Nonprofit pursues mission during service event

Located on Woodlawn Avenue in a residential neighborhood on Erie, Pa.’s east side is House of Mercy, a nonprofit organization with a mission. A mission that is to be “a place of welcome hospitality for an east side Erie neighborhood, the House of Mercy, established and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, promotes a healthy neighborhood by providing activities and advocacy that engage adults and children in positive experiences for them and their neighborhood.”

This particular house was founded in 2002; however, the original House of Mercy was started in Dublin, Ireland in 1831 by Catherine McAuley, and now there are 31 houses modeled after the original.  But what is done in this organization? There are after-school activities for kids from elementary school to high school from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

They teach aspects of grammar and environmental science, conflict resolution classes, and arts and crafts for the children. Adult activities include ESL (English as a Second Language), driver’s license training, education mentoring and computer assistance as well as many others. They also take the members on trips. The most recent trips they have taken were going to Niagara Falls and apple picking.

The house was visited by Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society for Gannon’s annual GIVE Day.  One of the participants was Siobhan Brown, a junior education major.

“The first thing I noticed about the house was how beautiful and homey it was. It wasn’t how I pictured it; it was cute and welcoming,” Brown said. “During GIVE Day we weeded out the garden and picked up trash for a neighborhood cleanup.”

The members of Sigma Tau Delta were not the only ones on that day who volunteered; some kids who go to Mercy contributed to the cause as well. Brown said she enjoyed working with the kids.

“The kids were really nice and genuinely wanted to help,” she said.

Fiona Hensley, an AmeriCorps Vista for House of Mercy, said that the feeling between the volunteers and the organization were mutual.

“We love and appreciate volunteers,” Hensley shared with sincerity. “Volunteer opportunities can be flexible and a volunteer can do something within their self-interest here.”

The House of Mercy was intentionally placed in the lowest economic areas in Erie; the area was designated by researchers from Mercyhurst University. When asked if she thought if this organization has accomplished what it was set out to do, Hensley did not hesitate.

“Definitely, since this house was modeled after the original which was created to help the people around McAuley’s house in Ireland, we have done the same here,” she said. “Our purpose is to take care of the whole family so they can take care of each other.”

Hensley said that you don’t have to just take her opinion on the beneficial aspects of volunteering at the House of Mercy.

“The people that come, do come back,” Hensley said. “There are very few people that come one time and think that it isn’t for them.”

Although volunteers are very important, they are not the only ones contributing to the success of the place.

“We have two sisters and a sister in training that work there and live there as well,” Hensley said. “Even though religion is the foundation of Mercy, it is not pushed on the people that attend.”

The mission of the House of Mercy is to engage adults and children in positive activities in hopes of providing a safe, educational place for people who need it.

And it looks like it’s doing just that.

 

HOLLY ZILL

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