Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recognizing a community leader who walks in Dr. King’s footsteps

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On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington joined with Catholic Charities USA to celebrate mass and honor four community leaders whose work continues to move forward Dr. King’s message. CCUSA presented awards to Joshua Dubois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Marguerite “Peg” Harmon, Chief Executive Office, Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona and Maria Odom, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC).

Locally, we were honored to award the Faith Does Justice award to Jean Hale, whose life isn’t easy to sum up in a blog post (though we’re going to try). Through her parish Our Lady Queen of Peace, she helped found the SHARE Food Network and continued to lead for 20 years. She has volunteered in many leadership roles and, alongside her husband, has opened their home and hearts to helping neighbors and coworkers through hard times.

In short, she’s incredible. For more, here’s the text of her introduction as it was read in full:  

Jean Hale embodies and inspires the life of a Catholic woman – full of love, service and faith. She is affectionately known as Mother Hale around the community and at her parish Our Lady Queen of Peace, where her many years of service in many ways have come to define her and her parish.

In 1990, the SHARE Food Network was just getting started – and the fledgling program needed volunteer and community support to take off.  Thankfully, Mother Hale heard about this new program, which used volunteers to provide low-cost, nutritious groceries to families for a fraction of the cost. She wanted to bring it to her parish.

As she tells it, she went to her priest, Fr. Ansgar Laczko, and suggested that the parish become a host site for the food network.  He was very excited about the idea right off the bat. And then he said, “I think you’ll do a great job as coordinator.” 

Twenty years later, the SHARE Food Network distributes nearly 10,000 food packages monthly, serving thousands of families. But it was largely thanks to the early momentum and excitement built at Our Lady Queen of Peace, led by Mother Hale. She organized an army of volunteers, 30 to 50 people each month that picked up, packaged, and delivered food packages to as many as 300 families a month.  Frequently, the Hale family car was loaded down with food as she delivered to ill neighbors and church members who could not leave their home.

Her involvement in SHARE is only one outreach of a life filled with generosity and compassion. She and her husband Wilfred, married for 60 years, have seven children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All of them have been to SHARE at some point in their lives.

They have opened their three-bedroom home to provide food and shelter to co-workers, friends and family who have fallen on hard times – even skipping on perks in their own life to ensure a friend in need was taken care of. Jean participates in Meals on Wheels in her community, has served as Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Southeast Pregnancy Crisis Center, serves on numerous church committees including Visit the Sick and the Finance Committee.

Oh, and she also had a 25-year career at the U.S. Patent Office prior to retiring and worked for several years after retirement at Catholic Charities’ Teen Life Choices in the early 90’s.

It is my pleasure and honor to recognize a volunteer whose life has been a profession of her love of Christ and has matched her dedication to equality and love through action in the same manner of Dr. Martin Luther King. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington is proud to present Mother Jean Hale with the Faith Does Justice Award.

View more media from the MLK Day Celebration on Facebook: The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., has posted photos of Mother Hale and Catholic Charities President and CEO Ed Orzechowski.