Years ago, when I was Executive Director of COPE House, a collection of halfway houses for adults, several members of the board and I became aware of a 240 acre property with a former school building on it, 270,000 sq. ft. that was for sale. COPE was looking to expand, possibly developing a larger pre-release center and a “one-stop-shop” social service center taking care of a wide variety of needs for these clients and others. Three of us were also on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Social Action and World Peace Committee. When we heard of this property becoming available, we initiated conversations with the owners. We had no money but felt we could make our case for the needs of the poor and raise enough to secure an option. One of the finalists, Hewlett-Packard was tough competition. As it was during the Reagan era, social service monies had dried up. It became apparent that our concept of a pre-release center and mega-social service operation was dead on arrival. Someone asked if we knew anything about senior housing to which we replied, no. “There is a need for low-income housing with services for seniors,” we were informed. Well, we did our homework, raised over $500,000 in 90 days and secured the option. The first staff person I hired was a Precious Blood sister, in her seventies, who had been the executive assistant for more than one archbishop of Cincinnati. She lived in the 274,00 sq ft building, by herself. Today there are hundreds of staff and residents living there. The place? St. Leonard Seminary owned by the Franciscans in Centerville, Ohio. Today it is one of if not the finest community for older Americans Center in the United States.
There are other stories I want to share with you, stories of young girls robbed of their lives by a predator, one of whom was my great aunt. Telling their stories is doing justice to them. Please join me at St. Leonard Center. Please call for reservations.