My idealistic childhood dream of being a News Journal reporter and helping people had come true, when I was assigned a new beat covering the poor and disadvantaged in Delaware.
One of the first people I met on that new assignment in the 1980s was someone who would do more than any other individual I met in over 40 years of reporting to help our homeless and working poor — Brother Ronald Giannone, founder of the Ministry of Caring.
When he first went to Legislative Hall to ask for help for those who are neediest, the brown-robed friar then in his 30s, got a response that now seems shockingly naive: His funding request was denied after a pronouncement from the podium that there are no homeless in Delaware.
Much of my News Journal reporting would go on to chronicle his fight to lift up those in need with food, housing, clothes, jobs, training, child care, medical and dental care, special needs support and more — as well as growing recognition of the challenges of homelessness and poverty, and a groundswell of public support for the ministry’s work.
Flash forward a few decades — past my becoming a statistic in News Journal downsizing — to when Giannone and I met again about a year ago.
The ministry was approaching its 40th anniversary and he wanted to mark the occasion by publishing the definitive history of the ministry, its work and challenges for the future.
And he wanted me to write it.
I declined, but he persisted.
Because I covered the Ministry for so long, including its growing pains, objectively but with compassion, he said I had to be the one to tell its story.
Now, Giannone has published my first book, “40 Years of Hope & Charity,” subtitled “Serving the Poor with Respect & Dignity, The Story of the Ministry of Caring.”
Over the year of its creation, Giannone kept a promise of full, unrestricted access to programs, records, staff, volunteers, clients and program alumni. At times, research and fact-checking seemed endless. Many times, I showed up unannounced at program sites from Emmanuel Dining Room to the Child Care Center to observe or conduct interviews. Giannone took my calls day and night, unflinching at hard questions.
Perhaps the sweetest moment came as he and I recalled meeting many years ago at the old Wilmington fire hall at Second and Jackson streets, where he envisioned creating a dining room for anyone who wanted a meal, served with dignity and respect — no questions asked.
Researching “40 Years of Hope & Charity,” I learned that the Emmanuel Dining Room he created there and at two other sites now has served nearly 7 million meals.
That’s just one of dozens of programs, a small part of the Ministry story that I’m honored to tell.
Fittingly and thanks to sponsor Gert Abel, a longtime ministry supporter, I’m happy to say that all proceeds of the book will go the Ministry to help the homeless and poor.
The Ministry of Caring and sponsor Gert Abel are hosting a signing party with Brother Ronald Giannone and author robin brown to celebrate publication of “40 Years of Hope & Charity.”
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 24
Where: Raskob Foundation, 10 Montchanin Road at Del. 52 and Del. 100
Admission: Free, RSVP to (302) 652-5523
Light refreshments, books available at $30 per copy. Books also may be ordered at (302) 652-5523 or ministryofcaring.org/40-years-of-hope-and-charity