Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Former Holy Names Provincial takes leadership of Our Place Community Ministries
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Aug. 19, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Holy Names Sister Ann Pizelo (left) helps sort items in the clothing bank at Our Place Community Ministrires. Sister Ann became the director of Our Place eearlier this year. (IR photo courtesy of Our Place)
Guiding a visitor on a tour through the Our Place facilities at 1509 W. College Street in Spokane’s west central neighborhood, Holy Names Sister Ann Pizelo happily opens doors into clean, airy, well-lighted spaces remodeled in recent years thanks to grants received from the Gates Foundation and other benefactors. One space is a new classroom where volunteers offer free cooking and gardening classes.
Sister Ann recently became director of Spokane’s Our Place Community Ministries. Since 2006 she has served as co-director with Peggy Sammons, who retired in May.
Our Place originated in 1987, a cooperative effort by pastors of Catholic and Protestant congregations to better serve the poor.
“It started in a very small house on West Elm Street,” Sister Ann said. “The reason we started was because the pastors in the area kept getting requests from people coming to their door, so they decided they could do more together than they could separately. That’s why it’s called “Our Place.”
The project began with support from five churches: St. Joseph Parish, Salem Lutheran Church, Knox Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, St. Paul Methodist Church, and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Later, the founding churches were joined by Central Baptist and Emmanuel Presbyterian.
Sister Ann said that each congregation commits a certain amount of money each month. Those donations are enhanced by financial support from such groups as the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, individual donors, and grants. Our Place also distributes food from Second Harvest Food Bank and other sources.
The ministry includes food and clothing banks, bus passes, classes, utilities assistance, personal hygiene products, and bedding – emergency assistance to those in need.
Our Place, then under the direction of Holy Names Sister Marcia Schrapps, moved into its present facility about seven years ago. “We were really outgrowing our little tiny house,” said Sister Ann. “It was two stories, and we stored food in the basement and we had just a small clothing bank. Upstairs in the bathtub were all the towels and things like that.”
Realizing that Our Place had to find larger quarters, one day Sisters Marcia and Ann were driving around the neighborhood, looking for a building that might work. They came across a warehouse that was for sale – “It reminded me of an airplane hangar,” said Sister Ann. The site had possibilities. Next came the funding to make it possible.
Sister Ann and the pastor of St. Paul Methodist went to a bank to apply for a mortgage to buy the old warehouse. The loan was approved and, with the combined help of professionals and volunteers, one section was remodeled for Our Place, and the other rented to the school district. The mortgage was paid on time, but then loomed a substantial balloon payment.
“We were really quite worried” about how they could make that payment, she said, when a “substantial” bequest from “a wonderful woman” enabled Our Place to pay off the mortgage four years ago. The school district moved out of its rented portion of the facility, and Our Place expanded to utilize the entire building.
Sister Ann has been involved in various capacities with Our Place for many years, all while holding down other full-time positions, including six years as provincial of her Religious community and six years as pastoral administrator of St. Joseph Parish, a “major supporter of Our Place.
“After my time as provincial was over, Our Place needed a co-director with Peggy Sammons, so I’ve been here ever since,” said Sister Ann. When Sammons retired last May, the board of Our Place asked Sister Ann to become director. She agreed, and hired a Holy Names Associate, Mary Ann Hartsfield, as her assistant.
In addition to the ongoing need for donations of clothing, bedding, hygiene items, food, and money with which to purchase such things, Our Place Community Ministries is always ready to put volunteers to work. “I would happily welcome anyone who would like to come and fill out a volunteer form and be interviewed by me,” Sister Ann said, “because we always need volunteers. We need at least 25 volunteers a day in order to make it work well. At Thanksgiving it’s wonderful because we give out about 525 Thanksgiving baskets. That’s when the need is great. Of course, the need is great all the time.”
(Our Place Community Ministries, 1509 W. College Ave. in Spokane, is open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, plus the last Saturday of each month. For more information or to inquire about volunteering call 509-326-7267, send email to: OurPlaceSpokane@hotmail.com, or visit: www.OurPlaceSpokane.org.)