By KATIE BORKOWSKI
ALGONA – Two or three times a year, a group of 14 students from Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona are given the opportunity to volunteer at Mary’s Place in Minneapolis.
“We usually give preference to our seniors and juniors can also go,” said Jake Rosenmeyer, theology and social studies teacher at Bishop Garrigan. “We can only take 14 students at a time with the way the meal is set up. It is a different 14 (students) each time during each school year.”
The group arrives at Mary’s Place in time to serve breakfast. The most recent trip was on March 10.
“Mary’s Place is a large, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, assistance-based place with temporary housing,” said Rosenmeyer. “If you are on the poverty scale or homeless, it takes care of all of your needs in one place.”
After serving breakfast, the students help with a few other things and tour the facility. The students also visit the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis before returning to Algona.
Mary’s Place offers transitional apartments for homeless families with children. The building was named after and dedicated to the Blessed Mother Mary. Mary Jo Copeland is currently the director of Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary’s Place, serving the needs of the poor daily.
“It was started by Mary Jo,” said Rosenmeyer. “She started it as a place to provide aid for people who needed it. Now they serve three meals a day, six days a week. They have a food bank and clothing that gets donated for people to pick up.”
Mary’s Place can house more than 600 people in need at any given time. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Mother of Christ sisters are a part of the staff and work with the families and children in many different areas.
“Having gone as a student at Garrigan myself and now as a teacher taking my students, one of the greatest things it does for us is: It shows our students something they are not used to seeing,” said Rosenmeyer. “In Algona, our homeless are not in the eye of the public. When we go to Mary’s Place, we see people from all walks of life.”
He added, “We also get to see the volunteer side. There are groups who come every Tuesday, every Thursday. When we go on a Tuesday, it is the same group of people volunteering, so we get to know them and why they are doing it.”
Bishop Garrigan senior Megan Brown wanted to volunteer to help the less fortunate and found the experience rewarding. The people who came to the shelter stood out to her because Brown did not realize “the people who go there are just regular people like me.”
Caitlin Thilges, a junior, volunteered to go to Mary’s Place because she had heard people in previous years talk about “how amazing” their experience was.
“The main difference in this service activity compared to most of the others I have participated in was that this didn’t take place in our community,” she said. “I had the opportunity to see the impact that my service had on people I didn’t even know nor will I probably ever see again.”
Thilges was especially amazed at the strong faith some of the people had. When going through the line, she heard more than one of them say, “God bless you for helping us.”
Senior Chase Hatten wanted to volunteer at Mary’s Place because he wanted to help people in need.
“What stood out to me was that there are so many people who need help and that at Mary’s Place, she (Mary Jo) can help people and families in many different ways,” he said. “Not just through meals, but clothing, job assistance, housing and food to take with them.”
Samantha Bormann, a Garrigan senior, decided to volunteer at Mary’s place because she felt “it would be a good experience for me.”
“Something that stood out to me on this trip was that most of them were very thankful that we were there to serve them breakfast, both the kitchen staff and those who came through the line to eat,” she said.