Who are Friends of Dorothy Day?
Friends of Dorothy Day is the name of our volunteer group that has evolved from “Men of Overflow.” Our role is to provide support to those on Higher Ground’s 2nd Floor, men in transition to independent living, by serving a meal and spending time just being Friends for a few hours every evening. While the volunteer shift has been reduced from an overnight stay to three hours per night, the overall commitment has expanded because of the number of days. Men of Overflow’s overnight stays were for about 1/2 the year (the cold weather months), whereas the hope is that Friends of Dorothy Day will serve every single night of the year – 365 days times 3 volunteers per night equals 1,000+ volunteer shifts!
Here’s a link to the Friends of Dorothy Day vision and mission statements.
Because of the increased service needs, we’re working hard to expand our group. Adult men and women (18 years+) are encouraged to volunteer. If you’re interested in finding out more, please visit our volunteer section. And, here’s the volunteer sign-up portal. If you have questions, please contact us.
History of our volunteer group – Men of Overflow
As the autumn winds began to blow in 2010, Gerry Lauer and his staff at the Dorothy Day Center knew that after 30 years of providing shelter for those in need, things were changing. There was simply no more space to accommodate all who sought a warm, safe place to sleep. Without available staff or funds, the prospects looked bleak.
In response, Gerry and a group of volunteers from St John Neumann and St Thomas Becket began contingency plans. During the cold winter months, October through March, 2 volunteers would arrive each evening at the vacant offices of Catholic Charities St Paul, admit up to 40 guests for the night, feed them dinner, socialize with them and then bed down with them. The following morning, everyone was up at 5:30 am, shared coffee and a little light housekeeping before heading on their way by 6:30am. Overflow guests headed out to find someplace to stay warm till the overflow shelter reopened that evening, while volunteers went home or directly to work for the day. For the next 6 winters, no one was ever turned away who sought shelter on a cold winter night.
When over flow served its last meal and closed in the spring of 2016, more than 100 volunteers from more than 20 congregations had answered the call providing food, shelter and maybe most importantly, friendship for hundreds if not thousands of guests. Most anyone can be a volunteer. But it takes someone special to be a Friend.
- In 2012 when Silas underwent radical throat surgery, it was the Men of Overflow who were there when he awoke, who stayed with him during his recovery and walked with him through his lengthy rehabilitation. That’s what Friends do.
- In 2013 when Little Sisters of the Poor needed help removing an old gazebo from their Holy Family Residence, it was the Men of Overflow who stepped in taking away the old structure and replacing it with raised flowerbeds they built for the residents. That’s what Friends do.
In 2014 when Gary needed to begin dialysis, it was the Men of Overflow who helped him get and furnish a modest apartment and who then organized car pools that drove him to and from the VA 3 days a week. That’s what Friends do.
- In 2015 when Gary died unexpectedly of a heart attack and the hospital could find no family, it was the Men of Overflow who asked for his body, held a memorial service and prepared for a fitting burial at Fort Snelling. That’s what Friends do.
- In 2015 when Jerome was about to lose his lease because his aging trailer home was deemed uninhabitable, it was the Men of Overflow who stepped up to make the necessary repairs and improvements so he could maintain his independent living a little longer. That’s what Friends do.
Thanks to the generosity of so many, Catholic Charities will open a new shelter this fall called Higher Ground St Paul that will provide dignified accommodations for all who need. No longer will men need to sleep on mats on the floor in an old unused building. And as that transition progresses, the Men of Overflow will transition to the Friends of Dorothy Day and will, each night of the year, continue to provide support to those on its 2nd Floor, men in transition to independent living, by serving a meal and spending time just being Friends.
Overflow at Catholic Charities in the News
Opening of Overflow:
Gary Smith article:
Pioneer Press article: