Two days each week, it’s a bit like Mom coming to visit at Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center.
“When I first came, I was only a chaplain, but one day I was standing here and asked God what these people needed,” said LauraRose Paradis, a volunteer extraordinare/caregiver/loving maternal figure.
“I realize there was more I could do than just chat with folks,” she said.
What was needed, it seems is a good listening chaplain who passes out hand stamped cards of inspiration from her sewing pop up shop just to the left of the main desk at Dorothy Day Center.
Clients at Dorothy Day Center needed buttons sewn on, rips mended, holes patched and maybe, a few hugs.
“The thing about the sewing machine is, it reminds people of their moms,” she said, reflecting on people who sometimes stop, stare, smile and talk of their moms.
On Mondays, LauraRose visits with anyone who needs a bent ear. On Fridays, she brings in a portable sewing machine, a bag of patching material, a zipper repair kit and other sewing notions and spends five or six hours at the machine mending items for clients at Dorothy Day Center.
LauraRose even brings a curious collection of plastic bags with her each Friday.
“If people need their backpack mended it’s just not dignified for them to have their belongings strewn about,” she said.
“But if folks need me I’m going to get there longer than that,” LauraRose explains about her hours.
While she’s always been handy behind the machine, LauraRose can understand the journey many who come to Dorothy Day Center for services are on. She spent her career as a chaplain working with chemical dependency and mental health patients. Before her retirement, she worked at nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“I’ve been sewing since I was four. My mother comes from a long line of seamstresses,” she said. “Not only was sewing passed down, but addiction was passed down as well.”
LauraRose lost a son to mental illness and addiction. He had once been homeless, too. Now, she’s helping those who have walked in his shoes. She’s also motivated by Dorothy Day Center’s namesake, and feels compelled to serve others.
“I’m a Catholic girl. I am very much a student of Dorothy Day,” she said. “I am so blessed to be here. God has really blessed me. It is a privilege to be here.”
Her volunteer work is evolving as she sees the needs there. She plans to bring in another machine so she can teach others to sew.
“One lady is going to pick out a dress pattern and we’re going to sew it together,” she said.
It’s been said clothes make the man. Every week, LauraRose proves there is some truth to that.
“They walk taller when they’re not walking around in ripped clothing,” she said. “For them, it’s dignity. They don’t have to walk around with torn garments or a broken backpack.”
LauraRose truly is happy to be at Dorothy Day Center each Friday, almost looks sad when it’s time to say goodbye to the men and women who have quickly become her friends.
Toward the end of a recent shift, one man, Tony, came and gave LauraRose a hug, another, Roger, brought her a basket of blackberries. It seems she has truly captured the hearts of those who come to Dorothy Day Center. The reverse also is true.
“You really get some good relationships and rapport here,” she said. “The people here are just awesome. I’ve really learned a lot just by listening to people. I am so blessed.