SU students help homeless in Harrisburg


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Living on a Pennsylvania farm in the late ’90s, Sue Rudy and her husband Vern first took in a homeless person as an act of faith.

Believing that they had a mission to fulfill, the Rudys bought a second home and welcomed more homeless people. Realizing the community need, by 1999, Silence of Mary Homes was founded. Today there are five homes located in Harrisburg, Pa., and two in Fort Wayne, Ind., that serve more than 700 people.

Silence of Mary Homes is a non-profit organization that relies solely on donations and the work of volunteers. Ask Sue Rudy about her residents and she will firmly reply, “We are not a shelter, we are a family.”

Having grown up in a poor family in Baltimore, Md., Sue Rudy knows what many of her new family members are going through. School was an especially difficult place for Rudy, who has Tourette’s syndrome and autism. Her instinct in life has always been to think and care for others before herself.

Saturday, Sept. 28, Shippensburg University students gathered at the Cora L. Grove Spiritual Center, packed into vans loaded with supplies and left for Harrisburg to meet the extended Rudy family.
In the Allison Hill area of Harrisburg, crime is a common sight and the homeless population is on the rise. Silence of Mary Homes provides a family environment for those in need, whether that be the poor, mentally ill, immigrants, men and women on probation or anybody looking for a helping hand.

Students in Professor Laurie Cella’s and Professor Karen Johnson’s basic writers classes traveled to Harrisburg to complete their service learning project for just this purpose. Members of Catholic Campus Ministries and impromptu volunteers also joined the party.

Next to the intersection of North 20th Street and Market Street, a house belonging to Silence of Mary Homes was in dire need of repairs.

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After scrubbing the floors, painting walls and stocking shelves with supplies, SU students in the basic writers classes sat down with some of the “family members” and interviewed them about their lives.

Drawing inspiration from stories of struggle and triumph, SU students will craft essays based on their time spent in service.

One student, Dania Harrell, was brought to tears when she interviewed a mother of three who has been working hard to provide a better life for her children.

Cella and Johnson agreed that after students complete service learning projects, they see a dramatic improvement in their writing and communication skills.

“It’s not just a change in the way you write, it’s a change in the way you think,” freshman business major, Brandon Christmas said.

Catholic Campus Minister Roxanne Dennis, brings students to Harrisburg once a semester to rebuild, restock and restore the old homes.

Through this trip alone, a surplus of supplies was brought to Market Street to help furnish the three-floor house. Hygiene products, cleaning supplies, carpet, clothing, bedspreads, towels and a strong work ethic were just a few items among the donations.

About 15 years ago, SU was the first to reach out to Silence of Mary Homes and offer help.
Since then, more and more people have come forward to offer their assistance in maintaining the homes.

The program relies heavily on volunteerism like that displayed by SU students.

For people like Sue Rudy, who treat every moment as a gift, the generosity of others is invaluable.
“Without the college students, we couldn’t be here,” Sue Rudy said.


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