State Park on a “beautiful, sunny, crisp Easter afternoon.” He thought it all through: he brought an Easter basket filled with plastic eggs, one of which had something special inside – a diamond ring. It was perfectly planned, but Tom was so nervous that Lisa thought he was about to end their relationship.

“She swore I was breaking up with her because I was acting strange that day,” said Tom. “Completely the opposite. I was just nervous because I was getting ready to say ‘Hey, would you please spend the rest of your life with me?’”

Lisa said yes, and the couple exchanged vows in May 1992. Four children and 32 years later, Tom and Lisa are as happy as ever.

Tom and Lisa, with their four children, in a field of sunflowers. They have their arms around each other and they are smiling at the camera.

“He is the best man I’ve ever met,” said Lisa. “You will never meet somebody who works as hard as he does for his family.”

“Our 32nd anniversary is in May, and it feels like 32 minutes,” said Tom. “Our marriage really is a gift.”

All these years later, Tom works at SUNY Morrisville, and Lisa is a preschool director. The couple makes a concerted effort to give to Catholic Charities.

“Selfishly, we want to support it because Catholic Charities is responsible for bringing us together. If there was no Catholic Charities in Syracuse, we wouldn’t be together,” said Tom. “But we wholeheartedly believe in the mission.” “Catholic Charities has played a huge part in our lives,” said Lisa. “We know firsthand the work they do. We know for a fact that our money is doing the most good because we’ve witnessed firsthand that it does.”

Tom and Lisa smile for the camera for a selfie - present day. They are by a body of water.

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