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Angels' generosity helps Our Place meet needs

By Deidre Jacobson

Aware that “angels” seem to come through with generosity to meet needs that arise at Our Place means co-director Peggy Sammons spends less time worrying how needs that arise will be met.

“I used to worry and twit about it,” she said.

Our Place

Peggy Sampson and Sister Ann Pizelo, SNJM

Our Place, the neighborhood ecumenical outreach ministry in West Central Spokane, has served people for more than 20 years. 

Peggy’s co-director Sister Ann Pizelo, SNJM, was director for the Sisters of the Holy Names Washington Province from 2000 until August, when she came to Our Place.

Peggy focuses on day-to-day operations, while Ann oversees the renovation of the facility, building relationships in the community and fostering volunteers.

Currently, 60 volunteers assist four part-time staff.

“Our volunteers demonstrate Christian charity on a daily basis. We depend on them, and they are faithful,” said Sister Ann. 

Sister Ann, who grew up in Spokane, served in the Sisters of the Holy Names as a teacher and principal in western Washington. 

Her example of ministry to those in need comes from her father, an immigrant from Italy. 

He owned a grocery store in Spokane and regularly gave food to those in need.  He spent hours in the Christmas season wrapping food baskets for the poor. 

In 1990, Sister Ann became the pastor at St. Joseph’s Parish, and served on Our Place’s board of directors.  

Peggy, the mother of three and grandmother of four, grew up in Montana and moved to Spokane to work as a stay-at-home mom until her youngest was in sixth grade.  She then began her career as a cosmetologist, serving shut-ins and group homes before becoming assistant director of Our Place for five years. 

She became interim director prior to becoming co-director last fall.  

Our Place began in a building near Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.  Overwhelming response to the services meant the building was soon outgrown.

In 2000, it moved to its current location at 1509 W. College, where Our Place rented half of the building.

When their co-renters moved, a donation made it possible for Our Place to purchase the building.

The increased space allowed for installation of a laundry facility with two commercial washers and dryers, and the expansion of the food and clothing areas, the classroom and welcoming area. 

In a client survey, the most frequently listed need had been for laundry facilities.  More than half the clients don’t have their own transportation.  Without a washer and dryer at home, doing laundry becomes a burden.

People who come for help can receive five articles of clothing per family member, once a week, from the clothing bank; 25 pounds of food per person, once a month; a bag of hygiene products, bus tokens or a gas voucher twice a year and one-time utility assistance. 

Every Tuesday, the Washington State University Extension staff teaches a cooking class.  About 14 clients attend.

“The need is clearly increasing, Peggy said.  “Last year we served 4,898 households with about 14,000 people.  We are seeing more working people.  Almost half of our clients are on fixed incomes, disabled or elderly.  We serve increasing numbers of homeless people.”

Sister Ann said Our Place has a morning ritual of prayer:  “Clients in the waiting room, volunteers and staff join hands.  We begin our day in prayer.   Staff and volunteers try to walk in the moccasins of the people we serve.”

Our Place always needs donations of food, clothing, hygiene and paper products, diapers—anything people need to live—and funds for renovation, she said.

Churches that support and provide resources for the ministry are St. Paul’s Methodist, St. Joseph’s Catholic, Salem Lutheran, Westminster Presbyterian, Knox Presbyterian, Central Baptist and Jefferson Street Christian.

For information, call 326-7267.

By Mary Stamp, The Fig Tree - Copyright October 2006