Ministry of Caring's Brother Ronald Giannone's Triumphs and Controversies
Who is this man, and what drives him to do the things he does?
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“I wouldn’t give this up for nothing,” says Garvin. Her 600-square-foot unit boasts a kitchen with Corian countertops and Maytag appliances (Giannone worked out a deal with the CEO of Maytag, and got the appliances at cost). Her bedroom is airy and large, and there’s a wheelchair accessible tub. Emergency call buttons and smoke detectors are required for each of Sacred Heart’s 78 units. There is 24-hour security, and cameras that capture “every inch of the building,” says Giannone. Sacred Heart also houses a café, convenience store, hair salon, computer room, fitness room and a medical center.
Fitness manager Michelle Glazier takes a holistic approach to health. “I love seeing the light go on in the residents’ eyes when they’ve made the connection,” she says. “All of a sudden, they can do things for themselves. They can lift their arms. Their quality of life is improved, and maybe mine is, too. When I leave here, I always feel good.”
Sister Pat Kereszi is the manager at Sacred Heart Village. She earned a degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Neumann University, and is also a licensed mental health counselor. She knows every resident by name.
“If Sacred Heart didn’t exist,” says Kereszi, “our residents might live with sons or daughters or grandchildren. Some would live in hotels. Many would be homeless.”
There are between 85 and 105 people on Sacred Heart’s two-year waiting list, though there is little turnover. Linda Richardson, the service coordinator who was hired 34 years ago by Sister Magdalen O’Hara, points to the portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that hangs in the lobby. She smiles, and says that all cultures are honored here. Giannone keeps an album with the residents’ names and photos, so he can address them personally when he visits. When he does, they get into a major gabfest. But days like today are tough. A resident has died, and Giannone is consoling the others.
“Sacred Heart Village should be a prototype for every government-sponsored senior housing in the nation,” says Wilmington Councilwoman Loretta Walsh. “Any taxpayer who complains about government and goes over there to see what their government is capable of subsidizing feels a sense of relief knowing that their tax dollars are well spent.”
The most important thing about working at Sacred Heart, says Kereszi, is that “every resident is treated with respect and dignity.”
Respect and dignity: two words ministry staffers use often to describe their service to the poor. They’re more like ideals, which were inspired by Giannone, who was inspired by his mother.