Gesu’s Service Day draws 950 volunteers
The holidays are known as a time of giving. For many people this means a time of exchanging gifts and visiting families. At Gesu Catholic Church in University Heights, the holidays are a time of service.
The parish held its third annual Service Day on Saturday, December 6. Gesu assigned approximately 950 parishioners to volunteer at 52 locations around the Greater Cleveland area, including nursing homes, shelters, churches, social service agencies, and neighborhood centers.
Service Day Coordinator Meg Wilson says, “Part of the Jesuit mission is to be ‘men and women for others’ and at Gesu, we try to live that by reaching out to others in the community and helping where we can.”
Parishioners were responsible for cleaning, painting, decorating for Christmas, hosting children’s parties, visiting with senior citizens, and playing bingo with residents. The parishioners also served four community meals: breakfast at the Catholic Worker Storefront, brunch at Famicos, breakfast at Brooklyn Memorial United Methodist Church, and lunch at the men’s shelter at 2100 Lakeside.
Throughout the day Reverend Lorn Snow, S.J., Pastor of Gesu Church, Reverend Paul Panaretos, S.J., and Wilson visited multiple locations to check on the progress and thank volunteers. Later in the day, parishioners returned to Gesu Church for Mass, which was followed by a spaghetti dinner at the Gesu Family Center sponsored by Zagara’s in Cleveland Heights.
Service Day was initiated three years ago by Fr. Snow. He chose the beginning of December to celebrate Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day (December 3) with a project showing the parish’s commitment to the community. Participation has grown steadily, with about 500 volunteer parishioners the first year and 770 the second.
“We have had tremendous feedback. People hear about the positive experiences from others, and as a result they volunteer,” says Wilson. "The volunteers enjoy working with other parishioners they may not have met before Service Day. It's great to see families and volunteers of different ages working together and becoming more familiar with the work of social service organizations in the community."
John Carroll University sophomore Ashley Bauer is an intern with Patton Public Relations in University Heights.