Writer’s note: All information contained in this post, other than my own comments, comes in answer to questions I asked of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Pittsburgh. Most of the answers come from informaton and stories contained in publications belonging to them. This post is the second of two for my SVDP “Blog for #12DOG” donation. The original post can be found here.
Michael’s Place is The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul’s voluntary residential program for homeless men, released from jail, who want to change their lives.
It is a temporary home for ex-offenders who are ready to commit themselves to making good decisions for a productive future. In a safe, drug-free environment, residents receive support in developing basic life skills that will enable them to transition to positive, independent living and employment.
Michael’s Place fosters compassion ate healing through a comprehensive approach that addresses the spiritual, physical, psychological and social well-being of the residents. Michael’s Place, like all Society programs, is nonsectarian and accepts men who are over twenty one years of age regardless of race, color, or creed. Michael’s Place is named after the Archangel Michael.
Michael was known for slaying the demons, and at Michael’s place the residents are slaying the demons of addiction. SVdP helps 29 people yearly through Michael’s Place.
The current cost per resident, per year is slightly under $10,000.
I’d like to note here, that the yearly cost for incarceration is $35,000 per inmate per year in Pennsylvania. The work being done at Michael’s Place, giving former inmates a fresh start and the opportunity to make a life change and stay out of jail in the future, not only positively impacts our communities, but also all taxpayers.
SVdP has an attitude of complete acceptance of those who seek to change their lives:
Sometimes it is difficult not to judge others on the mistakes they have made. We might look upon a person struggling with addiction or with a past record with contempt saying, “he should have known better.” SVdP members strive to take up this mission telling us via their faith that, “our Lord asks us to look upon others with humility and compassion; taking some time to “walk in their shoes” and trying to understand why and how we can help. Jesus reminds us to take the plank out of our own eye before we address the splinter in our neighbor’s eye.”
To give us an understanding that we can relate to, they share Chris’s story:
We can see this by walking a short distance in Chris’s shoes. Chris never knew his real father. He grew up in a home where his mother and step-father both abused alcohol and drugs. Chris’s mother actually encouraged him to quit school because “education was a waste of time.” So, after 10th grade Chris dropped out and took odd jobs to earn money.
One night, after heavy drinking, Chris’s mother went to sleep and never woke up. He found her dead the next morning and Chris was pretty much left on his own. He worked various jobs in landscaping and construction, but without a high school diploma he found it difficult to advance.
Chris’s friends and coworkers all drank and used drugs. Inevitably, one day Chris tried cocaine and quickly became hooked. His addiction led to several arrests as he tried to support his drug habit.
Chris’s story might have had a tragic ending if his path hadn’t crossed with someone who believed in him. Brother Mark Lowery, a staff member of Michael’s Place, looked into Chris’s eyes and saw more than a former felon. Brother Mark saw the face of Christ and a soul seeking help.
Chris, for his part, had to reach deep within himself to let go of the past and change his life. He did.
Chris is now successful alumnus of Michael’s Place. He has worked hard to complete his GED and he will be attending Bidwell School this fall, working toward a degree in culinary arts. Currently Chris works as a cook and his goal is to one day become a chef in his own restaurant.
And we can sense from messages of graduates how Michael’s Place gave them hope and change:
When I came to Michael’s Place, I was stripped emotionally, physically, spiritually. I was alone and afraid, not sure of who I was or what I wanted. The staff and residents took me under their wings. The staff especially cared about me when I did not care about myself. I have become a different person. As I take the next step, I find myself stronger and more confident, a person with dreams, goals, self-esteem and motivation.
I am awestruck thinking of what I accomplished: completing Gateway, getting my driver’s license, obtaining and using a sponsor, getting and keeping a job, reestablishing a relationship with my mother, joining and becoming treasurer of my home group, nine months sobriety- I could go on. I will be forever grateful to Michael’s Place.
Looking back on how hard I was to deal with and how far I have come gives me a deep appreciation for the work that you do.
Your work is paying off in ways you never dreamed possible in helping me see life through God’s eyes. It has helped my children and touched the hearts of suffering addicts.
Michael’s Place Alum
Simply Put - Believing you can change your life can happen when others believe in you.
Are you prepared for a long-term hospital stay with your child?
I think the greatest fear for any parent is that their child will become seriously ill or be diagnosed with a chronic condition. I have been so very fortunate with four healthy children and only one with an extended (4 day) hospital stay.
For many of us, it’s unimaginable to think of what would happen if our child is diagnosed with an illness that requires numerous or lengthy hospital stays or we have a child born with a severe condition, such as congenital heart disease.
Would you be ready if you needed to be by your child’s side day-to-day in the hospital?
Think for just a moment – would I have gas in the car to go back and forth; how will I eat while I’m there; if I have to take a leave of absence or quit my job, how will we pay the bills; are out-of-pocket expenses or limited time going to mean less for Christmas and birthdays; am I going have the strength to get through this fearful time?
Sometimes one person, one tiny life, can bring the most monumental change and support for others. That is how a wonderful organization, Zachary’s Mission, began.
Zachary Hunter Vince lived surrounded by the comfort, care, and love of his parents for just fifteen days. Zachary was born with a congenital heart defect and the brief time spent in his parent’s life set them on a heartfelt mission to find ways to ease the difficult time spent during a child’s hospital care for other parents.
As they share in Zachary’s story:
Despite countless prayers and the best care provided, we lost Zachary on June 28th, 2008.
Moving forward, we knew our lives had been changed forever. Although we walk away with empty arms, a new world was unveiled to us. Looking back, we find comfort and some healing from our ability to spend every day at Zachary’s side. Unfortunately, not all families have the necessary financial and emotional support to do the same. Some families are only able to visit their sick child at night or on the weekends because of job commitments or childcare obligations. Some parents not only worry about their sick child but the crushing financial toll of long term, intensive hospital treatment and the expenses that accumulate with their stay.
We can help Zachary’s Mission in their continued efforts to ease the stress and expenses these parents face!
Please make it your mission to give from the heart and donate to Zachary’s Mission during the Pittsburgh/Westmoreland Gives Day of Giving on October 3, 2012.
Why? Because online donations of $25 or more will be proportionally matched that day, so your gift will go even further. Your donation on October 3rd will help them give to so many families in such a positive way!
It’s heartwarming to read some of the most genuinely thankful comments to Zachary’s Mission work on their Facebook page.
- “Thank you for all that you do through Zachary’s Mission to help families with children in the hospital! Sometimes it’s that random act of kindness that helps to lift your spirits and get you through the day! While staying in the hospital with our baby girl, something as simple as a healthy snack meant that we didn’t have to leave her side, allowing us to spend those precious moments with her.”
- “Thank you for the lasagna dinner at the Children’s Home. It was delicious.”
- “The families are very blessed to have you. Thank you for all you do.”
Reading through the posts made by Zachary’s Mission, you can really get a feel for how active, organized, and supportive this organization is!
- Zachary’s Mission was given the opportunity to help a family with utility bills today. This family has endured a long and difficult hospital stay with their child. We have heavy hearts today as we are reminded of the difficult decisions and situations that these families must face everyday. We are so deeply grateful for your support which enables us to help so many families.
Give your little ones an extra squeeze this evening!
- Zachary’s Mission is picking up a few last minute items before our stop in Pittsburgh today. We will be stopping by Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Home and Lemieux Family Center and the NICU at West Penn Hospital to drop off items that will take away some of the extra costs a family endures with their child’s extended hospital stay. We will drop off Gas cards, cafeteria vouchers, snack packs and quick meals.
- Zachary’s Mission was honored to prepare brunch for the families at the Ronald McDonald House last weekend.
- We stopped by The Children’s Institute in Squirrel Hill to drop off gift cards for families that commute everyday so that they may be at their sick child’s side while managing their children at home. The parent’s juggling act is not easy and we appreciate the opportunity to help ease their burden.
One of the ways Zachary’s Mission eases this burden for parents in the Greater Pittsburgh region is by providing Zack Packs to families.
These special back packs include many essential items that we take for granted,
but would be such a blessing for a parent caring for their child.
Shampoo and conditioner, Soap, Lotion,
Toothpaste / Toothbrush, Floss, Mouthwash,
Deodorant, Shaving Cream / Razor. Items to help organize such as pens, pencils, paperclips, rubber bands and notepad. Bottled Water, Hand Sanitizer, Kleenex, Word Find/Puzzles, and journals so that families can keep track of every detail. Also now including “A Little Expression of our Heartfelt Care and Compassion Snack Packs” filled with various items to fight off hunger.
You can also plan to attend Zachary’s Mission Fall Gala, which is a major fundraising event.
Here’s the quick look on the Fall Gala details:
- November 17
- Longue Vue Club, Verona PA
- Cocktails and dinner
- Americas Latin Orchestra will be the entertainment
- Dance instruction to warm everyone up
- A featured auction piece is an original painting by local artist Mark Bender.
For other ways you can get involved with Zachary’s Mission, look here.