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SHARE Brought to Life

SHARE's salvation, as felt through its participants.

Mae Jackson

Crawford Kelly

Lorene Rhodes

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By Jackie Giordano

Each Saturday, Mae Jackson, Crawford Kelly, and Lorene Rhodes, along with hundreds of other individuals, gather in the parking lot of St. Agatha Catholic Church to find nourishment in its primary outreach program, St. Agatha’s Hands are Reaching Everywhere (SHARE).

St. Agatha Catholic Church, located at 2646 S. Mansfield Ave., implemented SHARE in 1980. SHARE provides weekly bag meals, as well as an annual Christmas dinner to those who are needy, homeless, and/or lonely.

Among these faces is Jackson, the mother of four daughters, who recently got a job as a cashier at the USC Bookstore.

Jackson has been participating in SHARE for the last seven years. “Not only does SHARE feed my physical being, but it also strengthens me emotionally and spiritually,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s history with SHARE began when, due to the recession, the staffing agency that she partners with was not giving her work. In the midst of such hardship, Jackson took up residency in the vicinity of St. Agatha Catholic Church, known as the West Adams District of Los Angeles, where she has remained for nearly eight years.

Prior to securing employment at USC, Jackson expressed that taking part in SHARE was not an option. “Now, I can do without SHARE, before I could not,” Jackson said.

Jackson was adamant in her conviction that SHARE is at the heart of her newfound independence. “SHARE taught me how to do more for myself,” Jackson said.

When it comes to SHARE, Jackson is not alone in her deep feelings of gratitude.

Even though Kelly retired from the administrative field 11 years ago, he asserted that he is still included in the “growing economic concern.”

Struggling to make ends meet, Kelly benefits from SHARE’s complimentary goods. For instance, since he relies on public transportation, Kelly noted that he especially appreciates the bus tokens that SHARE occasionally distributes.

“The SHARE staff is so benevolent,” Kelly said. “I don’t expect much, and I try to make the best with what I have, but their generosity helps to make life a lot easier.”

When asked how long he has lived near St. Agatha Catholic Church, he chuckled as he replied, “You don’t really want to know that.” Shortly after, Kelly confessed that he has called the region home for the past 40 years.

“If my income was to improve, I may, or may not, relocate,” Kelly said. “I’ve been here so long that this society has become a part of who I am.”

Kelly expounded that his “routine” is not complete without SHARE because of its inherent potential for socialization. “I am able to escape the isolation that marks my everyday life and surround myself with people,” Kelly said.

Of the friendships that Kelly has fostered through SHARE, he was quick to state that Rhodes is his closest companion.

In 1976, Rhodes, who will celebrate her 83rd birthday next month, left her origins in Mississippi to begin a new life in Los Angles. However, as an uneducated, single woman, she could only afford a guesthouse, not far from St. Agatha Catholic Church.

Rhodes reminisced about how, when she first moved to the neighborhood, drugs and crime were rampant. “I have had my purse stolen at the bus stop a few times,” Rhodes admitted.

Over the last few years, though, Rhodes maintained that the safety of the surrounding area has seen a drastic improvement. In Rhodes’ opinion, law enforcement has worked tirelessly to diminish the drug and, subsequent, criminal activity in the community.

“It is the joy of my life to walk up and down the streets, smiling and talking to people,” Rhodes said. “I’m very blessed that I can do so in peace.”

Rhode’s learned about SHARE from her neighbors; yet, it was not until she retired that she finally found time to attend the program. “I’ve been coming to SHARE every Saturday for eight years,” Rhodes said.

Similar to Kelly, Rhodes lives alone. Therefore, she too explained that, while she enjoys the food, she takes the most pleasure in the camaraderie that SHARE offers.

In the words of Rhodes, “I love meeting new people. I didn’t think, being an old lady, that everyone would be so nice to me.”

Although their stories are as unique as their personalities, Jackson, Kelly, and Rhodes are bound by a set of unmistakable commonalities: their low-incomes, their geographic alignment in the West Adams District of Los Angeles, and, most importantly, their affection towards SHARE.

Rhodes seemed to encompass her sentiments, along with those of Jackson and Kelly, in one sentence: “These people are like a family to me.”