St. Francis Seraph Ministries’ logo designed by Fr. John Quigley, OFM. Photos by Sr. Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Franciscans’ tradition of serving the homeless and working poor in Over-the-Rhine is going strong thanks to St. Francis Seraph Ministries (SFSM), and now two new staff members, and another who was recently promoted, are thankful to be sharing in that mission.
A job to love
When 5 a.m. rolls around, “I’m happy to wake up and head to a job I love,” said Kelly Houston of his role as client services coordinator at SFSM. Hired in April, Kelly serves as the face of SFSM during the morning meal, managing the lobby area and interacting with guests, volunteers and staff. He’s also tasked with getting to know the guests on a personal level and encouraging them to become connected with local community services and support.
Previously employed by Cornerstone Renter Equity, Kelly was doing construction and handyman work when he learned of the job opening at SFSM from his girlfriend, who encouraged him to apply. The position appealed to him, said Kelly, “because I’ve always been a community type of person who wants to help others do well and get what they need. I was underserved at one point and I always wanted to be the person that I needed, someone who listened and helped people find the resources to do better and be better.”
Kelly, who grew up in Winton Terrace, recalled how hard his mother worked to support their family, acknowledging that it was sometimes a struggle to make ends meet. Thankful for the assistance they received from various local agencies, Kelly now appreciates the opportunity to give back. He’s been moved by the variety of people who arrive for an early morning meal, where they are warmly welcomed with no judgement and no questions asked.
“Some people may have internal conflicts, they may be dealing with mental health issues, drug addiction or homelessness,” he said. “I just want to do my best to help our guests feel happy and safe. That’s what we do here.”
In the short time he’s worked at SFSM, Kelly has been inspired by the friars he has come in contact with. “I’ve learned a lot from their example of love and acceptance,” he said.
From student to teacher
Freddie Adkins has gone from student to teacher. Considered to be one of the top artists at the Sarah Center for the beautiful pieces she creates, Freddie was recently named as the new jewelry instructor. Her hope, said Freddie, is to “teach people everything I’ve learned so they can create their own beautiful things to earn some extra income, or possibly start their own business.”
She made and repaired jewelry for herself for many years and thought about taking classes, but felt it would too expensive. One day, while at a local park with her grandchildren, she learned about the Sarah Center during a chance conversation regarding neighborhood enrichment opportunities. After speaking with the then director and instructors, Freddie was eager to become involved. “Most of what they taught was what I already knew, but it was great because it makes me a better teacher now,” she said.
Freddie is accomplished at a variety of jewelry making techniques, including chain maille and enameling, but her favorite is etching. “I love making the design in the metal and seeing how it comes out,” she said. “There’s just something so special about sharing your designs with someone else. I remember when someone purchased the first pair of earrings I made. It just means so much because you really put your heart into it. I’m looking forward to sharing that feeling with others.”
Empowerment through beauty
Adina Wofford has moved into a new leadership role at SFSM as the director of the Sarah Center, replacing Lois Shegog, who recently retired. An Army veteran, Adina has been with SFSM for seven years, previously serving as the retail manager.
She expressed her excitement, saying, “I’m happy about the fact that I have bigger decision making responsibility now and I’m looking forward to helping people enjoy the Sarah Center and create beautiful things for the world.”
Adina, also a talented graphic designer, was introduced to SFSM by way of her godmother, who was already involved there and asked her to create a promotional flyer. She was happy to oblige and was soon offered a job.
“I love what I do here,” said Adina. “It’s not just one thing. It’s everything. What we do is soul feeding, with all of the agencies in St. Anthony Center working together to make good things happen. There’s no judgement whatsoever. No matter what someone has done or what they have been through, they are welcome.”
Having recently devoted a significant amount of time to inventorying the multitude of supplies at the Sarah Center, Adina is eager to work with Freddie to “get classes off the ground. We’re looking forward to helping people feel happy about what they make, to feel good about the beautiful things they have created. It’s a different kind of empowerment.”
“We are so happy to have Kelly and Freddie join our team at St. Francis Seraph Ministries,” said Mary Pat Raupach,” executive director of SFSM. “We congratulate Adina on her promotion and look forward to some exciting developments in Sarah Center this next year.”