Look out along G Street in downtown Fresno and you will see some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
It’s also where you will find a particular group of students hard at work every week.
“It’s living the gospel. It’s their mission statement”, says Fresno Diocese Bishop Joseph Brennan. “I’m over the moon happy when i see these kids here.”
“The kids” Bishop Brennan is talking about are the students of San Joaquin Memorial High Schools Service Club, and “here” is serving the homeless at the Poverello House.
“Covid altered what we could do,” says English and Religion teacher and service club moderator Carlie Frye.
The club still met virtually and would do service projects donate products from home, but they soon noticed, without the direct, personal contact with each other and the people they served, something was missing.
At the same time, Poverello House staff also noticed something missing. Most of its help.
“Right away when Covid hit we lost about 60% of our volunteers,” revealed Poverello House CEO Zack Darrah.
“Having these students here doing this work really helped us through the hardest times,” says Darrah.
Talyn McCaslin says it was the impact on the people they served that lifted her spirits too. “I’ve seen people’s day brighten up and if they’re sad like we can just make their day.”
“As we were working one of the residents came in and started singing with us, so that was really nice,” remembered Jacob Zarate.
For Spencer Douangphouxay, it was the laughter. “There’s a lot of laughs. a lot of smiles, and it’s very inspiring to see students just like me there able to make change no matter what age you are at.
Poverello House CEO Zack Darrah: “I remember back in 2000, 2001 when I served as a member of the S Club back at Memorial here at Poverello House, and here I am today doing this work, you know, 20, 21 years later. It makes a deep impact and lasting impact on a young person’s life.”
21 years later, Carlie Frye, Darrah’s former classmate at San Joaquin Memorial, remembers what kindled her flame.
“When I went to Memorial I was in the S Club. I was president actually and I believe in service my whole life and that really actualized my passion even more.”
Darrah says Poverello House serves hot meals to over a million people a year and sees thousands and thousands of people every single week.
The above comes from a Feb. 17 release by the Diocese of Fresno.