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Everyday Evangelists: Two mothers, one mission: faith in action

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April 21, 2011

By Jennifer Hogan Redmond

ST. ANDREW DEANERY — Service often requires more muscle than money. Elizabeth Hodar and Kristin Stock of St. Columban Church in Loveland were determined that their children know this firsthand, so they rolled up their sleeves, popped open a carton of Goldfish® crackers and went to work forming a service group that would engage the families of school-age children at St. Columban parish in Loveland.


St. Columban parishioners Kristin Stock, left, and Elizabeth Hodar, founders of Families Involved Serving Him. (Courtesy photo)

Nine months later, Families Involved Serving Him (F.I.S.H.) boasts 80 families and is still growing. Through monthly service projects, the group has helped not only the local community, but the world beyond our nation’s borders.


The idea for F.I.S.H. was born during casual neighborhood walks, as Hodar and Stock lamented their children’s lack of perspective outside their suburban community. “My kids thought service meant writing a check,” Hodar stated. “But how could they have any perspective? We’ve done such a great job of insulating them, of keeping them safe. We had to do something,” she added.


These stay-at-home mothers, who have two young school-age children each, met with parish administrators and decided to organize a family volunteer group. “We told the parish office, if nobody does it, we’re doing it anyway with our own families,” so there was no pressure, said Hodar.


They tapped into their backgrounds in marketing and communications, offering Goldfish® crackers at a St. Columban School open house while gathering names and contact information of interested families. Frequent announcements in the church bulletin widen the opportunity for parish-wide participation.


“The response has overwhelmed us,” says Hodar.


Monthly service evite invitations are sent to willing parish families. Parishioners then sign up online. Follow-up emails to respondents focus on a spiritual message or intention, which may include a prayer, a saint or a scripture passage that ties into the month’s project.


“Our intention is to enrich the experience and incorporate our Catholic faith as we serve as a family and community,” Stock explained.


Hodar and Stock make great efforts to vary their activities and the organizations they assist. They also keep the focus of F.I.S.H. on service rather than administration. They eschew meetings, budgets (they have none) and anything that distracts the group from its mission.


Thus far, F.I.S.H. has served the local community by raking leaves for the elderly and collecting food for a neighborhood food pantry. The group has served the wider Greater Cincinnati community by planting urban gardens and making blankets for the homeless. Opening up their efforts to serve those further from home, F.I.S.H. families collected Halloween candy for U.S. troops, packaged food for children in Haiti and prepared eyewear for global clinics through OneSight, a family of charitable vision care programs.


Some benefits can be easily quantified: F.I.S.H. raked 120 bags of leaves and crafted 25 fleece blankets, for instance. But group members have profited from the service experience as well. Hodar and Stock have witnessed the spiritual growth of their children and the feel-good benefit of living as Christ instructed. “How do you not feel good doing something for somebody else?” asked Stock.


Serving others is empowering, particularly for young children, added Hodar. “How can you ever feel low or small if you’re serving someone else?”


While children and their families are doing good and building character, their world has expanded, the women explain. Packaging dry ingredients with Kids Against Hunger, families watched an educational video and learned about protein powder needed to nourish the starving in Haiti. Later, they collected food for the hungry in Loveland through the L.I.F.E. pantry, which feeds more than 300 families a month.


“It puts it into perspective, globally and locally,” said Stock.


“And to include God in that, it’s just beautiful,” she added.  

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