I often tell the students who come here to St. Francis Inn that we could very easily do this sort of work in Manchester (and we do). We come down here every summer to indeed work and serve the poor but I also hope that they come away inspired to continue to do this sort of work back home and to see a different side of the Catholic Church. I tell them that the reason I love coming down here is the people who work here, the friars, the religious sisters, the lay men and women, and the volunteers. I am so envious of the people who live and work here as they lead such amazing lives. They don't have much material wealth but they are rich in so many ways (sorry for the cliche!).
One of the women who works here is Barbara Salapek. Barbara came here 25 years at the age of 40 to spend 1-2 years as a volunteer. She quit her job and moved to Kensington for what she thought would be a short term experience. She's still here. After her term as a volunteer was up, she stayed on as a permanent staff member and for the past 20 plus years has dedicated her life to this place and its people. She lives in a house with two other women who also work here. They get paid very little (they actually didn't get paid at all until recently) and have little to no benefits other than health insurance. They are amazing witnesses and for them to give up EVERYTHING to serve here is nothing more than extraordinary and faith filled.
Barbara is retiring this fall and will be moving in with her sister in a different part of the state. She was supposed to return this spring but she stayed on a little longer. I was so happy to hear that she was still here when I arrive yesterday as I didn't think we would get to see her one last time. Last fall, the Philadelphia City Council honored Barbara for her service at one of their meetings. She had no idea why she was asked to go to the meeting and when they began speaking about her, she figured it out! You can see the presentation at the video below beginning at the 6:30 mark: