Taking it to the Streets: Angels in Disguise

Homeless in New York

Volunteers Joe and Mary Tondo 

At first glance, Joe and Mary Tondo  look like your average retired married couple.

But as St. Vincent de Paul Society volunteers (known as “Vincentians”) from St. Joseph Parish in Avon Lake, Ohio, they’re regarded by many as nothing less than angels in disguise.

The Tondos have taken their works of charity to the streets in order to reach out to their community’s most forgotten citizens.

Each week, the Tondos seek out the homeless in Lorain city parks and provide them with food and clothing, many times at their own personal expense.

One year, Mary even lovingly crocheted 69 woolen blankets and 50 woolen caps with yarn she purchased in order to give the homeless a semblance of warmth during the cold weather.

If that were not enough, she and her husband provide weekly meals to the poor at city parks and at Lorain Catholic Charities. During one month alone, they prepared 171 meals.

The Tondos started their ministry in gratitude after Joe’s successful open heart surgery a few years earlier.

They believe that it’s not enough just to bring individuals food and clothing, but to do so with a heartfelt smile and a desire to get to know them.

“We feel like it’s sort of a mission from God,” said Mary.

“These people have no expectations of living and truly think their journey is just to survive. They have nothing, and yet they tell us, ‘If you need help with anything, just let us know.’”

“We’re very passionate that they deserve more than what they have,” added Joe.

Volunteers Joe & Mary Tondo (left) were honored for their ministry to the homeless in Lorain County, Ohio

Volunteers Joe & Mary Tondo (left) were honored by St. Vincent de Paul Society for their ministry to the homeless in Lorain County, Ohio

 

I Never Thought That I Would Need Help

Lynardo Mays 2 - Jan. 29, 2016

 

Lynardo’s Story

Lynardo never saw it coming.

“It was like a lightning bolt out of the blue!”

This is how he describes the shocking moment he found himself homeless and hungry for the first time in his life.

Before this time, Lynardo and his wife of 43 years had been living for more than three decades in a comfortable middle class suburban Cleveland home that he painstakingly fixed up throughout the years.

Hunger and homelessness were two things he never had to worry about.

But when his marriage took a turn for the worse, Lynardo suddenly found himself banished from his home, alone, hungry and living on the streets.

“It was something that I least expected,” he said. The challenge now was finding help so that he could survive this crisis.

That’s when someone suggested turning to the St. Vincent de Paul Society Woodland hunger center.

Lynardo was worried that his lack of an address might prevent him from receiving emergency food, but was pleasantly surprised that the St. Vincent de Paul Society staff and volunteers were able to register him in the hunger center’s computer system and give him the help he needed immediately.

He was also impressed by the workers’ genuine concern for his wellbeing, such as whether or not he had a roof over his head at the end of the day.

The emergency food he received through the St. Vincent de Paul Society was a much-needed blessing during a very difficult time, Lynardo said.

Today, he is off the streets and lives in a house that he is renovating for a friend. And during the summer, he is employed as a landscaper at a golf course.

But he still occasionally relies on St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Woodland hunger center, especially during the winter when it’s more difficult to find work and his funds are limited.

“I’m very thankful for what I get at the hunger center,” he said. “It supplies me with the staples so that there’s less I have to buy. This helps my bottom line.”

He added that his experience has been humbling because he now has a new respect for people who are in crisis.

“There needs to be an entity to help others in these situations, and St. Vincent de Paul Society is that entity,” he said.

Lynardo is only one example of the 13,000 deserving adults, children and senior citizens in Northeast Ohio that the St. Vincent de Paul Society hunger centers feed monthly, thanks to the generous contributions of kind neighbors.

Whether it’s through non-perishables, fresh produce or hot meals served with a kind heart and caring smile, SVDP hunger centers offer people in crisis the nourishment they need to sustain them when there’s no other place to turn.