Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Gifts: Of Paint and Through Paint

It has become a tradition for many groups to memorialize September 11th by participating in acts of good works. This is in keeping with the spirit of togetherness that overtook America in the wake of 9/11/01.

The Columbus Catholic Worker was a site for over 70 AmeriCorps members and supervisors to be the beneficiary of their generous gift this year. Two groups of approximately 35 people each worked about 4 hours that day.

The focus was on the upstairs: Bedrooms were painted creatively and tastefully. Most now have two-tone color schemes and lively touches. Some of the rooms previously had a potential health hazard with large cracks and chunks of paint falling off--this is especially a concern as this 50 year old building no doubt has leaded paint on the bottom layers.. These were scraped and sealed under a layer of new paint.
Pictured above is the famous purple room.
A lot more than paint got put onto the structure of the Catholic Worker that day. With so many AmeriCorps members and supervisors working with us, we were asked if we would like to host an AmeriCorps*VISTA member of our own! A VISTA member is one who fulfills a 1 or 2 year commitment, working on a stipend, to help local agencies like ours develop our capacity for service. Developing new programs and building infrastructure so that our group can grow is the mission of a VISTA member.

We gladly accepted this generous offer and it took all of 5 minutes to discern a candidate: Joan, our master painter and Catholic Worker member who has given so much to the community so far: Organizing the canning classes, gardening, coordinating the Free Store with Bev, and numerous other projects. She had just remarked earlier that day that she may have to limit her involvement at the Catholic Worker due to getting an outside job--not so fast!

Smiling above is Joan, Master Painter and soon-to-be AmeriCorps*VISTA member!

Here is a group shot of the morning crew.
Pictures by VISTA member Miles.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On The Asparagus and the Catholic Worker

Gardeners will tell you that growing asparagus takes time. It must be heavily fertilized, and the roots need to grow deep. You will see beautiful, tender shoots the first year, but no fruit. Even with all that attention, you won't really see a harvest for 3-4 years. It sprouts and looks promising, but then goes away only to come back next year.

I always think of this when I consider the Columbus Catholic Worker. Our group started over 3 years ago. Cheryl and her children came up with the audacious idea of forming a community here in Columbus. After several months of meetings, a book study, dialogue with the Diocese and lots of heavy discernment, we tentatively began some ministries.

Pat & Glenda generously opened up their home as Emmanuel House and promptly began offering hospitality to homeless persons in Columbus. Their home was a true community house in every sense of the word. The door was always open and you could just drop in anytime and make yourself at home. Many great discussions happened there and friendships developed.

After many long months of trial & error and tough learning experiences, it was decided to stop offering hospitality at their home. Our other ministries subsided as well, and our group went into hibernation, not sure of our future.

But like the asparagus, we came back the next year, a little bit weathered but a little bit wiser.

While some of the ministries we began did not continue, it must always be remembered that we draw upon those experiences every day. We learned a lot about what we can and cannot do. In the midst of all that, I believe our group managed to make the world just a little bit nicer for some folks who really needed it, to paraphrase a line from Entertaining Angels. Not bad, indeed.

It is time for a well-deserved shout out to Pat & Glenda for creating a space for our community when it really mattered. You stuck your necks out on the line and took a big chance. You took a few on the chin, as well. There is little chance we would be doing what we're doing now if you hadn't done what you did before.

As our community faces an uncertain future at our current location, it is good to take a look back at where we've been. The only downside about naming people is that we are sure to leave out quite a few. Taking that risk, we'd like to mention that the initial incarnation wouldn't have been possible without Bill, Kathy H, Mary Ellen and all the other Mary's, Grace and Mark. Numerous others provided just the right help at just the right time, right on cue from the Holy Spirit.

We are always sowing in faith, never sure of the harvest. Please know that all of those efforts right from the beginning are continuing to reap a rich harvest, even if the location, the mission and even some of the people have changed. Every contribution of every type has left a ripple effect that stays present in our community long afterwards.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Free Clothing Store

Bev has been on quite a roll lately. Besides running the ESL program, helping start Pax Christi with Grace, and taking a share in the overall administrative tasks, she also has taken the initiative to start a Free Clothing Store. Joan has joined her in this project, as well.

We gave out our first items just this week. Representatives from CRIS (Community Refugee and Immigration Services) stopped by to pick up about two dozen winter coats. They are working with some newly arrived refugees from places such as Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Bhutan, and most of those folks are not accustomed to the quickly approaching Ohio winters!

This picture of a corner of the store does not do it justice, especially after many of our items have recently been cleaned out!

We also made the store available to students of our ESL classes this week. One woman was thrilled to walk home with a nice winter coat, having lived in Ohio for some time but never having a proper winter coat at all. She was beaming from ear to ear. Those moments of grace really help lift our spirits and reassure us that what we are doing matters.

As our stock builds up, we are looking at ways to make the store available to patrons of the food pantry or other groups in town. We may be open once a week, or on an referral basis, or maybe even daily in conjunction with pantry hours--it just depends on staffing and how much stock we have. We are starting slowly.

Next week, we are getting a delivery from the Cub Scouts of St. Matthew's in Gahanna. We are looking for help unloading the truck on Monday morning, Oct 19th at 10:00 am--call if you can help and park on the street, as school will be in session and there won't be room. We also need people to stop by in the days afterwards to help sort items. The house # is 614-267-3322.

We will take any clean clothing, shoes, and other household items. Right now, we are focusing on winter items, such as coats, hats, boots and scarfs. We are also on the lookout for children's clothing, as that is often a much-needed as children outgrow outfits so quickly.

When the representatives from CRIS were here, they had a couple boxes of items in their car they asked if we wanted--an assortment of paper plates and cups, which Joan can use for the Labre ministry feeding the homeless in Columbus, as well as some bottles of chocolate syrup and sprinkles, which are always welcome to augment our ice cream bar. It is wonderful to be part of "God's economy" this way--people giving and sharing what they have, and God making sure that it all works out.