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A Piece of the Puzzle
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A Piece of the Puzzle

Serving others is like a puzzle. Each sacrificial act is a single piece that interconnects with the service of others to create a collective picture of kindness. The finished product is greater than what one person could do alone. In the summer of 2005, Notre Dame College contributed a piece to such a puzzle.

While refurbishing its residence halls, new furniture was purchased for the rooms, replacing truckloads of used dressers, bed frames and desks that were older, but still in good condition. Carol Carbary, Vice President of College Advancement, recognized that the furniture still had value, so she began contacting local community service organizations to see if they had use for the furniture. “As part of our Catholic identity statement, the College says that we seek to develop minds through which Christ thinks, hearts through which Christ loves, voices through which Christ speaks and hands through which Christ serves,” said Carbary. “It made sense as part of our identity to reach out to these groups that serve the less fortunate in Northeast Ohio. I believe that doing this was socially responsible, honored the mission of the Sisters and, in a small way, set an example of service and philanthropy for the College community.”

Before long, organizations began to contact Carbary about the furniture. “The response was tremendous,” she recalls. “We distributed the furniture to some very worthy groups. It was a pleasure for the College to assist them.” One newly formed nonprofit organization, Community Service Alliance, happily received fifteen chests of drawers for use in a new initiative called Procop House. This facility accommodates men who are transitioning from homelessness and are ready to live in a community. Procop House is a renovated convent located on the grounds of St. Procop Church which was founded in 1872 to serve Czech Catholics on the near Westside of Cleveland. Even with a predominantly older congregation, the parish still seeks practical ways to remain a positive entity in its diverse neighborhood.

Sr. Annette Amendolia, SND, the Parish Life Coordinator at St. Procop, was instrumental in getting Procop House operational. “This convent sat idle for seven years,” she said, “It’s a magnificent structure and perfectly suited to its new purpose.”

A facility like Procop House became necessary as the nearby Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry men’s shelter, the largest shelter and feeding site in the Midwest, began experiencing an overflow of clients needing services. Many wanted to move out, but needed a place to go. Procop House became that place.

The facility has 23 bedrooms, each with numbers on the door, as would be found in an apartment building. According to James, a resident in the house, “It is a blessing to put the key in your own door.” Though the bedrooms are just big enough for a single bed, the chest of drawers received from Notre Dame, and a few personal items, they offer privacy, a commodity non-existent in a shelter.

For the men in the program, Procop House offers a home. According to another resident, Bob, “There is no more walking the streets with only the clothes on our backs, going from meal to meal, with nothing to work for.”

Jeff Nichols, Executive Director of Community Service Alliance, explained that while Procop House provides a support system for the men, it is not a shelter. “It’s a pay to stay arrangement. These men have been in training to leave homelessness and they all have some form of income. They do pay rent.”

Residents at Procop House are expected to contribute their piece to the puzzle as well. Some work in programs such as Ambassador Group which serves those who are still homeless. Headed by Bob, the group helps keep peace around the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry and in the neighborhood of the house. According to Bob, “We help people get to and from the site without being hurt or robbed. We also try to make the area safe for businesses, clients and people coming to and fro.”

The parish also benefits from having more people around. Sr. Annette can call on residents for help with tasks such as unloading trucks from the Food Bank. She posts a never ending list of “opportunities for assistance” on the community bulletin board at the house.

Though the puzzle is still incomplete, donations such as those from Notre Dame play a small part in helping organizations like Procop House provide service for those in need in Greater Cleveland. For a college committed to educating students for personal and global responsibility, assisting these groups is a way of putting words into action. With each action, another piece is added to the puzzle and through the combined efforts of a caring community, a greater picture of service is taking shape.

Amy Lauria '93 is a freelance writer and substitute teacher from Perry, Ohio.