ARISE group brings warmth and love to local community

By Christopher Luchis, Today's Catholic News

SOUTH BEND — In late November, six members of the St. Joseph Parish ARISE program joined together and created an initiative to benefit and assist those struggling with homelessness in South Bend. This campaign, entitled “My Friends are Cold, #click2warm,” lasted from December 1-12 and was promoted through social media and directed supporters to donate via an online fundraising website, www.indiegogo.com.

The group was hopeful that at the end of this time they could raise $3,000 to benefit the Our Lady of the Road Catholic Worker Drop-In Center, a shelter that provides meals, clothing and a safe environment for the poorest in South Bend. Much to their surprise, however, they exceeded their goal on the first day.

After receiving this overwhelming response of support, their goal transitioned to helping provide for the long-term needs of Our Lady of the Road. Jon Wheeler, ARISE member and director of faith formation at St. Jude Parish, South Bend, shared that “the initial $3,000 will go solely towards buying hats, gloves, scarves and other winter clothing to provide for anyone who comes into the center. After reaching the original goal, we shifted our focus to helping provide warmth for the Catholic Worker during January and February, assisting in maintaining their running costs, especially the heating bills and electricity.”

Six members of the St. Joseph Parish, South Bend, ARISE program
joined together and created an initiative to benefit and assist
those struggling with homelessness in South Bend.
This campaign, entitled “My Friends are Cold, #click2warm,”
lasted from December 1-12.

Our Lady of the Road’s heightened expenses during the winter stem largely from their Weather Amnesty ministry in which they provide for the needs of 10 men each night seeking refuge from the cold. These men are offered a meal, a shower, a place to sleep and the opportunity to do their laundry.

Paul Blaschko, a doctoral philosophy student at Notre Dame, helped spearhead the #click2warm endeavor after being motivated by a presentation from Professor Alasdair MacIntyre on how poverty continues to exist due to inattention and blindness to systemic injustices. Blaschko shared that “this talk really moved me and kept me thinking about how easy it would be to start something online, raise money and put it directly toward needs in our local community. After some discussions in our ARISE group focused on practicing discipleship, Kristi Haas, one of our members, suggested ‘Why not just do it?’ and we realized that we had all the resources we needed to begin such a campaign. Everything we did was collaboration.”

Wheeler also added that “local businesses were happy to assist and help us get the word out about how we can aid in warming South Bend.” On Dec. 11 Barbici’s Italian Street Food at Eddy Commons donated 15 percent of their entire sales for the night to the #click2warm cause.

Although the venture did prove to be much more successful than the ARISE team originally foresaw, there were some difficulties in the process as well. Blaschko remarked that “one of the more significant obstacles we faced involved how much time and energy we were able to invest in the fundraiser. So many people gave so much money so quickly, that we had to re-think the structure of the whole campaign. This involved making a new pitch video, creating new goals, spending more time responding to feedback on Facebook and Indiegogo, and advertising our campaign to local businesses and organizations, which was challenging, since many of us work full time.”

Additionally, Blascko shared that “although social media amplified the visibility of our campaign, and really helped us to get a narrative out there, getting someone to click on the donate button required more personal attention than we thought it would. Thousands of people were able to see our posts or videos on the local news, but some were hesitant to give unless they felt a personal connection with the cause. This meant that we had to send many more emails, Facebook messages, text messages and phone calls.”
Their hard work paid off and produced great results; the amount of funds collected at the completion of the project totaled $7,644.

Blaschko said that they are now “in the process of responding to donors, sending thank you emails, and fulfilling ‘perks’ that people were able to select as rewards for various levels of giving.”

He expressed his gratefulness for the hard work of the team and all those who participated. “Overall, I was really impressed with the way everyone pulled together to make sure the campaign was as successful as we had hoped.”

Several parishes in the diocese recently completed the ARISE process. ARISE Together in Christ is an international parish-centered initiative for creating small Christian faith-sharing communities that focus on strengthening adult faith formation by studying Sacred Scripture, witnessing the Gospel through practical means of evangelization and becoming integrated with the local community through service and outreach.

Article and photo courtesy of Today's Catholic News, the Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

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