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Giving and receiving

Posted By December 2, 2011 | 3:01 pm | Local
Peter Hayden Jr., a Dismas House resident, and David McMahon, co-executive director, display one of the chairs made at Dismas Family Farm.
Peter Hayden Jr., a Dismas House resident, and David McMahon, co-executive director, display one of the chairs made at Dismas Family Farm.

By Tanya Connor

Dismas House of Massachusetts is both selling and seeking gifts – for Christmas and throughout the year.
David McMahon, co-executive director, said the agency that helps reintegrate former prisoners into society sells food and crafts produced at Dismas Family Farm, 687 Lincoln Rd., Oakham: popcorn, Christmas ornaments, soy wax candles, toy trucks and tractors, bat houses, footstools and Adirondack chairs. In the warmer months they also sell vegetables, meat and eggs.
These items can be purchased online at www.dismashouse.org, at the farm or at Dismas House, the agency’s first house, located at 30 Richards St., Worcester. Prospective customers can stop at Dismas House or the farm from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. If needed, chairs can be delivered and smaller crafts mailed.
“We also make-to-order, if people have a special order,” Mr. McMahon said, explaining that they produced crosses for a youth service program.
Dismas House has never been the recipient of Christmas Giving Tree gifts, but would welcome that, Mr. McMahon said. The need is for monetary donations and store gift cards that can reduce the grocery bill, he said.
“We’re so small a $25 or $50 gift card really does go a long way for us,” he said. “Our total grocery budget is $13,000 for year, for the farm and Dismas House.
The agency provides food for the 12 former prisoners living at Dismas House and the 10 former prisoners and a student and a graduate from the College of the Holy Cross living at the farm, Mr. McMahon said. These two places take in people upon their release from prison, some of whom don’t yet have a paying job, he said.
Graduates of these two programs can live in one of three apartments Dismas House rents or the Father John Brooks House, which it owns. These residents provide their own food and contribute some money to Dismas House. Mr. McMahon said some of these people are disabled or underemployed.
A main reason for Dismas House’s need is that the agency lost $44,000 in federal funds for Father Brooks House, Mr. McMahon said. Through a mutual agreement with local agencies that work with the homeless, Dismas did not reapply for the annual grant last month, he said. He said the criteria for the grant, which will be given locally, fit the other agencies better.
Dismas is seeking help from the community to pay for heat, utilities and maintenance at Father Brooks House, Mr. McMahon said. More money can be redirected to this need if Dismas receives gift cards that reduce the grocery bill, he said.
“We’ve started to rebuild,” he said. “People have started to help us make up that loss.” He said Bishops McManus and Rueger wrote to foundations on their behalf and Dismas has reached out to long-time supporters, including St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer and the parishes of Christ the King in Worcester; St. Mary in Shrewsbury, and St. Bernadette in Northborough.
Supporters have offered advice, contributed money and/or cooked and served meals, he said. He said more volunteers are needed to cook and serve weekday suppers at the farm.
The agency is also seeking a retiree for an Ignatian Volunteer Corps position, which includes a reflective component with a Jesuit spiritual adviser, Mr. McMahon said. The volunteer would work with Mr. McMahon one to two days a week and provide support at Dismas and Father Brooks Houses, helping residents get health care and fill out forms, and be a mentor, among other things.
– Dismas House can be contacted at cmdismashouse@aol.com, 508-799-9389 or P.O. Box 30125, Worcester, MA 01603.

PHOTO; By Tanya Connor

Peter Hayden Jr., a Dismas House resident, and David McMahon, co-executive director, display one of the chairs made at Dismas Family Farm.