This story by Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda is too good not to share. It's not only a powerful testament to living the Gospel but a reminder of what one person can do to make a difference. One day, during a hail storm in Shawnee, Okla., Anthony Christopher Rocko noticed a woman sitting on a curb. His decision to stop and offer her a meal from McDonald's was the start of something amazing, something that has blossomed into a community-based organization called Labor of Love Charities.
From Maria's story in the Arkansas Catholic:
"'I never could have imagined there were that many homeless in Shawnee,' Rocko declared.
"...I just kept thinking, these are the people that Jesus would be hanging out with," he said.
"A few Sundays after that first encounter, Rocko made eight hot dog sack lunches and he took them to Woodland Veterans Park. Soon eight lunches turned to 16, then 32, and then 40. Labor of Love now feeds an average of 80-90, and up to 130 a week. He describes the Shawnee homeless community as a demographically diverse mixture of approximately 100 to 150 individuals and families, including 25 to 30 children.
"'As someone told me, miracles happen when individuals hand over their loaves and fishes. This is much bigger than me,' he said. 'It's the community caring about the poor. Churches and families have adopted LOL as their project.'"
When Rocko got some outside assistance for his organization, at the top of his wish list was a homeless shelter with a chapel that would be open 24 hours a day and an apartment where he could live along with the poor he served, according to the Arkansas Catholic story.
"'I have a strong devotion to St. Philomena,' Rocko said of the patron saint of babies, infants and youth -- a favorite among the Rocko family and a saint renowned for her miraculous intercessions. 'And I prayed a novena with a promise -- if she would bless this work and allow me to get a shelter, I would name it after her.'Take the time to read the rest of this inspiring story by clicking HERE.
"It wasn't long before a building was suggested -- a former funeral home with 'the most beautiful chapel I have ever seen,' noted Rocko -- and with a third-floor apartment where the funeral home owner used to live.
"Philomena House, already in the process of being restored inside by volunteers, is a distinctive blue-roofed building in the heart of downtown Shawnee, located between the Salvation Army and a behavioral rehabilitation center. It is scheduled to open this fall as the first extended-care shelter for the homeless in Shawnee."