Churches Active in Northside (CAIN), which has operated a neighborhood food pantry and provided social services to Northside residents for more than two decades as CAIN and twice that long through its churches, is expanding its hospitality ministry by welcoming into its fold a longtime College Hill community: Grace Place Catholic Worker Community.
Grace Place is grounded in the tradition of radical hospitality, a movement founded in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Co-founders Joyce Wittekind Asfour and Sandy McCoy bought a three-story Victorian house in College Hill and, in 1998, opened its doors to women and children in crisis, providing them with close-knit community and transitional housing at no cost for up to one year while they work through difficult challenges. Volunteers join guests for meals, skill-building, spirituality and daily companionship. A handful of volunteers live full time at the house.
CAIN Executive Director MiMi Chamberlin says the missions of CAIN and Grace Place are connected by their focus on hospitality and their founding by women who put their faith in action. In the 1970s Jewel Davis Smith started a food pantry that became CAIN. “It’s a tremendous blessing for both organizations and even more for the people we serve,” she notes. “With the retirement of Joyce Asfour, Grace Place was in need of an administrator and oversight. For CAIN, this helps us live out our mission more fully,” she says. CAIN is a neighborhood ministry that transforms lives and inspires hope by providing nutritious food, crisis assistance, resources, and compassion in a way that respects human dignity and builds a more vibrant community.
“At the pantry, we provide food and other necessities and individual attention in a truly, loving and compassionate way to over 400 households per month. We have always longed for a way to also help people in a more in-depth and long-term way,” Mimi adds. “Grace Place is a way to do this by providing assistance and support the women need to create more stable and self-sustaining lives for themselves and their children.”
CAIN’s desire to serve in an even more in-depth and personal way mirrors the intentions of Catholic Worker, Grace Place; and co-founder Joyce Asfour. A member of The Women’s International League for Peace (WILPF) as well as The Grail, an international women’s movement whose national headquarters are in Loveland at Grailville, Joyce travelled around the world. Joyce immersed herself in prayer and social justice efforts, and connected with activists from every continent and here in Cincinnati where she engaged in social justice and faith-based actions. She served WILPF as a liaison for its members in both Israel and occupied Palestine, a passion fed by her late husband, Victor, a Palestinian immigrant who was the co-founder of Arab-American Association of Cincinnati.
Though she is retired and now living in College Hill at Llanfair, Joyce joins the community of guests and volunteers for dinner and conversation several times a week. She loves the depth and breadth of community at the house. Joyce is grateful to see Grace Place thriving through the commitment of longtime and new volunteers and with the support of CAIN.
After dinner one recent night, Joyce, volunteers and guests sat for long hours at the table, talking and laughing until one woman offered words from Psalm 118. At 75, releasing Grace Place to CAIN and a new generation of volunteers, Joyce raised her voice and sang out, “Today is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
For more info:
CAIN 513-591-CAIN (2246)
Grace Place 513-681-2365
By Pat Knapp
Pat Knapp is a CAIN volunteer who lives in Clifton