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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

111017 Kathy Izard talkCHARLOTTE — Kathy Izard, who led the development of Moore Place, a permanent housing facility to end chronic homelessness in Charlotte, recently presented a message of hope, faith and love to hundreds of St. Gabriel parishioners. Izard described the journey to build Moore Place as the fruit of listening to the “quiet whispers” of God.

“We wanted to highlight the challenges faced by the homeless in our city,” said Karen Brown, ministry leader and volunteer coordinator at St. Gabriel Parish.

On Oct. 25, Izard captivated the Charlotte parish’s audience with her amazing story of faith.

“St. Gabriel has a big heart for those who are homeless and hungry with nine ministries serving this population. Examples of these are our Room in the Inn Ministry, our monthly Men’s Homeless Shelter dinner, and partnering with St. Matthew to furnish apartments for homeless women and children. We thought Kathy’s personal story would resonate with our parishioners who care deeply about the homeless,” Brown said.

Izard started her presentation with a quote by Mark Twain: “The two greatest days in our life are the day we are born and the day we figure out why.”

“I never planned to write a book in my kitchen for six years,” Izard explained. This year Izard received the Christopher Award for “The Hundred Story Home,” a memoir chronicling the miraculous creation of Moore Place.

“I never imagined building a building,” she continued. Yet the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Local Hero Award and the N.C. Housing Volunteer of the Year Award both went to Izard for building the apartment complex with 120 units intended to provide homes for the chronically homeless.

“But I kept saying yes to that quiet voice of God. Be still, and listen to your whispers. I think God has a plan for each of us,” Izard said.

Izard, the mother of four daughters with her husband Charlie, worked as a successful graphic designer in Charlotte. “Our family volunteered at Urban Ministry Center (an interfaith mission in the Charlotte area dedicated to end homelessness), for 10 years. It was the perfect excuse to skip church once a month,” Izard admitted. “We loved making meals there. It was one of our favorite family activities. But I always stayed on the right side of the steel counter, which separated ‘neighbors’ from volunteers.”

According to her memoir, even as she led a successful life, Izard wondered about her purpose in life and whether God was truly present in the world.

But, something – or rather, someone – changed all that.

Her answer did not come quickly, but it came clearly through the book-turned-motion-picture “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall, Denver Moore and Lynn Vincent, which is about the bond formed between an affluent art dealer and a homeless man. After reading the book, Izard kept hearing a small whisper: “Invite them to Charlotte.” She reached out to Moore, and he agreed to present at a fundraiser for Urban Ministry Center.

“I showed Denver the entire UMC, looking for affirmation, but receiving nothing even when showing him the garden, the soccer team, the art room – not a word said. The whole thing was wildly uncomfortable. Here I thought Denver, the wise book character, was going to fly off the pages and transform the life of one of the ‘neighbors’ and I was going to be a witness to it,” Izard recalled. “At the end, he asked me what was upstairs. There was nothing upstairs but offices. His reply was transformational.”

“Where are the beds?” Moore asked her. There were no beds, she answered, and he replied, “You mean to tell me you do all this good in the day and then lock them out to the bad at night? Are you going to do something about this?”

“Denver changed me. I could no longer not see the problem: the beds. The next day 1,000 guests arrived at the True Blessings fundraiser and we raised over $300,000,” Izard said. But Moore’s question haunted and propelled her: “Where are the beds?”

Other whispers guided Izard’s mission, including words from her father: “You can do anything, Kathy, really anything.” Her marketing professor: “Where is the concept, Green?” Corinthians 13:1: “And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” And a calendar quote: “Start something big and foolish like Noah.” She answered each whisper with a modest “yes.”

Five years, many donations and many whispers later, Izard’s team developed Moore Place and named it after Denver Moore and donors John and Pat Moore.

“It was impossible to imagine how these two events had taken place independently and were intricately linked,” Izard recalled. But Moore Place was the result after Denver Moore’s vital role in persuading Izard to start the project, and after John and Pat Moore took a step in faith by providing the UMC with a generous donation to start the project.

Volunteers scoured the streets of Charlotte collecting lists of chronically homeless by interviewing thousands of potential “neighbors.” A list of 807 were identified, the most vulnerable given first priority.

“The realization hit me hard: once homeless people were housed, they are just people,” Izard said.

In partnership with Urban Ministry Center, Moore Place is responsible for ending homelessness for 120 Charlotteans.

Residents including Ronnie Leggitte and Tabby Burns have been living at Moore Place since it opened in 2012.

“I love the fact that I am able to actually take care of myself. Self-care and self-love are things you just can’t get on the street. A nice shower and a good shave, clean clothes. No heavy loads on my shoulders,” Leggitte said.

“My whole attitude has changed. Since I have been here, I am clean and sober. I have a personality of love and yearning to learn just absolutely everything I can,” said Burns. She beamed as she shows off her 366-square-foot, fully furnished living area, decorated with her collection of unicorn art and plants and a picture of her 20-year-old daughter hanging over the couch.

Izard said she has taken to heart Denver Moore’s words: “In a way we are all homeless – just working our way towards home.”

“Trust the whispers, no matter how crazy it may seem,” she urged. “Be willing to take that leap of faith.”

Ana Lothspeich, pastoral care director at St. Gabriel Parish, said she hopes parishioners gain the insights Izard outlined.

“Homelessness is a chronic problem in Charlotte. Homeless people feel ‘invisible’ to society and those around them,” she said. “After listening to Kathy, St. Gabriel Church’s commitment to serve the homeless and hungry is even strong-er.
We look forward to continue being part of the solution.”
— Lisa Geraci, Correspondent

For more
At www.urbanministrycenter.org: Learn more about how you can help people in need in Charlotte
Order Kathy Izard’s book: “The Hundred Story Home” is available on Amazon, or call 704-926-0622 to purchase directly through UMC. Cost is $15; all proceeds benefit Urban Ministry Center’s Moore Place.