By Art Parola
Across Third Street from the University of Louisville Baseball Stadium is Holy Name Church, a grand and beautiful structure with a magnificent bell tower. On the campus right next door, an inconspicuous brick house with a small blue and green sign reading Doors to Hope in the front yard serves the needs of the local Hispanic immigrant community.
While this humble structure may not demand a second look from most who pass by, for those who learn and volunteer in its shelter, the house is a sacred site, a place where the American dream can begin and where people can come together as a community.
Founded in 2012 as a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Doors to Hope has grown to serve around 80 students a week and enlists the help of around 45 volunteers.
Most of those utilizing the services at Doors to Hope are Hispanic immigrants or children of Hispanic immigrants. The students range in age from 2 years old to adults, some as old as 70. Each student’s learning is specifically tailored to their individual needs. The youngest students are read to and play games in English to help prepare them for Head Start and preschool. This is very important, as many of these students do not have English spoken in the home, which makes interaction with teachers and peers difficult if they do not learn English before they begin school.
Older children are given help with their homework and are tutored in such areas as reading and math which may be more challenging to them. Adult learners can go through an English as a Second Language (ESL) course. This course creates opportunity for greater employment options, an ability to better understand and help their children with homework, and the prospect of getting a GED and possibly further education. Doors to Hope offers GED classes that can even be taken in concurrence with ESL classes.
In the short time Doors to Hope has served the community, it has already made a lasting impact. Grade school students have closed the gap to read as well as their more privileged peers. Women and men have been empowered to better provide for their families.
All of this and more has been made possible by the generosity of volunteers, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and the church community that enables Doors to Hope to achieve its mission.
On a mildly cool early March evening, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz rang the doorbell to the small repurposed house. He was greeted by Sister of Charity of Nazareth Rebecca Miles, director of Doors to Hope; Lorena Miller, program coordinator; Ana Toros, program services assistant; and Sister of Charity of Nazareth Julie Driscoll, chairperson.
The women cheerfully welcomed the archbishop. They explained the mission of Doors to Hope and offered to show him around. Archbishop Kurtz visited everyone and gave each person special attention. Every single volunteer was graciously thanked. He asked them about their lives and listened intently as the volunteers described how each one had come to Doors to Hope.
He also visited with students. He used his Spanish and his knowledge of the Hispanic culture to connect with them. Everyone clearly enjoyed a meaningful conversation, especially the children, who gleefully asked about his silver pectoral cross over and over.
As students finished up their sessions, people began to trickle out to return to their homes and families for the evening. However, many took the opportunity to thank Archbishop Kurtz and many, both volunteers and students, asked to have their picture with the charming archbishop, to which he happily obliged. He was definitely the star of the evening, creating a bright atmosphere for everyone he interacted with.
Each person left that evening with a deeper understanding of the connections to their neighbors and inspiration to continue to be a positive force in the community.
If you have an extra hour or two to share your gifts and talents as a volunteer, please call Lorena Miller 384-4673 or email email@example.com. Follow Doors to Hope on Facebook and the web doorstohope.com.
Art Parola is a senior at the University of Louisville studying psychology and minoring in Latin American and Latino studies. He is an intern for Doors to Hope this semester as part of the university’s LALS internship program.