Sharing & Caring Hands

On Tuesday morning, May 1st, Mary Jo Copeland, founder and director of Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis, held a press conference to talk about the possibility of locating a children's home in Victoria.  Prior to the conference, Mary Jo and husband Dick, general manager of Sharing and Caring hands, gave the editor a brief tour of some of their facilities.  The place is, indeed, immaculate.  The people are, indeed happy.  Perhaps they portend of things to come should Mary's House find a place in Victoria.

The large building that carries the name, "Sharing and Caring Hands," lies along 7th Street in Minneapolis.  The ramp fills with 1,500 people every day who need a hot meal and other things.

People also line up in a hallway that leads to this sink, from where Mary Jo Copeland gets the water and pans to wash the sore and tired feet of her visitors.

Hundreds of new tennis shoes await distribution to children and adults in need at Sharing and Caring Hands.  The shoes are donations from manufacturers and stores.

Also nearby is a large room with tons of tables stacked with tons of good used clothing for people who might need a new outfit or two for the new season.

Some of the goods that are made available for distribution by Sharing and Caring Hands are picked up by volunteers who drive for the Copelands.

Dick said the public would be amazed how often grocery stores are unable to stock their shelves with items because of harmless defects in the product or packaging.  Mary Jo is happy to accept it.

Volunteers meet early in the day in order to begin preparation of the meals that will soon be dished out to many, many people from the metro area.

Floors are made spotless before welcoming patrons to Sharing and Caring Hands, which means chairs and tables must be continually shuffled about.  Volunteers don't seem to mind the work.

Many dentists from the Twin Cities area donate their labor and expertise to help people who are in need of dental care but are unable to afford it. 

Across from the Sharing & Caring building is the Children's Center, entitled "Mary My Hope."  All of the centers are named after the Blessed Mother, and located under the Minneapolis skyline.

Just past the Children's Center is the Teen Center where teenagers find a safe haven as well as a source of activity among peers.  There is also a Mary My Hope Day Care.

Only a few yards down the street is Mary's Place, a residence for 92 families who reside there until rental units become available to them in the city.  The front door is just to the right ….

This is the front door where the school bus, for example, stops to pick up children every morning and drops them back "home" every afternoon.  Mary Jo greets the kids coming and going.

Right inside the door is an information desk.  Butterflies adorn many walls at the various buildings of Sharing and Caring Hands because "they stand for new life," says Mary Jo.

Across from the reception desk is the "rotunda" with a statue of Blessed Mother occupying a prominent spot.  This is where the press conference will be taking place in a few minutes.

Since it wasn't quite 9 a.m., start time for the press conference, Dick was happy to show more of Mary's Place, which includes this spotless laundry room for families who reside there.

This classroom includes a computer lab where inner city poor have access to news and education available on the World Wide Web.

Shine on the classroom floors matched the shine of the dining room floor and the laundry room floor and the rotunda floor and just about everything else in sight. 

In one of the conference rooms, volunteers are shoring up duties for the rest of the day, or perhaps the rest of the week or month, at Sharing and Caring Hands.  The chatter is very friendly.

A large gymnasium is available for recreation and sport activities that  the resident families who live at Mary's Place.

Every volunteer at Sharing & Caring Hands, even as they waited for the press conference to begin, wore a smile and made the words of Mary Jo Copeland ring true.  "This is a happy place."

Dick and Mary Jo Copeland went over a few last minute details, but didn't appear to need formal preparation time or notes -- partly because they eat and breathe this stuff.

Good morning, Councilmember Richard Tieden; Dr. Donald Meisel, pastor emeritus at Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis; a very important tall architect, temporarily anonymous; and Cathy Tieden, wife of Councilmember Tieden.  Love those smiles.

Dan Wellenbring is an executive of the Target Corporation, a major sponsor and donor for Mary's House.  "We're in this for the long haul," he said.  "This fits in with Target's giving program."

Dick Copeland often has a cell phone in his hands as he directs business of the day.  Victoria's Richard Tieden said it was an honor to be part of the day.

Cameras from the major local TV stations are aimed and ready.  Reporters from the Minneapolis Star Tribune are also on hand.  But Mary Jo Copeland isn't.

Mary Jo is out in the sunshine with some of her kids.  She seems drawn to the children at Mary's Place no matter which door they come through.  The feelings are, obviously, mutual.

A little teasing here, a little teasing, there -- Mary Jo Copeland doesn't mind.  And neither do the children and the Blessed Mother, who is shown here as Our Lady of Grace.

Back to the rotunda.  Cameras are rolling.  In reference to recent unsuccessful efforts at locating a children's home in other parts of the Twin Cities area, Mary Jo said, "We shook the dust off our feet in a few towns, but we still have the same sandals.  I finally found that the mayor of Victoria would like to have the children's home in Victoria."

A typical home at the children's residence would house up to 10 children and 2 parent figures in a family setting.  These homes -- 20 of them -- will be complete with basements, main floors, and upstairs.  They will have a kitchen, living room, 4 bathrooms, 7 bedrooms, amusement room, laundry facility, storage space, and  front porch.

Said Mary Jo, "The place will be open to kids of all ages, especially those with siblings.  Children have enough trauma without being separated from brothers and sisters.  Every day starts and ends with prayer.  Here at Mary's Place, all the people learn how to pray."

Here is a typical floor plan.  Mary Jo thanked the Target Corporation for their major involvement.  She thanked St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict for their interest in sponsoring a charter school on site.  "Maybe some of their people could intern at the school," she said.

Said Mary Jo, "Sure, adoption is the way to go, but that doesn't always happen for them.  We'll take children from all counties.  One place I think that will open up their hearts to these children is Victoria.  There are three parcels we've looked at.  Dick will make the decisions.  And God will send the money just like he does here."

The site plan shows a central community building with 10 homes on each side that will house up to 200 kids.  A 35-acre parcel would be perfect.  Mary Jo said the children's home is estimated to cost approximately $30 million. 

Said Victoria Councilmember Richard Tieden, "It's a thrill and an honor to be here with the Copelands.  On behalf of Mayor Mary Meuwissen and myself, we are pleased to be part of this early stage process … I think you'll find Victoria is in support of all of God's children … We've learned some wonderful things, the mayor and I, and have found in the community that there is tremendous support for this … I personally believe that Victoria, along with the Copelands, has what it takes to make this happen."

Dick and Mary Jo Copeland and Richard Tieden responded to questions from the media.

The first person encountered at Sharing and Caring Hands this fine morning was the last person encountered later that morning.  Thank you, good man, for your kind ways.

A first step has been made.  The editor was also impressed.  Dick and Mary Jo Copeland have been invited to look at Victoria for Mary's House.  Does the City of Victoria, the pearl of Carver County, the city of lakes and parks and expensive homes, have room at the inn?

The End

Love, Sue