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May 11, 2013

Lazarus House celebrates 30 years of helping

LAWRENCE — In 1983, Lazarus House opened a five-bed emergency shelter on Holly Street to meet the need of the city’s homeless population.

Thirty years later, the faith-based organization now has 41 beds and seven cribs, and the ministry has expanded to include a soup kitchen, food pantry, a free medical clinic, homes for individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and programs for job training, ESL and culinary arts.

Executive Director H. Bridget Shaheen said the agency served 285,202 guests in 2012 alone. The number included dishing out 105,877 meals at the soup kitchen, soup van and after-work bagged meals as well as distributing 74,880 bags of grocery 970 holiday meals and emergency food orders; 33,010 guests stayed at the emergency shelter, transitional housing and HIV/AIDS housing.

“Our goal is to help the people God puts at our door. God is not going to let his people down, so he works through the community to help them,” Shaheen. “People want to make a difference. They want to help. You just have to give them an avenue, a channel to help.”

Shaheen became involved with Lazarus House when its co-founder Brother Tom Petite approached her and her husband Paul about the idea. Petite, a member of the Marist religious order had worked with Blessed Mother Teresa in India and she told him if he wanted to help the poor to return to his community.

Petite did just that, and with the help of Sister Jeanne Poor started Lazarus House. The need to open the shelter was precipitated by the death of two homeless men in the city. The name Lazarus comes from the biblical figure of the same name in the Gospel of John whom Jesus rose from the dead.

The ministry started with funding donated by members of St. Joseph Melkite Church and volunteers from the Cursillo movement at St. Basil Salvatorian Center in Methuen.

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