Several Mission of Love volunteers were given presidential recognition at an annual banquet held April 28. They were recognized for their efforts in helping the indigenous people and children from around the globe.
The recognition came in the form of a presidential volunteer service award through the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, which was established in 2003 to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers make in the community. Along with a special pin, each recipient received a signed letter from President Barack Obama.
Honored were Mission of Love volunteers Robert Elston from New Middletown, Marion Jocola of Warren, Teddy Pantelos of Youngstown, Dr. Rashid Abdu of Canfield, Sieglinde Warren of Poland, Jeff Housel of Warren, Kristen Maag of Carrollton, and Andrea Reedy of Medina.
“Originally, the award was to be given to me,” said Mission of Love founder and Director Kathleen Price. “We combined that award to include others who have given their time and efforts to help others through the Mission of Love.”
A great deal of focus concerning the award was given to the Mission of Love’s work at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Price said that area of the country is the poorest in the nation with a close-to 87 percent unemployment rate. There are Lakota families whose only shelter during the harsh midwestern winters is found in the form of a burned-out vehicle or shed-like shelter that is ready to fall in.
One prime example that was presented at the banquet was the story of Harry Yazzie Jr. Yazzie is a Native American whose family of six were living in a rundown trailer since 2002. The trailer was falling apart. The floor was giving way, the ceilings leaked and a wall was caving in slowly.
Mustering up the courage to ask Price for a home, Yazzie finally met her.
“I felt scared, nervous, angry and then hurt,” Yazzie wrote in a letter. “I finally asked her (Price). I told her I have a family. I live in a two-bedroom house with no furnace, no running water and I want to give my babies a better place to live.”
He wrote that Price looked at him with a big smile, gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then said, “Yes, I’ll get you a home.”
Later last year, Mission of Love volunteers made the trip to Pine Ridge and build Yazzie a home. In April of this year, Yazzie wrote a letter to Price, saying, “Now I know that my family and I won’t freeze this winter.”
Yazzie, like so many other Native Americans who receive help from Price, dedicated himself to helping others by assisting Mission of Love when more homes are built on the reservation.
Price said there are many, many more families like Yazzie, who are living in similar conditions and often without heat and running water. She said the need seems endless, but she continues to try to get proper homes for families.
“I want to challenge local groups and churches to help by sponsoring a Lakota family,” Price said.
She said money is needed for the materials. She said a decent home for the average family costs around $10,000. Volunteers do all the work, but without the building materials, the number of homes needed can’t be fulfilled.
Over the past 20 years, Mission of Love has constructed 27 homes and a school. A warehouse has been donated for the organization to store and pre-construct homes, but materials are needed and Price is hoping local churches and organizations come through to help these fellow Americans have a better life.
“We would like to see three new homes this fall,” Price said. “We need a lot more than that before winter sets in.”
Price said the Mission of Love also built a building to serve as the center of the community. It houses a chamber of commerce and offices for programs such as Head Start and Roots to Shoots, a program started by Jane Goodall.
All the construction drew the attention of the White House staff. Recently, Price said a dozen staffers from the U.S. Department of Education and from the U.S. Department of the Interior visited Pine Ridge. They toured the Lakota Language School that Mission of Love helped construct. They were no doubt impressed with the work that has been done there.
Although the recent presidential awards were well received, Price and her volunteers have already turned their focus to the balance of 2010. Another airlift has been planned for Haiti, more assistance is heading to the poor in Honduras, and the organization will be working to send medical help to the children of Guatemala.
One surprise Price received recently was during a trip to Casa Guatemala. When she got off the plane, a young man ran to her and hugged her. His name was Giovanani and he was a young orphan when Price showed up in 1999 to help the orphanage. More recently, he suffered a bullet to the head and just came out of a four-month coma. It was noted that Price was the first person he recognized since the coma. The hug was but a short-lived spurt of love that Price cherishes.
During the banquet, volunteer Dr. Rashid Abdu told those present, “Before every mission, Kathy [Price] conveys, directly or indirectly, to her volunteers, that all personal agendas, whether political, religious, romantic or otherwise, must be left behind because Mission of Love has only one agenda: to help, care and to love those in need, especially children. That’s what keeps Kathy going. That’s what keeps her alive.”
He noted that the Mission of Love is ongoing and seemingly never-ending as long as there are poor and suffering children in the world.
The next Pine Ridge working trip is being planned for late December or early October and the hope is to have enough funding to build even more than the anticipated three homes.
To see what the Mission of Love has done in past years, visit the website at www.missionoflove.org.
Photo special to the Town Crier
A moving photo presented at last month’s Mission of Love banquet shows Mission of Love director Kathleen Price and a young Guatemala orphan, now grown, who was among the children helped in 1999 by the organization. The young man, Giovanani, recently suffered from a bullet wound to his head that put him into a four-month coma. When he came out of the coma, Price was the first person he recognized.