Tori is a South Coast fellow serving at Grace Episcopal Church in New Bedford.
I almost want to say it was a series of accidents that got me to where I am today: a Life Together fellow working on the South Coast with Grace Episcopal Church, New Bedford. I started my undergraduate career at Wellesley College, and then found myself graduating from Indiana University two years later. I grew up Roman Catholic, and then found myself being received into the Episcopal Church last spring. I was planning to serve abroad this year, but I found myself in the Life Together – South Coast program. And, finally, I was supposed to be serving at a different site placement this year, but now find myself as the intern at Grace. I could not imagine a better place for me! All of these things I originally perceived as accidents, mistakes, or missteps, but looking back on how they have all fit together in the narrative of my life, I see that all of them were necessary for me to find myself where I am now.
My year on the South Coast has been characterized by learning about the connection between identity and community. New Bedford has a rich sense of identity rooted in its history as the whaling capital of the world and its current status as a gateway city for immigrants from Central America and the Portuguese islands. Grace Church—its symbol a phoenix rising from the ashes, as it did after a devastating fire in 1987—is characterized as an urban parish with a history rooted in the Quaker tradition. I have been integrated into these communities this year with unending love and support.
My year has also been characterized by the launching of a new ministry program in downtown New Bedford: Laundry Love*. I first read about the nationwide program online, and as I learned more, I felt called to implement a program in the New Bedford community, which is plagued with high unemployment and homelessness. The ministry model is unique in its ethos: providing a needed service that is often overlooked and doing so with the mission of a community coming together, and not one privileged group “doing for” a less privileged group.
Everything for Laundry Love has come together beautifully. We have a laundromat that is a walkable distance from downtown that is opening their doors to us. One of our parishioners who is involved with a local Mason’s lodge helped us secure a start-up grant through the lodge in the amount of $6,000—enough to fund the program for a year! The Rev. Chris Morck, my site supervisor, and I worked together to create a team of talented parishioners who could bring their gifts to this work, and who will continue this work after my departure. Our first event on April 27 served 26 individuals and families, and we are expecting even more at our May event. Everyone present—from the patrons to the volunteers—expressed immense gratitude. This ministry has been blessed in so many ways, and for that I am very thankful!
*More information about Laundry Love can be found at www.laundrylove.org