May 6, 2016

Spirit of Service winners live out their faith by helping others

By John Shaughnessy

Four individuals received Spirit of Service Awards from Catholic Charities Indianapolis during its annual dinner event at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis on April 27.

Here is some capsulized information about each of the recipients, who were prominently featured in a page one story of the April 1 issue of The Criterion.

Htoo Thu, Spirit of Service Youth Award recipient

Background: A Burmese refugee who arrived in the United States with her family five years ago. She’s a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis and a senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

Service: Most of her 600 service hours are related to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, helping fellow volunteer Mike Newton distribute items to refugee families while also translating for him. She also helps new refugees by offering them support when they visit the doctor or translating for them when they get a driver’s license. And she serves as a translator during parent-teacher conferences at Roncalli and St. Mark.

Quote: “Since I have been on the receiving end of the generosity of other people, I feel great when I help others. I feel like I grow so much from doing it. Now when I look at someone, I think about what I can do to help them. I feel God is telling me I should do this.”

Phyllis Land Usher, Spirit of Service Community Award recipient

Background: Known as “the fairy godmother of the west side,” she is the president of the Usher Funeral Home in Indianapolis, a longtime business of her late husband Bill’s family.

Service: She is president of the board of the Hawthorne Community Center, leading a successful $3.5 million capital campaign. She is also involved with Hearts and Hands of Indiana, an organization that helps low-income families and individuals become home owners in the area of St. Anthony Parish in Indianapolis.

She also continues the family business’ tradition of taking care of the funeral arrangements of nearly every Little Sister of the Poor in Indianapolis since the 1930s.

Quote: “Bill encouraged me to never be on the sidelines. He thought I could do anything. That’s how I found myself in this position.”

Domoni Rouse, Spirit of Service Award recipient

Background: A longtime member of St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis, where she has served as president of the parish council and a religious education teacher.

Service: She directs “Changing Lives Forever,” a St. Vincent de Paul Society program that tries to help people escape the cycle of poverty by pairing them with a mentor who makes the journey with them.

Quote: “I love that [the “Changing Lives Forever” program] opens people’s eyes to the possibilities and gives them hope. And it helps open the eyes of the facilitators who walk with them. If we aren’t educated about each other, nothing will change. People in this program are living a stressful life in an unstable environment. When you understand that, you want to be able to help.

“The love of Christ is supposed to be spread from one person to another. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Tim Hahn, Spirit of Service Award recipient

Background: Hahn traces the roots of his faith to growing up as a member of Holy Cross Parish in Indianapolis.

Service: He is the founder of “Helping Hand,” the grass-roots, non-profit organization that strives to make a difference, especially with members of the Hispanic community. He taps into donations from restaurants and supermarkets to provide food for about 200 people each week.

At the beginning of the school year, his group gives backpacks filled with school supplies to students. At Thanksgiving, they provide families with everything they need for a feast. In December, they distribute coats and shoes for the winter.

Quote: “When you do this, you see Jesus in these people. And look at all the time he spent with the poor, talking with them, laughing with them, helping them. So why wouldn’t I want to do that?” †


Related story: ‘We are here to serve others’: Speedway president encourages audience to win the race that places others first

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