A United Family

From its beginning more than 50 years ago, the Joseph House has relied on volunteers in its mission to serve people in need. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, believed that just as important as helping people, was giving to others the opportunity to get personally involved in providing that help.

April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, and to mark the occasion we’d like to say: We love our volunteers! Over the years so many people have shared their gifts and brought the aspirations of the Joseph House to life. Each volunteer has enriched the Joseph House and been part of its story, making their own unique and special contributions. The current situation with the coronavirus is a new chapter, but the story continues and we are grateful for everyone helping to write it.

We look forward to the day when our full complement is able to safely return to service, once stay-at-home orders are behind us. Until then we remain a united family, devoted to loving our neighbors.

To all of our volunteers, those with us and those of happy memory, we lift you up in a joyful prayer of thanksgiving. May God bless you!

“We do not have professional staff workers, we just have people who love people, people who love people who are disadvantaged and who want to do everything they can, and as well as they can, to bring these people to a point at which they can live and love in peace.” – Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling. The quotes that follow are from her, too.

“Without you, we would close up. We depend on you to do the one thing that is most important in volunteer service—to be available.”

“Whenever I get the least bit discouraged about the state of the world I only have to think of our volunteers and I am filled with hope. Joseph House could not exist without our volunteers. It’s that simple. The entire Joseph House organization runs almost exclusively on volunteers. That’s the way it’s always been. People need the opportunity to give back to the community and to help their fellow man.”

“We have some of the most extraordinary, gifted, and dedicated people I have ever met. They give me a concrete example of the love God has for the poor, because He sends the most wonderful people to help them.”

“We need people who can look beyond their own lives and open their hearts to those who are struggling with a burden. The problems of poverty cannot be solved overnight. Caring for the poor requires vision and patience. We need to walk with them toward a solution, even if they can move only an inch at a time. We depend on people who are willing to do this with the poor.”

“I never worry. I am always amazed at the goodwill of people. I feel gratitude for what God and the people have done to help. It gives me hope to see so many people willing to give and help others.”

“I am trying to teach the lay people who are working with us that God doesn’t always make things smooth, that He wants us to wait on Him; He wants us to do it the way He wants and somehow He is bringing that about in this wonderful group of working people.”

A New Look at the Workshop

The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring many people to stay at home to help curb the spread of the virus. Some are taking advantage of this time to tackle do-it-yourself projects around the house. The men residing at the Joseph House Workshop had a head start on this idea. They recently finished a major painting project that was previously planned. Their work has really freshened up their living space.

The Joseph House Workshop is a long-term residential program for formerly homeless men that helps them develop the skills needed for employment and independent living. The Workshop building itself where the men live is very comfortable and homey, but it wasn’t always like that.

The first time we walked inside it was a cavernous empty warehouse. The year was 1998, and Mountaire Farms was offering to donate the building to the Joseph House. Sr. Mary Elizabeth, our founder, said yes, excited by the possibilities of a blank canvas. After numerous planning sessions, two pilot programs, and some impressive construction work, the Workshop as we know it today opened in 2005.

First visit to the future Joseph House Workshop, November 1998.

The Workshop has a dormitory for ten, a kitchen and dining room, living room, offices, classroom, and computer room. To this list can be added a dedicated art room, thanks to the recent efforts of the residents. A room that was not being used has been converted into a space for art classes, since engaging in creative work is an important part of the Workshop program.

The men did a fine job and we are pleased that they have such pride in their home. A contractor installed new carpeting and tile flooring, and now the Workshop really shines, a reflection of the transformations taking place in the lives of its residents. Take a look at the photos below.

For comparison, this is how the Workshop looked when it was donated to the Joseph House. It’s amazing what vision combined with hard work and determination can do!

Volunteering Makes A Difference

Our work at the Joseph House is like farming in that we plant seeds, although we don’t always see how they grow.

Once in a while, however, we get a glimpse of how a seed planted has taken root and flourished.

Carla used to come to our Hospitality Room off and on for a fair amount of time. She was homeless, and she would come to see us for food, a hot shower, and to get her clothes washed. Sometimes that is all people want when they come to the Hospitality Room, but Carla was looking for something more in life.

Fortunately, one of our dedicated volunteers, Jerry, was ready for her. Jerry is very skilled at helping people find jobs. He has the patience to work one-on-one with those looking for work. Jerry helps them put together résumés, search for jobs online, and get them ready for interviews. He worked with Carla, and then she was gone, off to find her place in the world.

But one day, out of the blue, he received an email from her:

“Hi jerry you may not remember me but you helped me do some job searches. I’m now employed, have my own apartment that I’ve been in for about a year and a half. Will you please pass the message to the sisters that I’m doing very well? The sister at the drop-in center on boundary street really took care of me. I have a lot of respect and gratitude for them all.”

A year and a half had passed, but Jerry and our staff made an impact on Carla that was not forgotten.

We firmly believe that even when we don’t see the results, every act of love will always yield something good.

Building Success, One Little Piece at a Time

The Joseph House Workshop is a residential program for homeless men that teaches life-skills needed for employment. It is not an emergency shelter, but a long-term therapeutic program that provides men a supportive place to live and opportunities to grow in all aspects of life.

Men who enter the program spend the first three months in Phase One. They do volunteer work and take skill-building and inspirational classes, including an art class with Sister Virginia. They also learn to cooperate in a small community of men—no more than eight in all—which means a lot of cooking and chores and struggling with the challenges of communal living. After three months they enter Phase Two, the period during which they find training and employment, with the ultimate goal of becoming stable and independent.

The art class is part of the holistic approach taken by the Workshop. The goal is to form well-rounded individuals. It’s important to have learning experiences that stretch the residents in ways that might be new to them.

In the fall of 2018, three newly arrived residents—Charles, Maurice and Leonard—took on a mosaic sign as their art class project. The sign would display the street number of the Workshop, which is located at 816 Boundary Street.

The men came up with the idea of setting the “816” in a scroll design. They then chose a typeface, drafted the design, and devised a color scheme using red, green, white and brown glass tiles. They completed the sign and are now in Phase Two. This spring, Karl, a graduate of the Workshop and a skilled craftsman, kindly framed and hung the new mosaic by the front door of the Workshop.

This is the second mosaic project completed by Joseph House Workshop residents. The first mosaic sign reads “Joseph House Workshop” and hangs above the Workshop entryway. A third mosaic sign is planned for the new class starting in September.

The men are proud of the finished result, and rightly so!

Read about the creation of the first mosaic: Look Up For A Sign

A New Year’s Resolution (that helps a lot of people)

Are you looking for a New Year’s Resolution that will help a lot of people?

Tell someone about the Joseph House.

Tell a friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor—anyone!—about your interest in what we do and why helping the less fortunate is so important to you.

Share with them a copy of our Newsletter. Refer them to our website. It’s easy to remember: thejosephhouse.org

That’s The Joseph House dot org.

Everything you need to know is there.

Are you on social media? Share a post with your friends and followers that shows your support of what we do.

If you would like extra printed copies of our Newsletter to share, please let us know. We also have brochures. We’ll be happy to send you what you need.

Helping to spread the word about the Joseph House is an extremely important contribution to make. It’s a great way to be part of our mission to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and those most in need.

As always, we are very grateful for everything you do to help us help others.

We depend on your donations, of course, but your prayers and encouragement really do mean a lot to us and lift our spirits when the days seem long and the work endless.

May God be with you and bless you and fill this year with many reminders that you are loved!

Look Up For A Sign

The goal of the Joseph House Workshop is to help homeless men transition to stable, productive living. We know the goal has been reached when a resident completes the program and has a steady job and the means to live independently. There are also signs along the way that show hard work, commitment, initiative, and pride. Just look up!

Sr. Virginia explains why in her report from the Workshop:

This past winter and spring, I conducted an art class with three residents, Larry, Juan and John. They were in phase one of the program. I decided that we would create a ceramic tile mosaic for the entrance to the Workshop building. None of us had ever done anything like this and we had many false starts and changes of plan. The sign was still far from finished when the class ended. John, seen here, secretly completed the project and worked with another resident to install it over the entryway. Then he surprised me with it. I was deeply moved and thrilled!

If Today You Hear His Voice

blog_april2015_mae_yes_print

Here is a story from our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, about her discernment to leave the Little Sisters of the Poor and begin a new ministry with the poor. Pictured above is the promise she professed to God after starting the Joseph House as a layperson.

“I felt that if God asked me to go in [the Little Sisters of the Poor], I left the other things I was doing to go, so if He asked me to come out I should come out. I was 50 years old when I came to that conclusion [in 1964]. And I had been in there for about 21 years.

“I had this confessor who was of a French order also so he was kind of the same culture mind as I was trying to escape. And I went to him and said that I really feel God is calling me to leave here and to go and work with the poor where they are, and not have them come in and only be able to handle this small number because we had to have them come in to help them. And he said, ‘I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t have much time today to hear confessions. I just don’t want to hear about it.’ So I thought I guess God doesn’t want to hear about it either.

“I waited for a while. In fact, I waited for almost five years. I was so troubled by it, I was so pushed by some force to leave there and start something myself. I had no idea how to do it or when to do it or how I was going to go about it. But I had this impulse that I couldn’t seem to overcome and I got tired of battling with it. So I said to the Lord, ‘Look, I’ll do anything You want me to do but I have to know that You want me to do it and I want You to at least give me the assurance that this is something You want and not just something that I dreamed of.’ So I kind of put Him to the test.

“I went to confession to the same priest who told me he didn’t want to hear about it, and that gave me a kind of safety because I said to myself I am not looking up someone who agrees with me, I am not going outside of here to find someone who I think will find these nuns old-fashioned and agree that I should go. I am going to the same guy who told me he doesn’t want to hear about it. I went back to Father and I said to him, ‘I talked to you about five years ago about the fact that I think God is calling me to leave here and to go work with the poor differently.’

“And before I went to him I went up to the altar rail and I said to the Lord, ‘Look I have to settle this, I can’t stay here unsettled like this. I am going to give You 5 minutes to get him ready for me and to give him the answer that You want him to have for me and then I am going in there and I am going to ask him does he think I should do this or doesn’t he. And whatever he tells me to do I am going to do and I don’t want to hear from You again.’ [laughter]

“And so I waited and then I went back to confession and I said to him that I had been there 5 years before and he said, ‘Yes, I remember that.’

“And I said, ‘I really feel God is calling me to leave and to start something that would take care of the poor where they are. Because you could do a lot more for them, and it is not necessary for them to give up what they have.’

“And he said to me, ‘Well I think God is calling you to that.’

“And I thought, ‘Now why did he have to say that? Now I have to.’ [laughter]

“And I am thinking of all of this stuff, ‘Now what do I do? What do I do?’”

———————————————————-

Always say yes to God and He will fill you with His happiness.

– John Paul II