The Heart Ministry Center’s former Executive Director, Mark Dahir had a favorite phrase he shared with many “Become part of the Heart!” This is exactly what has transpired between the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and new Service Corps Member Celann LaGreca. Celann’s interest in IVC is rooted in a life-long love of the Jesuits and Ignatian Spirituality. Celann felt called to be part of IVC but shared as she was discerning her role with IVC that she must be passionate about where she would serve. She voiced this in a conversation with Mark, being drawn to the mission of Heart Ministry Center. At the time, IVC did not have a partnership with HMC. In the conversation, Celann discovered Mark’s life, too, had been strongly rooted in Ignatian spirituality, and so he was willing to consider a partnership with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. A strong personal commitment to the Heart Ministry Center’s mission made this the perfect IVC volunteer opportunity for Celann. FRESH Floral is the most recent addition to the Heart Ministry’s Social Enterprises, where folks who are in recovery for addiction or just working their program are offered an opportunity to learn HMC’s “soft skills” of consistency, reliability, attitude, work ethic, and communication. Their clients also see the core values of Heart Ministry Center Compassion, Community, Accountability, and Excellence from the time they first enter the door.
The Heart Ministry Center’s mission is to provide food, healthcare, and a way forward to people severely affected by poverty in the Omaha area with a guiding motto of “Dignity for All.” FRESH Floral is one of two social enterprises that is part of the Heart Ministry Center’s program for those involved in finding their way forward. Other core services that are offered by HMC include Choice Food Distribution (the largest choice pantry in Nebraska) the Monen Healthcare Clinic where free health services are available, Fresh Start Laundromat—a free laundry facility in north Omaha, and Willing Partner—a team of advisors and partners to enable families to become self-sufficient including job training skills, financial management and budgeting, family and parental support in an effort to break the cycle of poverty sustainability.
Angela Grote, Director of Marketing and Communications for HMC shared that the opportunity to develop this social enterprise “was a bit random”, but that it was always the plan to expand beyond the first Fresh Start Laundromat, started in 2020. That idea came from Mark Dahir who had visited Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles which was founded by Jesuit priest Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ. Mark modeled his idea for social enterprise opportunities for Heart Ministry Center based on what he learned after meeting Fr. Boyle. Early in 2023, it was made known that another non-profit group that had been running the floral shop in the same building did not want to continue. Mark approached Angela with the idea of FRESH Floral, and he shared that she would have the support of an IVC volunteer to help her get it off the ground beginning in March 2023. Angela says, “I was thrilled to learn it was Celann! Celann has been a member of our Board and now she can see the works of HMC from both sides of the table.”
“Celann has been an excellent addition in sharing her expertise and incredible as an addition to our staff and organization,” Rayna Pollock, Director of FRESH Floral adds. “Celann makes things happen. Her knowledge of social media, her keen eye for detail when creating and updating our website, plus her idea to partner with local high schools for their Homecoming dances were just great. Plus, she is also a cool person!” Rayna, who has had a personal experience with a family member going through the program at Heart Ministry goes on to describe FRESH Floral as a lifeline—”it’s not just a job here for me, it feels like a second home and community to me.” Angie adds, “HMC is a special place that draws you in—it is magical in that it changes folks—everyone goes there with hope for a better way ahead.” The culture of the Heart Ministry Center and its slogan Dignity For All is visible upon entering the door, and not just on signage, whether at their main building in north Omaha or at either of their social enterprises off-site. Everyone involved is dressed similarly—a casual t-shirt with the logo and jeans or a skirt. “Mark insisted on walking the walk,” says Nikki, another member of the FRESH Floral team—and this removal of social stigmas based on the way you dress is gone—the playing field is leveled, so that it is difficult to tell who might be receiving help and who is giving it.
Celann shares that her experience at FRESH Floral has been beneficial in three ways, “As an HMC Board Member I have a much broader and comprehensive understanding of the mission, culture, and values of the Heart Ministry Center. As a volunteer, I have learned humility. While I am part of the team, I am not the one in charge so it is a very different perspective than my role as a corporate executive or paid consultant. And spiritually, I have a connection to a vibrant IVC community on a monthly basis.”
Heart Ministry Center and the Ignatian Volunteer Corp’s partnership was meant to be with so many instances of connection between the people involved, their common admiration for Ignatian spirituality, and their mission to serve the underserved in Omaha. It is hoped that Celann’s match with Heart Ministry is just the beginning of this strong connection between the two.