Waking in the morning chilled, hungry, in a tent given to you by someone who cared, and estranged from a society that once embraced you and your personal worth, you are more than aware that your wheels are spinning out of control. That morning coffee you took for granted is now a dream. You have a backpack that holds all of your worldly possessions. Your clothes are filthy, and so is your body, not to mention your hair. Dental hygiene is the last thing on your mind since finding food to eat is foremost. You worry about the children you left with DCS and how they might be treated and how you are ever going to get them back. You never thought your life would come to this.
People face hard times in life, but those living on the edge are lucky to find a sanctuary where they again can feel comfort. The Ave Maria House on Madison St. in Fort Wayne, IN is just such a place. “This is their home . . . “ says the agency’s Director, Dottie Carpenter, as she surveyed the numbers of men and women washing their clothes, using the computer and the telephone or simply resting in an easy chair with others they have come to know as family. Ave Maria supplies hot coffee, breakfast and lunch items all provided by donors, and that’s just the beginning.
In 2007, St. Mary’s Catholic Church bought the property at 432 Madison because the church feared the house might be used for drugs and they wanted to protect the integrity of the Church’s rectory which is next door. Miss Dottie, as her clients call her, saw some men sitting at a picnic table outside the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. She asked them what they needed most, and they told her they just wished for a place they could rest a bit.
So in April of 2008, and with a grant from St. Vincent de Paul Society, St. Mary’s began cleanup of the property and by June it was complete. They brought it up to code with air conditioning and heat and it was initially meant as a respite for anyone in need of comfort. However, showers were gradually installed and washers and dryers were put in. The telephone became available for those following up on jobs or problems with utilities and rent. But the most stunning feature of this loving agency is the respect given and received by those helping and those being helped. Ms. Carpenter says she treats her clients the same way she treats her children and grandchildren. She recalls her own “Aunt Dorothy” Parrot, who allowed Dottie to visit every summer and how she felt completely at home and loved. This is her goal. She believes that some might fear for her, but she securely says, “I’m not afraid of them. They care because they know I take care of them.”
If you feel compelled to help this gracious agency, they are always in need of hygiene products, coffee, creamer, sugar, laundry detergent, bar soap, socks, treats, snacks, shoes, seasonal clothing, toilet tissue, and paper products like paper plates and paper towels. Ave Maria House also has a 150 Club where people can join and donate $10.00 per month.
The Ave Maria House pulls people together and helps to alleviate sadness. It is a sanctuary from the storms of life. In Miss Dottie’s words, “You don’t pass judgment here.”