Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 14, 1999
Saint Gabriel's Builds Room For Parishioners
ATLANTA--Mary LaRocca and her mother moved to Atlanta last January and in with Mary's son Paul, a single parent, to help him care for his three-year-old daughter Isabella and to be closer to other family.
Paul, 27, gave up his room and began sleeping on the couch of the wood-frame, three-bedroom home hoping one day to build a new room.
"Our house was filled with love and laughter but we were living in very cramped conditions," Mary said. "Day after day as I awoke to see him (Paul) making do for the good of the family I would be overwhelmed with love and sadness."
The family's plans to build the room were stalled, as Mary's car was stolen, Paul had surgery and the family learned that Isabella would also need costly surgery.
"It seemed to me there would never be money in our budget to buy the supplies needed to build the room."
Mary in desperation then called her new church, St. Gabriel's Church in Fayetteville, and left a message requesting help for the project.
"As a stranger to this area I knew no one at the church...Several weeks passed and I had forgotten about my phone call but God was working in His time."
Meanwhile, St. Gabriel's Deacon Al McHugh had received Mary's message. He read the Good Samaritan parable at Masses one August weekend shortly afterwards and described the family's need to the congregation, requesting its support for the project.
"When (He) was ready he sent two men to our home from the Knights of Columbus...They were not pessimistic or judgmental of our need. This was something they could do. This was something they would like to do, enjoy doing," Mary recalled.
Deacon McHugh said the parish donated $7,000, the youth group donated shingles for the roof, and many others made donations for the family including gift certificates, an air conditioner, flooring and a refrigerator. He added that remaining project funds were used to rebuild and purchase household supplies and clothes for another family's trailer home that had burned down at the time of construction on Paul's house.
Deacon McHugh said 100 people including members of the Knights of Columbus volunteered during the three weeks of construction of the 12 by 14 foot room connected to the kitchen of the gray house. Larry Klar was a project organizer and foreman Tom Puglia organized volunteer shifts, which were mostly on weekends. Both visited the site almost daily.
"It was just overwhelming. We raised in about two weeks the amount of funding we needed for the whole project. The people -- they overwhelmed us with their generosity--and not only financially. We had women down there with ladders and painting," said Deacon McHugh. "I've never seen so much joy and community involvement."
The volunteers enclosed a porch, landscaped the yard with bushes and, after tearing out a window and creating a concrete floor foundation, constructed the room, installing the roof, beige carpeting, a ceiling fan, an air conditioner and a door to the outside with a walkway leading up to it.
"They wanted to do about everything top of the line--everything--from (even) picking out the carpet we wanted. We were thinking that they would just get us building materials but they said, 'Oh no, this is something we can take care of,'" Mary said.
When the Knights of Columbus initially offered to build the room, Mary said that, while her son struggled initially to accept the help, she felt surprised, overwhelmed and open to receive it.
"They did it so cheerfully and they were so industrious and diligent in their work. Everything had to be absolutely perfect," Mary continued. "Our room was not only built exceeding the building codes but also built with love."
Mary is grateful to know people care about her family. She now has a car, Isabella had her surgery and Paul is healthy and has joined the Knights of Columbus.
"The men of our parish and the Knights of Columbus have showed us love. They have not just talked the talk, they have walked the walk. The charity and love of our Christian family has made life easier," Mary said.