Many of you have heard the story of the starfish on the beach. While indeed an imperfect analogy for this story, here is the tale: A young girl was walking along a beach where hundreds of starfish had been washed up on the beach during a storm the previous night. She walked down the beach, picking up starfish, one at a time, and tossing them back into the ocean.
A man watched her for a few minutes, then approached her and asked, “Why are you doing this? Look at all these starfish on the beach. You can’t begin to make a difference in how many survive!” The girl, looking down sadly, saw his point.
But after a second, she straightened and looked at him; she smiled, bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it into the ocean as far as she could. Then she looked at the man and said, “Well, I made a difference for that one!” The man looked at the girl and thought about what she had said. Inspired, he bent down, picked up a starfish, and hurled it into the ocean as far as possible.
Rosa is a hard-working mom with three children. Several parishioners and staff at St. Francis contracted with Rosa to clean their houses, especially after a tornado hit the area in 2012 and damaged her home; she needed money for repairs, and they wanted to help. Her husband, Leo, was ill, and they didn’t have extra money for roof repairs. Those parishioners also petitioned the Justice and Peace ministries at St. Francis for help. The funds allowed the roof repairs, and a little normalcy returned to Rosa’s life. Then, about six years ago, Leo, who had been ill for some time, passed away, leaving Rosa as the sole support for her family.
Diogenes Ruiz, the Parish Communications Coordinator, met Rosa through Kathleen Owen when Kathleen was the Justice and Peace coordinator. Rosa cared for Diogenes’ mother for some time, and he was thankful for her compassionate care. Rosa reached out to Diogenes and Eileen McEntegart, a parishioner who had known and helped Rosa for many years, because her trailer needed repair, refurbishment, and weatherproofing due to additional storm damage and age; her electric bill was outrageously high. Diogenes and Eileen helped with some of her needs, and he went to take a look at her trailer but felt the repairs were beyond his ability to do on his own. They knew money was essential to helping Rosa out, so Diogenes started a GoFundMe page; the St. Francis Justice and Peace Ministry, through the intercession of Director Trevor Thompson and board member Bill Laxson, also donated some funds. As things moved forward, a little over a year ago, a group of Rosa’s friends at the parish, led by Ellen Ferrone, came together and talked about what to do to fix the trailer. So many people came out to help on ‘Team Rosa,’ as Ellen called the group.
At this meeting, Tina Subasic, she recalls with a bit of humor, volunteered her husband Shawn to help. Shawn has a background in facilities and has been a Habitat for Humanity volunteer for many years. Shawn says the project was ”right up the alley of taking your skills and gifts to help others. Tina and I did a ‘Habitat House’ the last few years, sponsoring it on our own and bringing friends together to be involved to help someone.” This project was in the same vein. Shawn went out, looked at the trailer, and worked up an estimate. Contractor friends of Shawn’s helped solidify his estimates, used their contacts to get the best prices on materials, and volunteered some skilled labor and time to the project. Specifically, Robins & Morten, a local branch of a national construction company, helped tremendously. “They did the heavy lifting in getting the site set up, from getting the dumpster there to getting the ‘Port-O-Potty,’’” says Shawn.
Ellen Ferrone proclaims, “We couldn’t have done it without Shawn. I had no idea of the scope; when you think about what these professionals did! Everything got pulled off the outside; they replaced the insulation, put new siding and skirting on, and replaced two windows. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s beautiful.” Thinking about the project, Shawn mentioned, “The group felt it was important for her and her family to participate too. Rosa and the kids worked on the repairs with us or supported the effort somehow.” The whole family participated, and Rosa helped with food for lunch. Shawn adds, “Her son Leo was talking about getting into construction (when he graduates high school this year), and they discussed some options with him. Maybe we also gave him some thoughts and direction on his life and career.”
No one could express the project’s impact on her family more than Rosa. She shared her feelings by saying, “My words cannot fully express my sentiments and the gratefulness for all the help I have received for my children and myself; it was a gift from God. I want to thank everyone for their remarkable help and the time they gave; this is priceless to me.” She knows many were involved and appreciates their help, adding, “I realize many people are behind this project. I know Victoria Romero, Kate, Ellen, Eileen, Diogenes, Jean and her husband, and Mr. John. Although I have not mentioned the names of all those involved with this project, please accept my profound thanks. I am grateful to everyone, especially those who put in all the work on repairs, regardless of the rain or cold weather; they did the best job possible. My home turned out very beautiful. I am thankful that I met Eileen, who played a key role in all of this, because, thanks to her, I have the job I have today; my blessings to her family. I don’t know what to say; I am happy and joyful. Thank you to everyone for their support.”
Often, we can be overwhelmed by the needs of our community. The scope can be daunting, and the needs formidable, but at St. Francis, we focus on what our impact can accomplish to make a difference. Maybe we can’t always help every family, but for Rosa’s family, her friends at St. Francis can reiterate the little girl’s words, “Well, I made a difference for that one!” Perhaps others, like the man in the story, can also be inspired to make a difference for a family. That’s how we all can have an impact, one family at a time!
Author: Mike Watson