Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, March 6, 2000

HT students study compassion in action at Caring and Sharing Hands

By Marie Molva
Religion Teacher, HTHS

Holy Trinity High School 11th graders, with adult drivers, went to Minneapolis Feb. 7 and 14 to serve the evening meal at Caring and Sharing Hands.

Many people have heard of Caring and Sharing Hands and perhaps, have even heard Mary Jo Copeland speak. To see her in action is an unbelievable experience.

Copeland started Caring and Sharing Hands in 1985 for those who needed help and were not able to get it. She now runs an apartment complex and a building that offers a food shelf, three meals a day, clothing, showers, financial help, and medical aide.

More important is the care, faith, and unbelievable love Copeland has to offer the volunteers, staff, and the people she serves.

On both evenings in February, the Holy Trinity juniors witnessed that the meals waited until Copeland came out and prayed with the group. She talked about how abuse and addiction are not good and told the people that there is help available. Then, she told the people that God loves them and so does she, and closed by singing a simple song.

The meal was served. Families with small children and people with handicaps were seated at a table and had their meals brought to them. The rest of the people came through a serving line. About 20 minutes later, the meal had been served and the people started leaving.

On Feb. 7, the girls witnessed Copeland in full action. As the meal was being put away, 11 children with an adult walked in. The students and the staff thought they were a group of several families at first, but as it turned out, they were all members of one large family. Copeland was notified immediately and came out to welcome the children and find out what their needs were.

The students watched Copeland hand out dollar bills that she carries with her to give to children; they heard her explain that staff and volunteers were making sure there were beds available for these children that night; and they heard Copeland pray with the family. Her compassion and care was obvious, and she was close to tears as she talked about these 11 children.

An apartment building for mothers and children who are from abusive homes and need a safe place to live is also available. The children go to school and the mothers are aided in finding jobs and housing.

The length of stay is up to six weeks. If a family finds a home and signs a lease within two weeks, they get all new furnishings, which include pots and pans, towels, dishes, bedding, etc.

Currently, Caring and Sharing Hands is putting an addition on the apartment complex. They are also working on building an orphanage, which is being totally funded by Dayton-Hudson, and will be run by the Benedictine nuns. The initial orphanage building will be able to house about 120 children.

The most amazing thing of all is that Sharing and Caring Hands was built and is run on private donations. There is no state or federal funding for the organization.

Ninety four percent of donations received go to serving the poor. The other six percent is used for salaries and administrative costs. The monthly cost of operations at Caring and Sharing Hands is $200,000. Copeland does not take a salary.

If you are interested in learning more, or donating to Caring and Sharing Hands, you can contact them at 525 North 7th St., Minneapolis, MN 55405; 612-338-4640.

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