Talk To Those In Need, Offer Ways To Help, Community Leader Says
By Julie Slama
Draper - Salt Lake City Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Ed Blake posed a question to Juan Diego Catholic High student leaders, administrators, teachers and invited guests representing 28 non-profit agencies in the community asking what would they do if they saw a homeless man living in a car on their street.
“I don’t know the answer,” Blake said after suggesting the most common responses may range from ignoring him to calling the police. “I do know, the first step is to talk to him. See if you can help lessen the distance between you and him or others who are suffering.”
Blake spoke to about 200 people Dec. 9 at the school’s 16th annual Spiritus Donorum Dinner, which celebrates the spirit of giving on the feast of St. Juan Diego. Blake began by sharing how thankful he was for being born into his family, his dad coaching him in baseball while growing up in Midvale where he attended Hillcrest High.
“I’m thankful for my family and how I was able to grow up in a nurturing home. If you don’t start by being thankful for what you have, then giving will be a burden. So during each day, live in the moment and pause. Pause and be thankful and realize what you have and how you can be thankful you have it,” he said.
Blake then recounted stories of people who helped him grow aware of those around him who were suffering, from a man in Kenya who was missing an eye and legs and was getting beaten for asking for hand-outs from hotel guests to a homeless woman named Jennifer who sat by the freeway on an exit ramp, waving to people as she peered into their cars hoping for a glance of her children who she lost in a custody battle.
“Jennifer didn’t come from the safe harbor I came from. She grew up with abusive parents which lead her to turning to alcohol and drugs,” he said.
He said that people tend to distant themselves from those suffering right close by. He recalled how Habitat for Humanity tried to lend aid to a woman who was going without heat and freezing in her home, which was just two blocks from the long lines at Red Iguana restaurant in Salt Lake City.
However, he also told of how a complete stranger noticed a woman with children trying to make their way in the community. After not being able to find a common language with her, together he got on a bus with her and took her to the community refugee center where he was able to get her help. She’s now one of the 95 homeowners of houses built by Habitat for Humanity in the area.
“After he helped her, he walked out the door. So pause and be thankful. When you walk out the door, will the sun be in your eyes or will the sun be on your face?” Blake said.
Although Juan Diego students and alumni participated in a Habitat for Humanity project in Utah County last summer, and will be working with the Salt Lake chapter to build a home in March, Blake’s speech was a kick-off to Juan Diego Catholic High School’s new service program where 230 seniors will spend a week in the community helping others through volunteering with agencies’ representatives, who attended the program.
According to their senior service week handbook, “The purpose of the Senior Service Project is for JDCHS seniors to learn about social justice through an experience of service to people who know what it is like to be pushed to the sides of society: the experience of being marginalized.”
Studentbody president Dinwoodey Greer, who will volunteer at the National Ability Center in January, said that time is one of the greatest forms of service.
“The spirit of giving is something that grows inside you as you perform various acts of service,” he said. “Each completed service project makes me desire a new opportunity. It helps me to personally understand the many blessings in my own life. Service provides me an opportunity to give to the community that has given me so much.”
Senior David Fenton admitted when he first started at Juan Diego three years ago and learned there were 25 hours of required service, he didn’t think he could meet the requirement.
“Now it seems silly that there is a minimum requirement,” he said. “Our world has shifted to materialism and consumerism where we continuously take… and we take… and we take… yet very seldom is it that we find the time to give back. It is our responsibility to use the unique gifts and talents that we have developed to help others. Regardless of whether the impact will change the world, help a community, or simply benefit one person, it is greatly affecting the people we serve.”
Principal Galey Colosimo said in all the school community provides for students in athletics, academics and in activities, service is the heart of the school.
“In January, you seniors will volunteer side by side with those who have committed their lives to helping those who are struggling or marginalized,” he said. “They may be homeless, poor, ill, lonely, afraid, or hurting in ways we can scarcely imagine for ourselves. We are all siblings in God’s eyes. Sharing oneself to aid and comfort another human being is the most meaningful and selfless gift one can give – and it is the true expression of Christian fellowship.”
At the conclusion of the program two awards were presented to staff members. Juan Diego Special Events Coordinator John Moran received the St. Michael the Archangel Award and Coordinator of Administrative Support Cherrie Evans was presented the Spiritus Donorum award.