GTPulse: Meeting Father Fred

I remember the first day I met Father Fred. I couldn’t have been more than ten years old sitting with my Mom and three siblings in the waiting room of the newly opened Father Fred Foundation. It was summer, and I remember that specifically because I was wearing shorts and I could feel them begin to stick to the hard plastic as I watched with eagerness each time the oscillating fan turned its attention toward me. Reverend Edwin Frederick  (Father Fred) welcomed the five of us into his office, bringing in extra chairs to accommodate. He handed us a sucker before turning his attention to my Mom. 

My Mom was and continues to be the hardest working person I have ever known. At the time of our visit with Father Fred, she was a single mother raising four children and doing everything she could to keep our heads above the current of financial instability. I could tell she was worried as I watched her hand Father Fred a piece of paper with bold red letters—a shut-off notice from our electric company. My siblings and I were unusually quiet as the good Priest asked questions, nodding and even smiling as my Mom answered. He pulled out a large calculator—the kind that prints on running tape—pressing key after key as the adding machine made mechanized sounds. After the numbers were crunched, he pulled out a large checkbook binder and began writing a check to the electric company. My Mom thanked him as we walked out of his office, but we quickly realized that the generosity wasn’t over as a friendly volunteer handed my Mom a bag of groceries before we made our way to the parking lot. 

It was on the way home, riding shotgun in my Mom’s blue Pontiac hatchback, that I realized what had actually happened. The tall man wearing a clerical collar listened to my Mom without judgment. He treated her with respect, he treated us with kindness, and above all else, he helped. I never forgot what happened that day. As I got older, I tried to pinpoint the precise emotion I felt. It was a blend of warmth and relief, accompanied by an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  

Meeting Father Fred impacted me in ways I may never fully understand. In a circumstance where we could have been treated as burdens, we were treated as guests; with grace and dignity. I think about him often these days. His legacy is not only in the generosity that he showed to those in need but in the example of generosity that he gave to the community. 

Throughout my life, in good times and bad, I have encountered individuals who possess virtues similar to the man I met so many years ago. Father Fred left this earth at the age of 74 on January 4th, 2000. Luckily for all of us, his spirit is alive and well and reflected in the faces of the thousands of families and individuals who still turn to his namesake foundation in search of a gentle nod, an accepting smile and a beacon of hope. 

You can continue Father Fred’s legacy: 

Donate:  https://www.fatherfred.org/donate/#donateTop

Volunteer: https://www.fatherfred.org/how/

Food Donation Drives: The annual Father Fred Frostbite Food Drive kicks off on Saturday, January 30th through Sunday, February 7th. Non-perishable donations and personal hygiene products are in high demand. 

#AllThemSmiles: Exit Realty’s Kultura Group https://www.facebook.com/KulturaGroup has teamed up with the Father Fred Foundation for a ten-month campaign called #AllThemSmiles. Every month, Kultura will make a stop at a local business to collect donations. Each $10 donation earns one entry “smile” and, at the end of the campaign, one lucky smile will earn one lucky donor a trip. (Check website for details) 

Remembering Father Fred: Check out notes from Paul LaPorte’s book, Heart of a Priest, about the life and legacy of Father Fred http://www.fatherfredbook.com/index.php

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Categories: GTPulse