Paz de Cristo awarded Move the Needle Grant
United Way CEO Mark Young presents a check for $25,000 to Paz de Cristo Executive Director Arlen Westling and Paz board members Rose Cudzewicz and Jay Krakora. Paz was awarded a "Move the Needle" grant to help continue our efforts to fight hunger in the Phoenix East Valley.
Empty Bowls Event
Our Paz community is deeply saddened to inform you that Marcial Verdejo passed away this afternoon. Marcial was taken to the emergency room early Friday morning and was non-responsive since then. Cause of death was apparently a heart attack and probably ramifications from a fall off of a ladder. Marcial was 64 years of age.
Marcial worked for Paz de Cristo from March of 2008 to June of 2014. Since then Marcial has been a regular dinner guest at Paz de Cristo. Marcial had many friends including those of us who worked with him at Paz, our many Paz volunteers and our entire guest community.
His son, Marcial Jr. and daughter Janna from Racine, Wisconsin and his son Jean Pierre from Austin, TX were with him the past few days and at the time of his death.By Jim Walsh The Republic | azcentral.com Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:05 PM
When Marcial Verdejo III was 12, his father left their Chandler home one day and never came back. Over the next 18 years, Marcial would occasionally Google his father, trying to find out what happened to him, but with no luck. Then not long ago, he saw a short news story on a Phoenix news station’s website about a fire at a soup kitchen.
Although Marcial had not seen his father in nearly two decades, he recognized him in the picture that accompanied the news item. The distinctive scar on his father’s chin confirmed it. In the story, Marcial Verdejo Jr., a maintenance man at Paz de Cristo shelter in Mesa, was being honored by the Mesa Fire Department for helping to fight a fire until firefighters arrived. The younger Marcial, of Caledonia, Wis., called Paz de Cristo and finally got what he wanted for nearly 20 years, a conversation with his father.
Excited by his discovery, the son sent a link on Facebook to his older half brother, Jean Pierre Verdijo, in Austin. Jean Pierre, whose mother changed his last name, also called Paz de Cristo and had a long, emotional conversation with his father. Jean Pierre plans a reunion in July. The sons’ journey toward an unlikely reunion is a story of loss and forgiveness in a family shattered by a father’s two drug arrests, followed by his prison sentence and five years of homelessness. For Marcial and Jean Pierre, finding their father is a special gift. For the father, it is an opportunity to reunite with his family, knowing that he had let his children down during years of absence.
“It’s closure. I needed to know what happened, why we got separated,’’ the younger Marcial said. “It’s like a huge weight off my shoulders. I am glad he is alive. I didn’t know if he was dead or not.’’ Jean Pierre, a teacher and artist, had not seen his father for 19 years. He realized during a visit to his father’s house in the early 1990s that his father had substance-abuse problems, that his mother had shielded him from his father years earlier for good reason. But Marcial and Jean Pierre have forgiven their father. “Everyone deserves a second chance,’’ the younger Marcial said. “I have a daughter. I want her to know her grandfather.’’ Jean Pierre said he has learned how to forgive his father through his own life experiences, including the breakup of a relationship with the mother of his 8-year-old son and being a single father. He is engaged to another woman who is pregnant with his second child. “I have forgiven him. I have learned through the nature of life,’’ Jean Pierre said. “I have a willingness to connect with him and build a relationship. It’s not to be forgotten that there’s a flame that burns. I could feel the warmth in his heart.’’
A third son, Anthony, 27, said he is still sorting out his emotions after the initial shock of hearing that his brothers had suddenly found their father. Anthony said that, emotionally, he had accepted long ago that he would never see his father again.“I just kind of put it away, like it wouldn’t happen again,’’ Anthony said. Marcial Jr., 61, said he was just trying to save his job at Paz de Cristo when he saw the flames spreading to a kitchen, where volunteers prepare meals for 300 homeless and working poor people a day. The homeless people eat on picnic tables in an austere dining room next to the kitchen. Marcial Jr. told another employee, Elidia Beltran, to call 911. He grabbed a garden hose and used it to knock down the fire as best as possible until Mesa firefighters arrived to put it out.
He said he had been homeless, living in the Salt River bottom for five years until he was hired by Paz de Cristo about six years ago. The job allowed him to rent an apartment and live a better life. Court records show that the elder Verdejo’s life has been marred by drug and alcohol abuse for decades. He spent more than two years in an Arizona prison, from December 1995 to June 1998, after a dangerous-drug conviction. He was arrested at Paz de Cristo in 2000, long before he worked there, when an officer discovered a rock of crack cocaine hidden in his hat, according to a pre-sentence report that describes his use of methamphetamine.
Although the father said he is shocked by his unexpected reconnection with his sons, he views it as an unexpected blessing. He said he was surprised when Jean Pierre told him that he is a grandfather, and Marcial Jr. said he is happy that Jean Pierre is doing well in life, even though Marcial let him down. Marcial Jr. said he had no idea Jean Pierre lived in Texas, but he had a general idea that Marcial III, Anthony and Jaina, a daughter who has special needs, went to live with relatives in Wisconsin after his arrest.
Marcial III said he is now his sister’s caregiver. He has a daughter, Soriah, 8, works in a restaurant and recently graduated with a degree in information technology. Anthony works at a retail store but also graduated from college with a degree in fashion design. “I sort of knew where they were, but I did not feel emotionally or mentally that I could get in touch with them,’’ Marcial Jr. said, because he hadn’t been part of their lives for so long and wondered how he would be received. “It’s not that I was that bad of a father, it’s just that I made a mistake,’’ he said. “I felt hurt and sad about what happened in my life. It’s brought me closer to them. “Now, with the fire, I am back together with my family. I did not expect that to happen.’’
Jean Pierre said he plans to visit his father over the July 4 holiday and hopes to work with local youths drawing a mural at Paz de Cristo. He said art became his salvation as he bounced from one social agency to another as a child with his mentally disabled mother. He wants his father to meet his grandson, Abeja, which means honeybee in Spanish. He said he hopes his life story with his father will inspire other men to improve their relationships with their fathers. “My message is to go after it. Today is the day. Go after it with your heart,’’ Jean Pierre said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 602-444-7984.
New Paz Truck
Lowes at Paz
75 Lowe's employees from 5 different stores spent a Saturday providing major upgrades to our facility including:
- ~ Painting of the outside of both buildings
- ~ Completing the update of the garden, including a shade structure, new pavers and over 300 new vegetable plants
- ~ Installing new toilets and stall partitions in both guest bathrooms plus painting of the floors
- ~ Installing new swamp coolers (at $5,000 each) for the dining room and the warehouse buildings
- ~ Building a new storage shed. This will come in handy to store the 275 pair of underwear, 475 pair of socks and 200 tee shirts donated by Spencer Haneck to earn his Eagle Scout Badge
- ~ Painting curbs, parking stripes and handicap spots in our parking lot
- ~ Installing new lighting throughout the campus
Turkey Day Distribution
On the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving we distributed 565 frozen turkeys and all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving meal
Empty Bowls Events
At MCC’s annual Empty Bowls events, you can choose one of thousands of handcrafted bowls and dine on a simple meal of bread, soup and water in observance of World Hunger Day. All proceeds go directly to the nonprofit Paz de Cristo Community Center, which provides anti-hunger and empowerment support for the East Valley’s homeless, unemployed, working poor and their families. Silent auctions, featuring ceramic work by some of the Valley’s most talented artists, will be held at both MCC mid-day events from 10:30 – 2:30 p.m. Please join us! more . . .
3rd Annual Breakfast Fundraiser
Interested in supporting Paz by becoming a Table Captain for our breakfast? At the breakfast we will celebrate the progress we’ve made during the past year, review the new services now available to those we serve, and most importantly show how the lives of so many individuals and families have been changed for the better. Contact Arlen Westling at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 464-2370 x204
Union Pacific Supports Paz de Cristo
The Union Pacific railway runs right behind the Paz de Cristo facility. They are a generous supporter of Paz de Cristo and ran the following article in their company newsletter and social media site. Often the working poor and elderly living in Mesa, Arizona, are forced to choose between buying groceries and paying their utility bills. By June, it's already a blistering 111 degrees in Mesa. As a result, the Paz De Cristo Community Center sees an increase in attendance every summer. "If they can eat here, or get one of our food boxes, they can use their grocery money to pay the utilities," said Arlen Westling, director of the center. Located on the west side of a city with a population of more than 455,000, Paz De Cristo Community Center is the only organization in the region that offers a hot meal every night. About 55 percent of the evening meal guests Paz De Cristo serves are homeless. The rest are the working poor, senior citizens or struggling single-parent families. In addition to a hot meal every night, Paz De Cristo also distributes about 1,300 food boxes every month. Each food box feeds a family of four for three days. As impressive as that is, Paz De Cristo provides more than food. "We provide all the basic things that might empower someone to make a go of it on their own," Westling said. more . . .
Paz gets new mural
The next time you come to Paz you will notice a new painting on the outside of our office entrance. You may remember the story in the AZ Republic in May about one of our employees being united with his sons after 19 years due to the publicity generated by our recent fire. Jean-Pierre Verdijo, the eldest son of Marcial works for a non-profit in Austin, TX called “Young Artists in Service”. The program works to create opportunities for young people to deepen into the spirit of service by engaging their communities through art. Jean-Pierre recruited some local youngsters to assist him in creating this mural. Thanks JP! The mural is a wonderful addition to Paz.
A Blessing in Disguise
There is an incredible story about one of our employees who first discovered the fire. The Mesa Fire Department awarded Lidia Beltran & Marcial Verdejo the “Good Samaritan Award” for their quick action in putting out the fire and preventing the fire from spreading and doing more damage. They were interviewed on several local TV channels and two of Marcials sons saw the interview and have reunited with Marcial after 19 years. The day after the news stories were reported, we received a call at Paz from one of Marcials’ sons by the name of Marcial Verdejo Jr. He told us he had not seen his Dad in 15 years and saw the news clip on the local news in Racine, WI. He was very excited to learn the whereabouts of his Dad and asked that we have Marcial call him. As you can imagine, it was a very emotional call for Marcial once he was able to get back in touch with his son. Marcial last saw his son when he was about 10-12 years of age, when his mother left Marcial and took the children with her. The next day we received a voice mail from another of Marcial’s sons by the name of Jean Pierre, who works at a nonprofit near Austin, TX. He had been contacted by Marcial Jr. and also viewed the Fox interview. He told us that he had not seen his father for 18 years, that he was very proud of him and would we please ask him to call since he had so much to tell him. We could not help but sense the emotion and excitement in his voice on the message he left. Jean Pierre said he grew up in homeless shelters and now works for a non-profit in Austin, Texas. He is making plans to visit Marcial in Phoenix this summer along with his son. Marcial says that this situation has changed his life and his view of himself as a person of worth. He looks forward to the opportunity to reunite with his children soon.
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