Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ms. Viola

It’s rare that I meet a person and automatically feel their goodness.

Perhaps you could argue that people will rise or fall to your expectations; if you look for the worst in people, that’s what you’ll find.

Or you could argue that the world is full of assholes.

Whichever philosophy you espouse one thing is clear----good people tend to stick out in our modern society.

Such is the case of Ms. Viola.

Ms. Viola is the coordinator of the Angel Food Ministries program at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

You know, the Black Episcopalians who are feeding me.

When I discovered Angel Food and went to make my first purchase, Ms. Viola welcomed me like a long lost relative.

Not only was she warm, but when I didn’t have enough money to get one of the additional boxes she arranged to get one for me.

I didn’t know this woman from Adam and she was asking me what I needed.

Naturally I couldn’t impose on this nice lady.

I told her that it was okay, that I’d get an additional box next month. She replied that “Donations happen all the time. Just tell me what you want.”

It’s been a long time since a stranger has been nice to me.

I’m a “wait for the other shoe to drop” type of broad.

The defenses are usually up. The wall is set.

I know it’s not fashionable to say that you look for the ugly side of people’s personalities but I’ve always been truthful with you gentle readers and more importantly myself.

Nonetheless, I started to tear up at such sheer kindness.

I just adore that woman.

And because I adore this woman (and am in desperate need additional parental figures), I have a favor to ask.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church has been serving the needs of its worshipers and the Bronzeville neighborhood for over 120 years.

Their original church burned down in 1962 but they managed to carry on their ministry at the parish house until the new church was built near the intersection of 38th and Wabash.

The parish house is a beautiful but neglected jewel in a re-emerging neighborhood.

In fact, it’s next to the Margaret Burroughs house----you know the founder of the Dusable Museum of African American history.

The remaining old homes in the neighborhood are quite breathtaking and in various states of repair.

Such is the case of the St. Thomas parish house.

From what I’ve been told, this beautiful old girl was victim of some unscrupulous contractors and handymen.

In fact, part of the beautiful banister was allegedly stolen by a bootleg contractor around 17 years ago.

He took the banister from the first floor to part of the second floor and replaced it with horrible wrought iron fencing.

Yes, you read correctly----wrought iron fencing in a 100 plus year old house.

Don’t get me started on the dropped ceilings (Ick!) and other monstrosities done by “reputable” contractors.

In short the good folks of St. Thomas and Ms. Viola need to find the funds to restore the parish house to its former glory.

And before you all start asking why can’t they pay for their own repairs, I have a simple answer----‘cause they don’t have the money.

As someone who lives in an older building, I personally know how tough it is to find the money to handle repairs much less make improvements.

Keeping the lights and water on is usually a task within itself much less trying to do accurate (and expensive) historical restoration.

I know one of you has to know something about securing grants for restoration.

I know someone out there can help.

Just tell me how.


Emale said...

Nice woman. My blog is You can apply to just have your blog on Today. I don't know if they still pay you, but they may...

Eric Allix Rogers said...

I wish there were an easy place to go for grants for that kind of work. I'm not religious, but it breaks my heart to see churches falling into disrepair, especially churches that do good work in the community.

Unfortunately, there's really no government help for them. Government subsidizes historic preservation with tax credits and the like, but since churches are already not paying many taxes, there's nothing there for them.

If they have time, it might be worth it to contact an organization like Preservation Chicago. If anyone knows resources out there in the private sector for preservation work, they would, I think.