Due to the hard work of Connie Wallace, and the generosity of Steve and Jane Ratliff, owners of the Smyrna Inn, 8201 Smyrna Parkway, in Louisville, more than $3,000 was raised and 600 pairs of socks collected for St. John Center at an Oct. 19 fundraiser.
Each year Pat Shader leads a sock drive for the men of St. John Center. for the Ladies Auxiliary for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8639 in Okolona, . Connie, a member of the Ladies Auxiliary for the post, asked the Ratliffs, if she could put a box for donations in the business.
Steve, himself a veteran, offered to let her hold a sock drive fundraiser at the bar. The event wound up being a huge success.
There was great food (the meat for the cookout was provided by the Ratliffs), four live bands (Bill Collins, David Champion, Mike Rogers, Chasing Rabbits) donated performances, a number of quality items and services were auctioned, and financial contributions were accepted.
Oxmoor Toyota donated $1,500 and five oil changes, Eddie Corbett made a $200 gift and the Ratliffs, Key Family Dentistry, Theresa Powell, and the Cast Away Lounge all contributed $50 or more.
This is the second in a series of articles recognizing some of the most enduring relationships St. John Center has had during its three decades of unwavering service to the area’s homeless men. The series is called Looking Back.
With the shelter’s 30th anniversary looming (April 2016) we asked the five longest serving volunteers why they chose St. John Center and why they have continued to do so for nearly three decades. Their responses are below.
Mary Margaret Mulvihill
“I worked for city government and was actually involved in setting up St. John Center. My mother and I started volunteering in the Coffee Room on Saturdays. She just loved it.”
“The place just radiates. The guests are treated with such dignity and respect. That’s important. It has been that way since the beginning and it still is. The guys just appreciate it so much. You can see it on their faces.”
“I really enjoy the fact that the volunteers have direct interaction with the men. The volunteers love and respect the men and the men love and respect the volunteers.”
“I took steps to work in the homeless ministry at Christ Church Cathedral just as it was getting ready to move to St. John Center. Thus, in a sense, I came with the program and started volunteering at St. John Center right from the beginning.”
“Taking care of the poor and homeless is a responsibility which we all have, so volunteering at St. John Center partially fulfills this duty.”
“I particularly value the relationship which I developed with Richard Davis, one of the clients. He became one of my closest friends. He had a successful career as an opera singer until his life was overcome by a series of tragedies and he succumbed to alcoholism.”
“When I first came to Louisville I lived in the Phoenix Place apartments (adjacent to SJC). I saw homeless men standing on the corner next to St. John Center so I decided to volunteer my services.”
“I remember when the place first opened all we had was a coffee pot.”
“I still volunteer because I continue to see changes being made to better serve this most needy and forgotten population. What you do for others you get in return.”
”A St. John Center volunteer invited me to volunteer. At the time I was working for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth at Saints Mary & Elizabeth Hospital so I aware of homelessness in the city. I just wanted to contribute something to the cause.”
“I have remained a St. John Center volunteer all these years because my wife and I consider it our apostolic duty to serve our brothers in need. I have formed wonderful friendships with the staff, volunteers and clients at St. John Center.”
“Three things I will never forget about serving at St. John Center are working with my son on creating the first Homeless Benefit Ball to support the Center, being involved in acquiring donations of medical equipment that was used in the Phoenix Health Center when it opened, and being treasurer of the St. John Center board.”
“I was volunteering at the House of Ruth when another volunteer told me about St. John Center which had just opened. I tried it and I enjoyed it.”
“I like talking to the men. I know a lot of them by their names. We might share a smile or a hug. It makes me feel good to make them feel good even if it is just for a little while.”
“Every day I ask God to make me a blessing to somebody and I guess this is the way He does it.”
Bradley is proof that addiction can take a person down regardless of their educational or socio-economic standing.
A native of eastern Kentucky, Bradley became an attorney. A victim of his own success, he got so busy he used drugs to stay awake so he could work, and alcohol and other drugs to bring himself down so he could sleep. Before long he became dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Bradley says he has had trouble ever since, eventually becoming homeless. Throughout the last 10 years, he experienced the dangers of living on the street.
Now 58, Bradley is making a comeback. On May 13 he moved into an apartment in a building for residents 55 years and older. He has not used drugs in over a year and he is rebuilding a relationship with his parents and three sisters.
Bradley’s transformation began at SJC. “St. John Center is the best. That’s why I went there. I’ve been kicked out of most of the local shelters but SJC was the one place I always behaved. They helped me get my self-respect back. I don’t know if I would have survived another year on the streets,” he said.
St. John Center is also where Bradley met housing counselor Ashley Bradley. “Ashley is responsible for me getting an apartment. She helped me get my birth certificate, social security card and ID. She helped me get furnishings for my place. She is easy to get along with. She’s easy to talk to and easy to understand,” he said.
Having an apartment has made a big impact on Bradley’s physical and mental health. “I love the privacy of having my own apartment. It allows me to live a regular life. I’m so happy to get off the streets. It gives me time and solitude. It lets me be an adult and stay away from drugs and drinking. I feel like a human being again,” he said.
“I love it because now he has a shot at living life as a healthy adult, not just surviving,” Ashley said. “When we delivered his furniture we had to get the landlord to open Bradley’s door because he overslept. Bradley’s words gave me peace because he is now safe and secure in his own place.”
In the future, Bradley would like to “use the skills I was born with. I want to write a book on my experiences and maybe teach paralegals,” he said.
Max Furlan didn’t just volunteer at St. John Center this summer. This high school sophomore volunteered for the 7 a.m. shift on Friday!
Along with his dad, Erik Furlan, Max welcomed men to the shelter at the Sign-In desk. He took a few minutes to reflect upon the experience before the school year began.
Was the experience what you expected?
I didn’t expect to get to know some of the guys, but I did, so that was a pleasant surprise. I really liked interacting with them. I gained a better perspective by knowing more about the rest of the world and what other people are going through. You don’t always get to see it. Being here gave me a chance to see it and learn from it.
Max Furlan (right), a sophomore at St. Xavier High School, chose to volunteer all summer at the SJC Sign-in desk with his father Erik.
If you were to recommend this volunteer opportunity to a friend, what would you say are the qualities of someone who would enjoy it?
If someone likes to be hands-on, and work directly with people, it would be a good opportunity for them. It is a good fit for someone who is outgoing.
We’re so impressed that you chose the first shift, Max. Was it hard to be here so early in the morning?
Not really. In fact, being here at 7 a.m. and doing something good makes the rest of the day better and more productive.
When you’re not in school or at St. John Center, what do you like to do?
Play Lacrosse, ice hockey, and the piano.
Max’s Dad Erik weighed in as well.
How did we get so lucky, Erik, to have the two of you volunteer together this summer?
We wanted Max to choose a volunteer activity that would be meaningful for him, something more than just knocking out the required service hours. St. John Center was his choice and we both really enjoyed it.
What was this experience like for you?
I liked the opportunity to interact with the men individually. I have served on boards and you don’t always get to see the people you’re helping. The men are here because they need a hand, and it was really nice to get to be of service.
THE BIGGEST DAY OF LOCAL GIVING RETURNS ON OCTOBER 1, 2015!
On Thursday, October 1, 2015, the Community Foundation of Louisville will host the second Give Local Louisville. This 24-hour, online “Give Day” will support local nonprofit organizations like St. John Center for Homeless Men. There are over 350 nonprofits registered, and St. John Center needs your help to make this day a success for our organization.
This year, our goal is simple – to raise more money for the men we serve, and more awareness for our mission. For one day, every dollar given to local nonprofits will be augmented through proportionate match and prize dollars contributed by the Community Foundation of Louisville; its supporting partners LG&E and KU Energy, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kentucky, Delta Dental of Kentucky; Sam Swope Auto Group; and a generous anonymous foundation.
Online credit card giving will take place from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, 2015. Donors who wish to use their Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund or Charitable Checking Fund may do so by submitting a grant request through the Community Foundation of Louisville between Monday, August 3, and no later than 3:00 p.m. on September 25. Restrictions apply. See MyFund for additional details.