By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Humility of Mary Housing, Inc.’s first property, a fourplex in Davenport, contained items the new occupants didn’t need. So Sister Mary Ann Vogel, CHM, one of the founders of the program for single-parent families, asked her mom to hold a garage sale. Gertrude Vogel and friends raised $600 at the garage sale 25 years ago. Proceeds went toward building an office for Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. (HMHI) in the basement of the fourplex.
The garage sale became an annual and then a biannual tradition that outgrew Gertrude’s garage. To date, more than $200,000 has been raised, said Sr. Mary Ann during a June 17 ceremony honoring her mother’s 25-year commitment to HMHI. Gertrude, now 95, participated in a ribbon cutting to dedicate Gertrude’s Fresh Start Donation Center at HMHI headquarters, 3805 Mississippi Ave., Davenport. Participant families use the center to obtain clothing, household items and furnishings.
The celebration and naming of the center surprised Gertrude. “Doing all that work, I never thought of having anything named after me,” she told The Catholic Messenger. “I feel honored….It’s good to see something grow the way this did. It’s been so much fun.”
“Mom’s sales got so big that a new location was found at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds,” Sr. Mary Ann said. “It was at that time that my sister Norma and her husband, Ivan, came from Arizona to spend their summers helping get the sale put together. They were joined by my other brothers and sisters who took vacation time to help.” Norma sees the garage sales as “carrying on something that meant so much to my mother — a labor of love.”
When HMHI moved to its present spacious facilities in 2011, it had room to host and organize the garage sales on site. “Mom continues to come once a week to check out things in the donation area,” Sr. Mary Ann said. “She says she is keeping her finger in the pot but doesn’t do much stirring! Today we celebrate her and all that she got started 25 years ago; all the lives she has touched in her work in the donation center.”
Among well-wishers at the celebration were members of Sr. Mary Ann’s religious community, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, which founded HMHI; family and friends, Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, HMHI staff and volunteers, chamber ambassadors and several moms who benefited from HMHI.
Connie Coopman of Davenport, the first HMHI participant in 1990, was a student at St. Ambrose University in Davenport with a newborn daughter. HMHI accepted Connie on the condition that she would work with the program to gain self-sufficiency, Connie recalled.
That mutual commitment resulted in Connie completing her degree at St. Ambrose University and moving on to a new life. Today she works in management at Alcoa, is married and the mother of three children. Two of them, Payton, 11, and Brian II, 8, accompanied her to the celebration. Her oldest child, Carissa — the newborn back in 1990 — graduated from college and teaches in a Head Start program in Des Moines.
HMHI means a great deal to Connie and her family. She has served on its board and her feelings about the program have been inscribed on a wall of HMHI headquarters: “This program not only gave us a roof over our heads but the foundation under our feet upon which we build the rest of our lives.”