May 5, 2017

Helping others at the heart of Spirit of Service winners’ lives of faith

By John Shaughnessy

Four individuals and a business were honored for their contributions to the community during the archdiocese’s 19th annual Spirit of Service Awards dinner in Indianapolis on April 26. (Related story: Olympics star shares ‘gold medal’ moments that lead her to serve God and people in need)

Here is capsulized information about the award recipients, who were prominently featured in the March 31 issue of The Criterion.

Grace Albertson, recipient of Spirit of Service Youth Award

A moment on the playground at St. Mark the Evangelist School in Indianapolis changed the focus of Grace Albertson’s life.

The year was 2012, Grace was in seventh grade, and the first wave of Burmese refugee children had just arrived at the south side school. Grace went to the Internet, learned a few phrases in Burmese and used them to greet three of the new students.

It was the beginning of close friendships that have continued.

It was also the start of Grace’s six‑years-and-counting commitment to help refugees to the United States make an adjustment to life in Indianapolis.

During that time, she has taught English to Burmese and Syrian children. She has greeted refugee families at Indianapolis International Airport, and helped them make the transition to life in their apartments. And she has spent parts of two summers in South Korea, teaching English to children there.

“I find myself thanking God for these opportunities, for letting me know these children,” says Grace, now a senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. “My faith has grown from being around them. It took me a long time to realize that I’m meant to be a servant to others.”

Karen and Don Beckwith, Spirit of Service Award recipients

Karen and Don Beckwith still remember the first night they set out to help the homeless who live on the streets and under the bridges and railroad arches in Indianapolis.

“We drove into places I was scared to death of, places I would never go into the dark,” says Karen, recalling their initial effort as volunteers for Helping Our Own People.

Yet that night also revealed to them how they could bring some light and life to those areas, and how the people they met could do the same for them.

“I just realized there are people out here who for a number of reasons are not making it in this world on their own—veterans, people with mental health issues, people with addictions,” Don says. “They’re just struggling to make it in this world. We’re giving them soup and sandwiches and blankets. And they encourage us and make us see we need to be the hands and face of Christ to them.”

Since that night in 2004, the couple from St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis has faithfully served the organization that strives to be “a link to the community for our homeless friends.” Don has also served the past seven years as chairperson of the organization’s board of directors.

“It took me a while to understand it wasn’t about handing out the soup and the sandwiches,” Karen says. “They wanted to talk about the Colts, the weather, their lives. It’s the human touch that matters to them.”

Gary Gadomski, Spirit of Service Award recipient

Gary Gadomski begins every week with the same ritual—driving his 1996 “maroon and rust” Ford pickup truck to food distributors on Monday and Tuesday mornings to load up supplies that will help people who are in need.

“I like starting my week giving,” Gadomski says. “That way, no matter how busy I get the rest of the week, I’ve started my week in a good way.”

With his truck loaded with food, Gadomski heads to the Cathedral Soup Kitchen and food pantry, a ministry of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis. There, he’s greeted by the homeless men who line up for breakfast.

Gadomski has been volunteering at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen “for at least 10 years” and about 20 years for Beggars for the Poor, a ministry that provides food, clothing and conversation for the homeless in downtown Indianapolis.

He also volunteers at his home parish, St. Luke the Evangelist in Indianapolis. He helped renovate a home that the parish has converted into a nursery and pre‑school site. He’s also the go-to handyman for many senior citizens in the parish.

“Jesus taught us to be servants,” he says. “It always seems the more I give, the more I’m taken care of. I had some health problems early on in my life. I’m thankful for the things I can do now. It’s happy work. It’s joyful work.”

Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman law firm, recipient of Spirit of Service Corporate Award

As the executive director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, David Bethuram says the law firm received this year’s Spirit of Service Corporate Award “for its values, skills and accomplishments to the community.”

“They have demonstrated a real interest in helping Catholic Charities address the human and health services for those most vulnerable in our community,” Bethuram says. “Their staff has volunteered on our boards, councils, committees and task forces to help provide confidence, integrity and efficiency to how Catholic Charities wants to deliver service to those in need.”

The award was a surprise and an honor for the law firm.

“We were told this reflects ‘a sum of the parts’—that we have a number of people in the firm who are active in their parishes and in the archdiocese,” says Gregg Wallander, a lawyer with the firm. “So we’re excited and appreciative.”

Wallander represents that involvement, helping with the Spirit of Service awards event for more than 10 years. He served as the chairman of the dinner in 2016.

“Everything that Catholic Charities does is for the right reasons,” he says. “They really help people to get on their feet, and they make a permanent difference in people’s lives—and for our community. I’ve just been so moved over the years to see what they do.” †

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