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'Joy of service' the lesson as 707 parishioners volunteer for a day 48 Cleveland locations

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Catholic Universe Bulletin) - Jack Martanovic, a sophomore at St. Ignatius High School, had no idea the mammoth men’s shelter run by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries near downtown even existed prior to Gesu Parish’s second annual Service Day on December 1.

Yet, there he stood on a Saturday afternoon scrubbing a restroom door at 2100 Lakeside, as the shelter has come to be known on the street. A movie or a game of football with friends could have been more appealing, but he, like more than 770 other volunteers, including his father and uncle, chose to give time and energy to others that day.

“When you get out here, you’re doing good,” Martanovic said. “I would definitely come back in the future.”

Before returning to the University Heights parish for Mass, the volunteers spread across 48 different sites in Greater Cleveland, including the Cleveland Food Bank, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and the Jennings Center for Older Adults in Garfield Heights for a day of service. Meg Wilson, Gesu’s outreach coordinator, wasn’t simply searching for a sufficient compliment when she described the churchgoers as active.

“I think a lot of people realize they’re fortunate and they welcome a chance to get out in the community,” Wilson said. “Some people, after they’ve volunteered, have contributed money and time to the same places they went last year.”

Jesuit Father Lorn Snow, the mastermind behind Service Day, said it was created to promote the Jesuit identity of the church.

“A Jesuit church should be all about reaching out beyond our church,” Father Snow said. “Being available is really what it means to be a Jesuit parish.”

’The greatest gift’

While Jack Martanovic and others tended to the restroom, Bennett Presser, a sophomore at St. Ignatius, and his aunt, Jody Prosser, readied juice cups to accompany the spaghetti lunches about 225 men consumed. Meanwhile, Gary Wright and his son, Evan of University Heights, placed salads on trays to go with the pasta, garlic bread and apple crisp cobbler.

Gary and Jack’s father, Joe Martanovic, agreed that the seemingly simple act of preparing lunch at a men’s shelter would have an lasting effect on their children’s development as young men.

“I think they can learn to respect others, especially people that are challenged by some things that they most likely will never be challenged with,” Gary Wright said. “Everybody’s story is different … (volunteering) is one of the best things a young man could do.”

The Gesu acts of kindness surely did not go unnoticed by men at the shelter or its staff.

“I think it’s wonderful that they come down, help out, and see what’s going on and see a lot of pain — a lot of these men are in pain,” said Carl Cook, a kitchen supervisor. “The greatest gift of all is giving.”

Gratitude

By the lunch’s conclusion, Barry Harris, who has been at the shelter for eight months, could not contain his beaming smile. He enjoyed a musical performance by parishioners Pat and Beth Hyland and their band, The Flipside. Harris is preparing to move into his own residence in Euclid.

“It’s always good when people can leave their own families to not only entertain others, but also to feed others,” Harris said. “I’m elated, I’m very grateful.”

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Universe Bulletin (www.catholicuniversebulletin.org), official newspaper of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio.

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