By Barb Arland-Fye
Sister Ludmilla Benda, RSM, who devotes her life to hospitality to the poor, has been named to the Senior Voice Senior Hall of Fame in Davenport. She was honored during a ceremony June 26 at the Davenport Public Library downtown. Her photograph and scrapbooks featuring her work with the hungry are being displayed at the library in an area designated for the Senior Hall of Fame.
A committee of the city of Davenport, Senior Voice is an all-volunteer organization that strives to keep senior citizens informed about services available to them and to search out unmet needs, said Gloria Fisher, chairman and founder. Senior Voice also promotes the talents, skills and wisdom of senior citizens and encourages their input in helping to make the Quad-City region a great place to live.
Five years ago, Senior Voice initiated the Senior Hall of Fame to recognize senior citizens 60 years of age and older who contribute to the good of the community. “This year we chose Sister. I have followed her (work with the poor) myself. I think her continued effort is what sold us on selecting her,” Fisher said, referring to the 87-year-old Sister’s commitment to guests at Father Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope meal site in Davenport.
“It was very nice of them to think of me,” Sr. Benda said. “I feel honored.”
She began the meal site on the sidewalk in downtown Davenport in July 2005 with money that Father James Conroy had left her. The two had worked for years as a team ministering to the hungry and homeless before he died in February 2005. The meal site relocated to temporary quarters during the winter months before Tom Roederer offered use of a small apartment house he owns at Fourth and Pershing streets. Sr. Benda has been there ever since, providing a noon meal every Sunday and on holidays. She also serves sausages and pancakes on Sundays at 8 a.m.
A little more than a year ago, Sister was seriously injured in a car-pedestrian accident while walking across the street from her apartment building. She temporarily closed the meal site while she recovered from her injuries. She couldn’t wait to get back to her ministry.
Sister prepares about 200 servings for the noontime meal, which includes enough food for seconds and take-outs. “The line has been longer in recent months, particularly in the last several weeks,” she noted. “Some come from across the river.”
On June 30, during the regular noontime meal, Sr. Benda turned the spotlight away from herself to honor Roederer. “We wouldn’t be going on eight years in this ministry if it weren’t for Tom. I thought we should give him recognition.”
Toby, one of the regulars at Father Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope read a hand-written plaque of appreciation for Roederer. It reads, in part: “We are bless(ed) to know that we’ve someone like you in our community as a whole who gives hope a new name: ‘Generous’ … God is Good. Thank you, Father Conroy’s Vineyard.”
Roederer appreciated the plaque and a hand-made card signed by the diners. “It makes me feel very good,” he said. He praised the volunteers and Sr. Benda. “Sister’s doing a great job. She’s a hard worker.”