If there is a common thread to the families that give time and money to Lazarus House, it is the value of gratitude implanted in one generation and then passed to the next.
“It’s our responsibility to try to level the playing field a little bit. My parents really tried to instill in me a sense of responsibility for being a lucky person in that you have to give back to the community,” said Mary Sassin, whose son Leo is one of the youngest donors to Lazarus House.
“When Leo was five, we started giving him an allowance,” his mother said. “I wanted him not only to share his allowance, but to meet people and feel the impact of helping them.”
When Leo, 5, came to Lazarus House in 2016, he had a check for $29.92 from his allowance to give, and what he took back was an understanding that not everyone has advantages in life.
“After we toured Lazarus House together, he wanted to continue to give to them,” Sassin continued. “He talked about what people might not have vs. what some people do have.”
Riley Doherty, also a member of a multi-generational family of giving, first became involved with Lazarus House as a freshman at nearby Central Catholic High School.
“Ending the cycle of poverty and working your way out of it really struck a chord with me,” said Doherty, who says she also learned the importance of gratitude at home.
“My Dad would say, ‘People aren’t poor because they want to be poor’,” she said, then telling the story of her father giving his suit jacket to a man bussing tables at a restaurant, so he would make a good impression at a job interview the next day.
“My dad has always taught us to give generously and be open to everyone,” said Doherty, whose parents followed her lead and began to volunteer with food collections and buying Christmas gifts for families in need. “That passion of giving that I’ve always seen in him is why I have a passion for Lazarus House.”
Doherty, now a Vice-President with Staples, is on the Lazarus House Board of Directors. She has involved Staples in sending employee teams to help in the shelters and with various other needed projects around the Ministry.
Her next generation is already involved.
Daughter Harper Quinn, 4, has joined Doherty in the Lazarus House “Hike for Hope,” every year since she was born and enjoyed meals prepared by the students of the Culinary Training program at their graduation ceremonies.
“She selects the gifts for the kids at Christmas and she knows why we are buying them,” Doherty said. “She knows that some mommies and daddies can afford gifts, but others need help buying gifts. She gets it.”
Riley Doherty and Mary Sassin work to pass to their children a heart of generosity, what Mary calls the “gift from my parents of knowing there is a world beyond my small sphere of it. The more you teach kids gratitude, the more empathetic they are.”