Bernie Sass: Hard-working Chairman Of The Board

He’s a veteran of manufacturing management. And he holds a BA and an MBA from Michigan State. But these days he’s happier with a hammer in his hand. Fixing holes. Renovating. Remodeling. Patching up our worn out House of Mercy building on Hudson with baling wire and duct tape. And providing an inspiring role model for every House supporter and volunteer. Meet Bernie Sass, Chairman of the Board of the House of Mercy. Jumping in with both feet After a 30-plus year career working for prominent companies like Xerox and ITT, this dedicated member of St. Mary’s of the Lake in Ontario, N.Y., retired. And right away he began looking for ways to make a difference in the Greater Rochester community. One day he showed up to learn about The House of Mercy, the only place in Rochester that never closes its doors on people in need. “The House has a Mother Teresa role in our community, serving the poorest of the poor,” he explained. “And Mother Teresa has always been one of my heroes. So this was a natural place for me to volunteer.” Not long after that first meeting, C.W. called him to help fix up a house that would give homeless people trying to survive around the train station a safe place to live. “The house was donated, but it was a complete wreck. I probably spent six months there helping to completely remodel the place.” That was four years ago. Now Bernie’s a mainstay of the House, working Monday through Friday as a carpenter, maintenance man, unofficial co-manager of facilities and collaborator with other House of Mercy leaders. “I get more back than I give. That’s the nature of this kind of work. The rewards are immense. And it all comes at a good time in…

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Volunteer Spotlight: Juanita Washington

She was there from the beginning. When Sister Grace was hunting for a location on Central Park, Juanita Washington led her to a little place that became the first House of Mercy. After that, Juanita volunteered to do anything and everything. And for years, she worked here almost every day. She put together racks for clothing. She handed out clothes and bread. And she cooked and cooked, helping to feed homeless people in Rochester who had nowhere else to turn. “A lot of them were sleeping in the street and in boarded up homes and they weren’t getting anything to eat. Then when we opened up, they started to come from all over. If we hadn’t started the House of Mercy, a lot of them would have died. They wouldn’t have made it.” When the lines of hungry people grew longer, Juanita found a huge table so she could feed 30 people at a time. And when the House moved into bigger quarters on Hudson Avenue, Juanita started cooking for as many as 150 or 200 people at a time. “Jesus said to help those who can’t help themselves. That’s the way I was raised up. That’s what I believe. My mother would get out of bed at midnight to help someone. I’m the same way.” Juanita’s in a wheelchair now. She lost a leg to an illness. She’s 83. But she’s already planning to walk back into the House of Mercy on an artificial leg so she can resume a volunteer career that dates back to a chance encounter with Sister Grace in 1985. “When I get back on my feet, I’ll go over there and help ‘em,” she vows.“It’s a special place. And all of the people there are my heart. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. They have helped so many in this town. “I don’t think any other place around does what the…

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