Mark “Vito” Spadaro
Today we sat down with Mark “Vito” Spadaro, a board member and groundskeeper of the Heart Ministry Center.
“I moved back here from Boston in 2011. A really good friend of mine, Kevin Jackson – he and his wife had me over for dinner. I was telling them I was looking for something to do, something fulfilling like volunteer work. Pam Lipton said ‘I’ve got an idea. Let me work on it.’ A couple of days later, she told me about the Heart Ministry Center. The executive director at the time interviewed me and invited me to join.
“I’m usually here at the pantry Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m also a board member so there’s an ongoing kind of timeline to that. What makes my time here meaningful is seeing the Fresh Start folks succeed. Hearing their stories when they come back and then also just being on the line and giving people the food they need and seeing the look of gratitude and appreciation on their faces, especially little kids who don’t realize maybe that they’re a little poorer and they don’t have things. For instance, you hand out a big box of cookies or something to a little kid and they start giggling and laughing. We handed a little boy in a car seat a watermelon and his mom told us that watermelon is his favorite thing and he just wrapped his arms around it and started laughing and giggling – we decided to give him another watermelon – and it’s those kind of things where it’s just fulfilling. Having these folks come through when they’re experiencing some of the most difficult times of their lives and being able to help them a little bit. I just feel good about being here. There’s a feeling I get when I step out of my vehicle on the grounds and being around everybody and seeing folks succeed, seeing the fresh start folks succeed in the program, seeing folks who are hungry succeed in getting food. Now we’re able to give folks dental and health care which is important. We have a laundromat so now people can have clean clothes and that’s just so important for everybody in the community. I mean you can look at little kids and see their personal self-esteem when going to school with clean clothes – It’s awesome. Getting to see the Fresh Start folks in the workplace, they have a chance to come work and be productive members of society again. They get to get back on the path of self-fulfillment.
“I’ve got a couple of different things that I rotate between. I work in the food pantry two days a week and I’ve been greenlighted by Mark Dahir to be out there and act like an employer, which I already am, and just get folks ready to be in the workplace. Getting prepared ahead of time also gives me good insight as a board member to how the fresh start program is doing and how we’re expending resources to provide the program. My second responsibility is the chair of the buildings grounds of vehicles committee and we are a small group, but this whole organization started off out of a closet. Now we take up about 40% for the square footage of a city block. There’s a lot to do with protecting these resources because everything that we have has been donated to us and really, the most thoughtful, respectful thing we can do for our donors is to show that we take good care and that we are the proper guardians of their donations.
“The last thing I concentrate on is trying to find veterans. I came into the military just as Vietnam was ending. I saw how those guys and gals were treated coming back and how they were shunned by the country. They pretty much hid out, so we try to find them when we can. Any veteran we can find we try to make sure that we match them up and try to get them together with the department of Veteran Affairs to get them some care and coverage that they might be eligible for. A lot of the time, they don’t even know they are eligible. Those are probably the three big things that I do. I feel blessed every time I get to come here.”