Martin de Porres Center Offers Love at a Distance

Martin de Porres Center Provides Food and Assistance to Central Ohio Families;Bishop Robert Brennan Visits Community Assistance Program

Columbus, OH – How do you show love? For the Latinx young people and families who are part of the peace initiative of the Martin de Porres Center (MDP) in Columbus, love is expressed through a helping hand with homework, with a hug as young people arrive for summer camps, or with joy as new accomplishments are celebrated.

Dominican Sisters of Peace Christine McManus (left) and Michelle Sherliza (right) repackage rice for take-home food bags.

However, in the age of social distancing, when hugs and touching are not acceptable, how do we show love to each other?

For Yahaira Rose, MDP Director, it means stepping up to fill the new needs of those she serves. With Mayra Betances, Rising Youth Program Coordinator, Denise Hilliard, Director, Dominican Learning Center and Laura Baird, MDP Assistant Director, Yahaira found a way to respond to the needs of young people and their families.

“Many Latinx families do not speak English well, so they were confused by the constant and ever-changing flow of news during this pandemic,” Yahaira says. “Many of the parents also lost their employment and were uncertain how to access benefits to keep their families afloat. Other families are working towards citizenship and had no opportunity for assistance from the government, but they needed help with home schooling, food and supplies.”

Feeding 100 families, more than 450 people, every week during this pandemic has been no small task. CommonSpirit Health, a national Catholic health care ministry, funded the purchase of food, personal supplies, and gift cards for gasoline and groceries.

Dominican Sisters of Peace, who sponsor the Martin de Porres Center, make nearly 200 peanut butter sandwiches each week, assemble bags of rice, beans, pasta and tortillas, and write personal notes of encouragement and love to each family.  The Sisters also sewed over 300 masks, which were distributed to families in March.

Bishop Robert Brennen offered his support for the program in a visit to Martin de Porres Center on May 20, 2020.

Other community partners also stepped forward. Local small businesses provided over 210 bags of food and Columbus Fit Life, a local corporate fitness provider, funded the purchase of additional food and supplies.  The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center provided community care kits. In all, over 30 community members partnered to help.

Each Thursday and Friday, families safely pick up food bags. The families are participants in the Center’s Community Outreach programs including Proyecto Mariposas, Kids for Peace, and Rising Youth.  Dominican Learning Center adult learners also take part in the program.

To feed the minds and spirits of the children, the Martin de Porres Center is also providing boxes of activities and craft materials to spark creative thinking and continue education activities over the summer months.

The United Way of Central Ohio has awarded MDP a grant to assist families suffering from housing insecurity by helping pay rent for those in danger of eviction. As schools migrated to online learning, they also supplied computers to students who needed,

“A family being evicted during this time of quarantine is a double tragedy,” Yahaira explained. “Not only have they lost their home, their emotional and physical security, but a family on the street is significantly more susceptible to contracting and spreading COVID-19. Assisting these families with housing is an urgent public health concern.”

MDP will continue to support the families in their programs. This is a partnership with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Dominican Learning Center, and Shepherd’s Corner Ecology Center in Blacklick, OH.

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