Most nights at La Posada, the clients themselves trade off the responsibility of preparing good and wholesome dinners. But not all of the clients, we’re told, are up-to-date on their culinary school accreditations, so it’s viewed as a treat when there’s a change in the regular fare.
On May 9, the Lourdes College class of Assistant Professor of Sociology, Sharon Everhardt, came in and grilled dinner for the twenty-plus grateful La Posada clients.
The sixteen members of the Gender, Family and Society Class brought in and prepared a feast of chicken wings, burgers, hot dogs – with all the trimmings, of course – along with wing sauce, chips, veggies, cake, pie and cookies.
“I was looking for a service project for our students to take part in that had a learning component,” Professor Everhardt said.
“A lot of the La Posada clients are going through the kinds of pressures and situations we study as a class, so coming here to help out and observe seemed like a perfect fit.”
One of the students in the class, Neiko Jones, agreed that the evening was a learning experience. “I was surprised to see the presence of fathers in the home. You don’t often see that at the other shelters.It’s good.
“I think events like this make a big difference to the people here. They see that people who don’t even know them take time out of their lives to help,” said the student, who is working on her Master’s.
One of the residents, Jermel, aged about three, said he had enjoyed the meal very much. Then he asked if he could have another piece of cake.
The Charity Soldiers in Norwalk have helped raise more than $10,000 for the Miriam House through their program, Metal for Moms, in which they go around picking up old appliances, selling them for scrap and donating the proceeds.
In 2012, the soldiers expanded their workforce and their website. They’ve brought onboard a new, eager young worker, J.T. Smith.J.T. said he joined the squad because he was drawn to the generosity of Josh and Kevin. “These are good guys.I’m just happy to be able to work with them.
[singlepic id=14 w=320 h=240 float=right]“This is what we do – we help people,” J.T. said, smiling modestly.
Recently, the Charity Soldiers began putting used items up for sale on their website, charitysoldier.com. Delivery is free, and, as the website states, proceeds go to “small charities that make a big impact on their communities.”
In fact, the bulk of their giving has been to Catholic Charities’ Miriam House in Norwalk. They have funded – among other things – children’s play equipment with the Metals For Moms donations.
The charity is the brainchild of Josh Roeder, who wanted to give something back after God had seen him through a difficult time.
“It’s funny how God works,” Josh said. “All this has just kind of fallen into place.”
The hand of God
Josh started hauling for Metals For Moms with a borrowed pickup truck, and after the truck broke down, he had no way to transport the scrap.“I told God I had no truck – in fact, no plans at all. Just a strong back and a pair of willing hands. I told Him He was going to have to help me find a way.
“Then Kevin, a friend of mine, saw an article about Metals For Moms in the paper, and decided he wanted to help.”
Kevin, who happened to have a truck, was recuperating from a near-fatal motorcycle crash, and he had also decided to try to give back.
“I was just about given up for dead,” Kevin said. “They’d taken a part of my skull out to relieve pressure on my brain, and they’d told my Mom I might not live through the night.
“When I did finally start to get better, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. I had to learn all that again.
“I know I wouldn’t be here if not for the hand of God, and I’ll always be grateful,” Kevin said. He holds out his arm to show the large cross tattooed there.
“I’m your guy”
Kevin decided to call Josh when he saw the first article about Metals For Moms. “When Josh said he needed a truck, I told him, ‘I’m your guy.’”
Josh asked that any families in the Norwalk area who have old appliances or used goods to donate, call 419-577-4943.
The Charity Soldiers t-shirt pretty much sums up their 18 months of dedicated service:
God’s Foot Soldiers: Faith. Heart. Guts.
Bonita’s family lost everything.
In 2009, Bonita’s world was rocked. Her son, Elijah, who had been having headaches, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That’s when things started unraveling.
She and her three children had been living in the Cleveland area in a house owned by her father. But when her dad had a stroke, he was unable to work and eventually was forced to declare bankruptcy.
And Bonita couldn’t support the family by herself. Since she couldn’t make their car payment and their rent and their health insurance premium, they lost everything.
[singlepic id=13 w=320 h=240 float=right]Soon she was moving her kids from household to household, and she was at wit’s end over what to do. One day she met a pastor from Norwalk, who advised her to relocate to a smaller community where she might find a better life. She found a home for her family at Miriam House, Catholic Charities’ transitional home in Norwalk for women with children, where she was finally able to breathe again.
“I look back, and it’s like God was talking to me through that man. I don’t know what we’d be doing now if we hadn’t come here. Probably living in a shelter in Cleveland in the middle of who-knows-what, and I’d be worrying about my children and their safety. And you know my son’s medical situation would suffer, too.”
Please pray for Elijah
Elijah has been going regularly to Cleveland Clinic for treatments – and Bonita asks everyone who reads this to pray for him.
“I will always be grateful to God for listening to our prayers, for giving us what we need to live.”
Since coming to Miriam House, Bonita has been working at a home health care service, assisting invalids with in-home care. In October, the family was able to move into an apartment of their own.
“I’m just so, so grateful to everyone here,” she says. “They made the transition so easy for us. They were so welcoming. This isn’t like a shelter, it’s a home. I have peace of mind now. God is in this place.”
Asked for a closing thought, she says: “My son Elijah loved it so much there that he didn’t want to leave Miriam House. I can’t even tell you how grateful that makes me. This place does so much good. So much good.”
It’s moving day for Marquita – big time. After 90 days, she and her 8-year-old daughter, Miracle, are moving out of La Posada, the Catholic Charities family shelter in Toledo, and into their own apartment.
And then tomorrow she’s moving into a secure, well-paying job on the production line at GM’s Powertrain transmission plant on Alexis Road.
“I’m very excited,” she says, “None of this would be happening without Jeanelle and all the people here at La Posada.[singlepic id=18 w=320 h=240 float=right]
“It’s going to feel great. We haven’t had our own place since November.”
Doing the unemployment shuffle
“I moved to Columbus to live with a cousin down there and look for work. But it didn’t work out, so I stayed with my sister up here for a while and then I was moving all around, staying wherever I could.
“It was bad for my daughter.I could see she was suffering from low self-esteem, probably because of how I felt. It’s hard depending on other people for everything, especially when you’re used to working.
“Finally a friend told me about La Posada. I came and I was surprised because it doesn’t look like a shelter. It looks just like a home.
“I was so glad when they told me we could stay. They’ve been so good to me. Honestly, none of this would be happening if I hadn’t been here. They’ve helped me so much.”
“No feeling sorry for yourself”
Asked what she would have done without La Posada, she pauses and her smile fades. “We’d probably be in the same position, living house to house, depressed, not able to get it together to look for a job.
“That’s the thing about this place and these people. They don’t let you just lay around and feel sorry for yourself. They’re after you to get out there and make things happen. And so you do.
“It’s going to feel so great not having to stay with anybody.
“I’ll always be grateful for what we were given here. I won’t ever forget it.”
“A good cause”
The men who serve the Time Warner Cable system customers in the Norwalk area recently spent some time helping around the house – Miriam House, to be precise.
[singlepic id=22 w=320 h=240 float=right]Rick Tarr, a Time Warner employee from Willard, said the men were happy to be able to help out. “Miriam House is a nice place – a good cause. We’ve kind of adopted it as a place we’d like to help out from time to time.”
And they certainly have, washing the front deck and ramp, washing the siding, pulling weeds, pruning bushes and spreading mulch.
They also have plans to return and replace the planking on the ramp, Rick said. Miriam House looks better, and clients and staff are exceedingly grateful.
Michael didn’t tell his two daughters – aged 13 and 9 – that they were moving into a shelter. When he brought them to La Posada, the Family Emergency Shelter run by Catholic Charities in South Toledo, he just said the family was moving to a new apartment.
He shrugs and says, “I didn’t want them making a scene. I mean, what kid wants to move into a shelter?
“Of course, it didn’t take them long to figure it out.”
[singlepic id=12 w=320 h=240 float=right]His 9-year-old daughter, Mikeyleh, shifts in her seat and smiles mischievously. You can see it wouldn’t take her long to figure anything out.
Nowhere to turn
“We were in a bad way,” Michael recalls. “I’d lost my disability, so I thought I’d better get a handle on things here. And I did. We kept it together for three months. But after that, the money I had ran out and the abject fear set in.
“I had nowhere to turn. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I have these girls to take care of. “Then, thank God, somebody told me about La Posada, and that kept us from falling into the abyss.”
Needless to say, the abyss is no place for girls as sweet, bright and talented as Michael’s daughters.
“You’d be surprised at how few options are available for single fathers. There are more shelters available for mothers and children – not so many for fathers.
“This has given us a chance to breathe, to get organized. It’s like a new beginning – stability when there was none.
“We’re all very grateful. You can’t even imagine.”
Ashley is 28 years old, but it seems to her as if she’s only now growing up. A client of Catholic Charities’ Supportive Housing program, Ashley struggled with alcoholism since she was in junior high school.
“For so long in my life, I had nothing at all, no one to lean on. If I had a problem, I just checked out. Just another excuse to party. But for a long time I didn’t see what the party was costing me.
[singlepic id=15 w=320 h=240 float=right]“Finally, I ended up without a job, without friends, without an education, staying either in my Grandma’s spare room or on a couch or in my car. It was like, ‘This isn’t working.’
“Now, I’m actually grateful for what I went through. It was painful, but it was actually a faster way to God. If I hadn’t had the troubles I did, I may never have gotten to the point that I knew – knew for sure – that I needed to rely on a power greater than myself.
Reality pulls no punches
Because of her situation, Ashley was finally forced to face reality – the reality that she herself was responsible for the way her life had gone. And that she was suffering from an addiction to alcohol.
She’s grateful for the help she’s received from Catholic Charities and from her addiction program. Thanks to those who support Catholic Charities’ Supporting Housing program, Ashley has gotten help financing her new apartment, plus some used furniture to help make it a home.
“I have a feeling of overwhelming gratitude now, every day. I know there are people who have prayed for me who I will never even meet. I want to say thank you to them for all the prayer. They’ve helped lift me up.
“I used to be so against religion. I didn’t like it when people talked to me about religion – I think I was jealous. But now I see they were just trying to share this gift. I get it now, and I’m so grateful they didn’t give up on me.
“With my higher power, I never have to be alone again.”
An example of ‘Men for Others’
[singlepic id=16 w=320 h=240 float=right]It was the kind of work wives frequently have to remind their husbands to do – cleaning out and sprucing up the basement. But these men needed no reminder.
It was the St. John’s Fathers’ Club, and they were helping make the basement of La Posada a cleaner, brighter, more secure place.
“The motto of our school is, ‘Men for Others,’” Joe Gernheuser, club President, said. “But it’s better to show that than it is just to say it. Just saying it doesn’t mean anything.”
So Joe and several of the other fathers, including Gerald Mitchell, Drew Lindecker, Denny Pritscher and Dave Bethel – with sons present as their study and athletics schedules permitted – cleaned out the basement, painted the walls, installed a large padlocked security cage and a wall of lockable cubbies.
Their objective was to provide clients with a clean, secure place in which to store belongings such as bikes, furniture and computers.
“Everyone should have a safe place to keep things,” Joe said. “Just because you don’t have a home of your own doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be able to have a bike.”