Labre celebrates second anniversary, continues goodwill

Jenna Millemaci, Asst. News Editor

Two men dressed in warm clothes waited alongside the curb on the corner of East 13th and Lakeside in downtown Cleveland as the sun began to set. The CCEL van pulled up beside them, piloted by 6 Case Western Reserve University students, five ladies and one guy.

They hopped out of the bumpy vehicle, which carried leftover beef stew and a medley of peas and corn given to them by the Leutner dining hall. The two men waiting for a meal, Mark and John, were regulars. The group of spirited students, some new to the process, got out of the van to meet and greet on a first name basis and offer them support, as well as a hot meal.

There is a way to get your off-campus adventure during the week without hitting up the same old coffee house or usual restaurant. Labre, pronounced “La-bra,” is a student organization sponsored by the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry that ventures out to some of the most remote areas in Cleveland every Monday night to feed the homeless and make them feel at home. Students duck under bridges covered in graffiti and drive through closed roads to seek out their old timers in their campsites offering both the warmth of food and friendship.

Catherine Smith, a regular Labre member and pilot of the CCEL van on Oct. 1, gave a brief tutorial to the two newcomers in the back seat as she made her way toward Leutner to pick up the night’s menu offerings. “You’re gonna learn a lot about Cleveland tonight,” she said. Smith has been volunteering for Labre for about 1 year now. About 3 out of the 5 regulars serve through the Labre Program every other week, and the rest of the seats in the van have to schedule with them in advance to get a spot.

“We pride ourselves on building relationships with them,” Smith said, as she continued to give a crash-course to the 2 girls in the back seat on how to interact with homeless strangers. “We care about feeding them, but we mainly care about making sure they know they’re loved and cared for… because others usually just pass them by,” she said. “Most people just feel at home once they’re on the street… like they’re just talking to a normal person—and they are.”

The Labre Program has been active at Case Western for the past 2 years, since graduates Kelly Rogers and Joey Baum introduced the program from founders at St. Ignatius High School and John Carroll. Labre regular Alex Abriani attends NEOCH (Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless) meetings frequently to track down the homeless hot spots in Cleveland.

“Sometimes we’ll stop someone on the street and ask where they live,” Abriani said, Smith’s co-pilot in the passenger seat. They also use outreach programs and police sightings to locate them, or they’ll spot tracks leading into a forest and know they could be from the homeless.

By the last 2 stops, the Labre team that night ran out of beef stew. Abriani stopped at Georgio’s and bought 2 pizzas out of his pocket money so the last few wouldn’t be disappointed with just a medley of peas and corn. Funding comes from donations, out of their pockets or USG, with additional sponsorship from Valentino’s Pizzeria and Bon Appetit.

Labre is celebrating its second “birthday” this Friday, October 5, in the Thwing Spartan Room from 5-6 pm to raise awareness of its success on campus since its recent beginning with past and present Labre members, representatives from St. Ignatius High School, NEOCH, and some of the homeless people they serve who will be sharing their stories. Those interested in learning more are welcomed to attend.