Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seeing Through

Byron's dream was to be a pro football player. He was living in Europe, playing for the semi-pro Spanish team in Madrid. As he tells it, "I was living the black man's dream; football, Europe, looking at the Pros in the States. Then I had my yearly physical."
It was at that physical that Byron failed an eye exam and later learned that he suffers from sarcoidosis, a rare disease in which abnormal collections of inflammatory cells (granulomas) form as nodules in many organs of the body. Within just a few months Byron's eyesight was failing him. In less than two years he was totally blind.
Moving to Maryland so that he could receive medical attention and medication from John Hopkins University, Byron lived with relatives and had to hire people to help him do everyday tasks. A few months ago Byron moved into a small apartment by himself. He says that it isn't in a good neighborhood and he is lonely, but can't afford to live in a safer place.
He speaks about loss, and what it has been like for him, trying to live with the disease. Tears well as he explains that he once had a wife, a budding carrier in football, and the ability to take care of himself and an entire life ahead.  But he is hopeful. The medications have been working, he can make out shapes and sometimes colors. "I wake up everyday and I believe in my heart that the meds are going to work. It is the only way."Byron explains that he has learned to 'see' differently. He 'sees' the energy people give off, by the way they speak, and treat others.
Blindness hasn't taken his ability to laugh and recognize that he still has so much to give. "I have to keep positive. I just keep moving, even if I don't see where I'm going." 
A month ago Byron's wallet was stolen, his account drained and the difficulty replacing an ID brought him to The Franciscan Center.
"This is only my second time here, but I can't tell you how much of a difference you have made in me, just by the kindness and respect everyone has shown me."
"Coming to the Franciscan Center, you see someone you don't know, and it doesn't matter what color you are. You are like family to me, in the kindness that you have shown me."
Taking a moment to wipe the tears and regain composure, Byron explains that he wants to work with sight impaired children. That he thinks maybe he could make a difference and show kids that they can overcome difficulties too. Growing up wasn't easy, his mother an alcoholic and his father a transvestite, then to lose his sight; Byron's personal strength is both inspiring and humbling.
More humbling is what he says about being at the Center, "The work you do here, the people you help... it makes me want to work harder. The kindness and the love that you show everyone who comes here, it makes me see that it is a good day."
Perhaps Byron doesn't see that we feel the same way about him. He makes us want to work harder too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Economy is down, jobs are few, but persistence still pays off...

Five months ago "John" came into the center for a meal. After his lunch in the dining room he went to the Responsive Services Department on the second floor and asked to speak with someone, anyone.
He didn't want a hand out. He said that what he really needed was a job. And he wondered if he could fill out an application to work here at the Franciscan Center.  John's shoes were worn, his shirt threadbare, but clean. His fingernails were trimmed and neat. Strange what you notice about the people we work with. The details that fill in the blanks surrounding the stories.
Judy, our social worker, took John into her office and explained that we didn't have any job openings, but wondered what he was looking for in a job. She also asked if he lived in the city. John had been living on the streets of Baltimore for over a year. He explained that he lost his apartment when he was let go, due to cut backs. He now gets a shower and sleeps on a friends couch a couple times a week. He also come to the Center to grab a meal.

He also shared with Judy that he had been mugged and most of the things he had were taken. It was then that Judy asked if he had an ID or a birth certificate. Both of which he would need to get an apartment and a job. These he said, were stolen too.
So, Judy went to work obtaining a birth certificate copy and gave him a money order for a Maryland State ID. She also armed him with the knowledge that after he had lunch he could visit our Technology Resource Center and talk to Debbie. She would set him up with an email address,  help him make a resume and teach him to look for jobs.
A few weeks later John came back to the second floor and asked for Judy. He let her know that he had gotten his ID and was back to pick up his birth certificate. He was wearing the same clothing, his nails still trim, but the addition of a smile and small bounce in his step was a welcome change. John explained that he was on his way to the computer area to look for work.
Over the next couple of months John would poke his head in on Judy and give her his updates. Still no job. But working on it.
John's smile didn't diminish as he continued to mine for work. He utilized Debbie's knowledge while using the computer center and the two of them searched together. Weeks would go by and Debbie wouldn't see John. But, every now and again an email would pop up saying that he is still on the hunt, and doing well.
Yesterday John came into the center for lunch. He finished his meal and went to find Debbie. His smile wider than usual. He wanted to let her know that he had found a job. It was with a temporary service, but had potential. He also wanted to thank her for her support and help in looking. He also wanted to make sure Judy knew how thankful he was for her help in getting ID's. He said he would stop by and thank her himself, but he had to catch the bus for work.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Web of Life. From: The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi

(This is the belief of the Sister's whose hard work is the history and the mission of The Franciscan Center. I thought its voice is universal and uplifting.)

All of creation, from the initial creative event to the arrival of humans, is a single, interconnected and interdependent whole. Over billions of years hydrogen and helium unfurl the shimmering stars and galaxies, the basic elements emerge, and eventually our solar system and life unfold. Each aspect of the creative process is necessary and essential since each mode of being depends on the interactions and transformations that both precede and follow it. This web of relationships makes it impossible to rank or separate creation in a hierarchical or dualistic manner.1 
Creation is the primary revelation and each being reveals something of the Divine. Everything, from the giant sequoia to the tiny wren, to the water in our wells, lakes and streams, to the air we breathe and the soil that grows our food, is sacred. Every person – the child in the womb, the young, the elderly, laborers and unemployed, those who are vulnerable, economically poor, disempowered, or imprisoned – is to be revered and protected. Decisions concerning how we live our private and public lives and acquire and use resources are to reflect our care and concern for the well-being of the whole of creation. In this way we affirm the sacredness of each created being and the diversity, self-identity, and communion that are at the heart of the magnificence, magnitude and mystery of creation.
We believe we are to relate to Earth, to one another, and indeed to the Cosmos, in mutually sustaining ways and that all of our systems of learning, technology, healing, economics, governance, politics, and religion, including our Christian faith and Franciscan charism, must be in harmony with the basic ecology and laws of the Universe. 

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Cooking lessons at The Franciscan Center

Monday, September 27, 2010

Public Health Campaign & Celebrity Chef Help Franciscan Center Serve Dignity With Its Meals

The Franciscan Center of Baltimore, in partnership with The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), kicked off its own Healthy Monday campaign today to promote healthy food choices among its clients.  The goal:  to ensure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, has access to safe, nutritious and delicious meals. With the help of celebrity chef Kim O’Donnel and CLF’s two outreach projects, Baltimore Food and Faith and the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, the Franciscan Center wants to show that providing a large variety of high quality foods for Baltimore’s hungry not only promotes dignity among its clients, but may also improve their health.

The Franciscan Center has a long legacy of feeding the poor and homeless in Baltimore. The Center serves as many as 500 meals a day. So far it has served 78 thousand meals this year alone. In an effort to promote personal dignity through healthy and sustainable living, the Franciscan Center has partnered with various local farmers, businesses, groups and organizations like CLF, the Abell Foundation, Campus Kitchens, First Fruit Farms and Wegmans Supermarket to bring healthy, organic produce and vegetables to Baltimore’s most needy in an attempt to increase the personal health of an at risk population.

According to Baltimore’s Food Policy Task Force Final Report, “Many Baltimore City residents are affected by health problems associated with a poor diet.” The Task Force also found that one in every three adults in Baltimore is obese and two out of three is considered overweight. Ed McNally, Franciscan Center Executive Director, believes that, “if we can increase the nutrition content in the food served to the City’s poorest and most disadvantaged citizens -- many with or at risk for contracting disease -- then we will positively impact public health.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” McNally added today that the Franciscan Center believes, “that you can’t serve an unhealthy meal with a smile. It is the next step; there is nothing more dignified than a nutritious meal.” Rev. Dred Scott, Pastor of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Turner Station agrees. "At St. Matthew we are always looking at quality of life issues,” says Rev. Scott. He believes that, “if you are what you eat, then eating healthy and having access to healthy, nutritional food is a must. Our community garden has provided fresh produce to a substantial number of people in the community over the past several years at no cost." Rev. Scott and McNally are both members of CLF’s Baltimore Food and Faith advisory board.

O’Donnel, a trained chef and author of the newly released “Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook,” took time off from her book tour to share recipes and some cooking tips with the Franciscan Center’s two full-time cooks today. O’Donnel says, “I was proud to take part in today’s event. Food is such an integral part of everyone’s life.  Helping to promote the idea that everyone deserves access to healthy delicious food is very important to me.”

“Launching Healthy Monday has been a challenge,” says Kim Greggory, Franciscan Center cook. “But by bringing in experts, like Chef O’Donnel, to teach us how to prepare healthier balanced lunches, I’ve been able to not only better prepare fresh vegetables, but I take that knowledge home and feed my own family better,” added Greggory.

O’Donnel has long supported Healthy Monday and Meatless Monday through her columns at the Washington Post and several popular blogs. Healthy Monday is a public health initiative whose goal is to prevent chronic diseases by offering people weekly prompts to start and sustain healthy behaviors, such as making healthy food choices. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, serves as technical and scientific advisor for Healthy Monday and its sister campaign Meatless Monday. McNally says Meatless Monday is just the first of many Healthy Monday programs the Franciscan Center plans to promote throughout the year.

Additional information can be found on the following web pages:

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future: http://www.jhsph.edu/clf

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Providing The Hungry With Healthy Food: Celebrity Chef Helps Baltimore Center Serve Dignity With Its Meals

On Monday, September 27th, The Franciscan Center of Baltimore, in association the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), will launch its own Healthy Monday campaign to promote healthy food choices among its clients and the goal to make sure that everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, has access to safe, nutritious and delicious meals. With the help of CLF’s two outreach projects, Baltimore Food and Faith and the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, the Franciscan Center wants to show that providing a large variety of high quality foods for Baltimore’s hungry not only promotes dignity among its clients but it could also improve their health.
On Monday, The Franciscan Center’s executive director Ed McNally will welcome Kim O’Donnel, trained chef and food writer, and Rev. Dred Scott, pastor of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Turner Station and member of the Baltimore Food and Faith advisory board to help introduce Meatless Monday, the first of many Healthy Monday programs the Franciscan Center will promote.

O’Donnel is the author of the “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour.”  She has been invited by the Franciscan Center’s cooks to share recipes from her cookbook and help them serve more than 500 people.

What:              Public Health Campaign Launch for Baltimore’s Hungry
When:              Monday, September 27
Time:              10:00 AM
Where:             101 W. 23rd Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
Parking:           Gated lot off of Maryland Ave.

Additional information can be found on the following web pages:

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future: http://www.jhsph.edu/clf