Gannon University Celebrates Dedication of St. Joseph House of Faith in Action

Posted: May 18, 2018

A dedication and blessing ceremony was held Friday, May 18 at 1:30 p.m. for the St. Joseph House of Faith in Action on the 400 block of W. Fourth Street in Erie.

This 2,400-square-foot space is a volunteer-built residence that will be a home base for groups from Gannon University and beyond to serve in and connect with the Our West Bayfront (OWB) community.

Visiting groups will utilize the newly dedicated home as a community-based gathering space for small group activities and service focused on urban neighborhood revitalization. Activities may include housing restoration and blight remediation, urban Alternative Break Service Trips, initiatives of Gannon's Center for Social Concerns, Campus Ministry and other University programs.

The space will also be home to two Gannon employee residents who will occupy and be caretakers of the house while providing hospitality to the visiting groups. The St. Joseph House residents will work with Marquette Savings Bank while living in the home to develop a financial plan that will ultimately provide them the ability to purchase their own homes in the OWB neighborhood.

The St. Joseph House was built by more than 80 Gannon University and Erie community volunteers and donors who graciously gave their time, service, in-kind and monetary gifts to assist in the transformation and completion of this unique home.

"It would not have been possible to make the St. Joseph House of Faith in Action a reality without the incredible dedication and service of the too many individuals to name who selflessly volunteered their time, labor and generosity," said Keith Taylor, Ph.D., President of Gannon University.

"It was our hope to bring light to the great work and transformation happening within the Our West Bayfront community," said Taylor. "Through the support and generosity shown by all who've shared their kindness and service to this project, not only are we here today recognizing that great work, but we are blessing what will be a symbol of faith in action for the community, emulating the work of St. Joseph the Builder. We are thankful for the many volunteers who believed in this vision with us and look forward to the years of good work it will bring to our community."

The St. Joseph House of Faith in Action was designed in harmony with the existing residences of its historic neighborhood. It features two bedrooms for the permanent residents, three full bathrooms, an office, large kitchen and an open community room space to accommodate 12-15 visitors for overnight stays and trips.

Construction of the home began in November 2017 and was completed in May 2018, during which time volunteers assisted with all aspects of building the house from installing insulation, to painting, to constructing the storage shed in the backyard of the home.

"The building of St. Joseph House has been a truly immersive experience," said Erika Ramalho, Director of Community and Government Relations at Gannon University. "Through Gannon's Center for Social Concerns, we were able to host two, one-week, local service trips with students at St. Joseph House to help in the construction and provide service throughout the Our West Bayfront community. These experiences have provided new perspective on why so many call this community their home."

Building Systems Inc. (BSI) committed as a partner on the project, seeing it as an important community outreach. BSI along with Gannon's Physical Plant Team managed the volunteer build and led students, employees and members of the broader community in the construction effort. Funding for the creation of the St. Joseph House was guaranteed by the Taylor family, and was accompanied by several in-kind gifts and donations by Gannon and Erie community members.

"The comradery shown by the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and donors coming together to construct this house has been inspiring," said Ramalho. "They are the ones bringing the vision for St. Joseph House of Faith in Action to fruition, humbly serving neighbors in the spirit and example of St. Joseph the Worker while living out the four pillars of its mission: service, simplicity, community and reflection."

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