August 25, 2017

Angel of Grace event celebrates 10 years of recognizing women

By Natalie Hoefer

Throughout the Bible, three archangels are listed by name: Gabriel, messenger of good news to Mary and Zechariah; Michael, defender of heaven who cast the devil into hell; and Raphael, the traveling companion of Tobias.

For the last 10 years, the Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove have identified three women who have heroically served in the roles of messenger, defender and companion, and recognized their service with an “Angels of Grace” award.

This year’s recipients are Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry founder Donita Royal for the “defender” Archangel Michael Award; Cocktails & Chemo Foundation founder Amanda Evans-Clark for the “messenger” Archangel Gabriel Award; and Joy’s House Care and Community for Adults founder and president Tina McIntosh for the “companion” Archangel Raphael Award.

These women will receive their award on Sept. 30 at a fashion show and luncheon fundraiser honoring all women and benefiting women’s programs at the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Angels of Grace Awards and event, Terry Stacy of 93.1 WIBC FM radio will serve as emcee as she did at the first event in 2008, and all of the past award recipients will be invited.

Fashions by The Secret Ingredient in Indianapolis will be modeled by friends of the Benedict Inn and will be available for purchase, with 10 percent of the proceeds going toward the cause. Gift baskets and prizes will be raffled.

Here are the stories of this year’s messenger, defender and companion.

Archangel Michael Award winner Donita Royal

Donita RoyalIt is said that no parent should have to bury their child. But when that child’s life is cut short in college by gun violence, the unexpected loss makes the pain and grief even more unbearable.

Donita Royal knows this feeling firsthand. Her son, Walter Harris, was shot and killed at the age of 21 in 2013 in Indianapolis, along with his best friend, 20-year-old Darius Lloyd.

But Royal turned her mourning into ministry: Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry.

“Out of the pain and the spiritual healing, you find your purpose and turn it into something positive,” says Royal, 52. “I decided [to do more] instead of talking about stopping the violence. The Lord just led me to work with the mothers because of what I went through. My heart went out to them. Every time I see a child get killed, I think about the mother and what she’s going through.”

A year after her loss, Royal became involved with the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, whose mission includes reducing violence and homicide through direct engagement.

“A lot of things I was doing with them was going in the community, going to homicides, walking and engaging with neighbors in high crime areas,” she says. “That’s when it started. When the funerals would come up, I’d say, ‘Let’s give them a card. Let’s collect money and put it in the card. … Let’s take the mother flowers.’ ”

After a year, she felt called to replace her involvement with the coalition and focus on ministering to the mothers of the victims. Her ministry now includes hand-delivering flowers to the mother at the funeral, giving her a sympathy card with a monetary offering, and making a dish to bring to the family. She also gives them a Mothers Against Violence business card with her contact information.

“Some immediately call, some wait a couple months then call,” she says, noting that everyone grieves in their own way.

Royal estimates that, since starting Mothers Against Violence in the spring of 2016, she has visited about two funerals a month—“Too many,” she notes. According to the organization’s website, www.mavhm.com, approximately

30 mothers have been helped, with 22 currently receiving services and/or participating in the support group.

Royal also organizes outings for victims’ families to community events and workshops. Last December, she hosted an “uplifting” gathering, knowing that “the holidays are really, really hard” for the families.

She says the mission of her organization is to uplift the mothers and help them realize that, “If you allow God to help you, you can still keep your character and still be able to live life to the fullest, to go on with the pain.”

Her dreams of making the organization national are coming true—the first chapter outside of Indianapolis just started in Atlanta with the help of a friend.

The self-proclaimed “giver, not a receiver,” says she is “overwhelmed” by receiving the Archangel Michael Award.

“I give God the glory. He’s the one that’s doing it,” says Royal, who attends Christ Temple Church in Indianapolis.

“My son’s only been gone four years. Everyone thinks I’m healed, and I’m a strong superwoman. It’s not me. It’s God.”

Archangel Raphael Award winner Tina McIntosh

Tina McIntoshWhile studying as a college freshman at Ball State University, Tina McIntosh also volunteered at an adult day care services facility in Muncie—an opportunity unrelated to her English major.

“I’ve done a lot of different things, but something about the adult day center I volunteered in stuck with me, got into my soul and stayed with me throughout my young personal career,” says McIntosh, who worked for several years after college as an event planner. “God gives you those taps and taps and taps, until you feel like there’s a two-by-four being raised and you have to listen.”

In 1999, at the age of 27, McIntosh began the work of opening Joy’s House Care and Community for Adults in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis. Their doors opened in 2000.

Her organization offers day services for adults living with life-altering diagnoses. Aging adults and those living with mental and/or physical challenges comprise the “guests” of Joy’s House, as they are lovingly called.

Although Joy’s House is not a Christian organization, “for me it was very God-driven,” says McIntosh, 45, who attends Mercy Road Christian Church in Carmel, Ind., with her husband and three children.

Joy’s House is not named for a person. Rather, it is named for the emotion they want their guests and guests’ families to experience at the facility.

“What happens here is very genuine,” McIntosh says. “That is the culture. You can feel it.

“For us, what we do well is take care of people every minute of the day, but do it with such respect and dignity for people, like they’re family and friends. We say people become family. But saying it and meaning it, having lifelong relationships with people—it happens. It goes beyond words.”

Joy’s House—which recently opened a second facility near the University of Indianapolis—also offers caregiver support for the families of their guests. Such services include retreats, online education, documents, informational sessions, and even a weekly radio show called “Caregiver Crossing” from 7-8 a.m. on Saturdays on 93.1 WIBC FM.

McIntosh is particularly proud of the free CARE (consistency, advocacy, reassurance and education) kit they developed for caregivers, a binder to keep important information in one place, while also providing templates to track medications, sleep patterns, behavior changes and more.

“I liken it to taking a 101 class or a pre-marital class,” she explains. “It took us years to put it together. We couldn’t find anything like it. It’s free, and if you can’t pick it up, we can mail it.” (Call 317-254-0828 or go to

www.joyshouse.org for more information.)

McIntosh struggles to find words to convey her gratitude at being selected for the Archangel Raphael Award.

“To be recognized by anyone is an honor and is humbling, but to be recognized by the sisters in this way is hard to put into words,” she says. “It’s a mix of making you feel very small and very big all at the same time. I think the sisters would understand when I say that you do what you do because you feel like it’s what your supposed to do, not for recognition.

“But recognition is fueling. It helps you put one foot in front of the other, helps you make bold steps.

“To say it’s an honor is an understatement.”

Archangel Gabriel Award winner Amanda Evans-Clark

Amanda Evans-Clark with daughter MiraPlanning a wedding can be stressful. Finding out two months before getting married that your husband-to-be has cancer puts that stress into perspective.

That’s what happened to Amanda Evans-Clark, founder and president of Cocktails & Chemo. In 2011, just two days before her fiancé Joe’s 28th birthday, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Joe began receiving chemotherapy, and Amanda became a caregiver.

“For me, it was a shocking role to be thrown into,” she says. “Every second of my life was, ‘Is he OK? Has he had his meds? Is he getting sick?’ Plus the financial strain.”

To cope with the stress, the couple began a unique form of therapy: they started writing a blog.

“Our blogs were a way for us to communicate with everyone what we were going through,” says Clark, now 33. “I’d write from the perspective of a caregiver, and he wrote as a patient.”

Soon they were connected with cancer patients and caregivers nationally.

“Before my husband died in 2014, he said, ‘There’s something to this. This is something pretty incredible we’ve started.’ When he died, I knew I wanted to do something with it and carry on my husband’s legacy.”

She knew she couldn’t cure cancer, says Clark. But she could help the caregivers. So the blogs evolved into a non-profit organization in 2015 called Cocktails & Chemo, with a mission of helping caregivers.

“I saw the difference it made in my life when someone would step in and help, or send a card, how much that refilled my tank and allowed me to be there for him,” says the mother of 3 ½-year-old Mira Joey (Mira short for “miracle,” and Joey for her husband).

The non-profit organization—which Clark operates while working full time at a marketing firm—offers help to caregivers through surprise gift packages, a night of pampering at a spa, and support groups.

Caregivers can be nominated to receive a care package on the Cocktails & Chemo website, www.cocktailsandchemo.com. Those wishing to donate items for the packages can refer to a wish list on the site.

“The care packages—which are 100 percent donated items—aren’t a big thing,” says Clark. “Just a bag of fun items that remind you that you are not alone, that maybe make you feel special for a moment. Silly things like cozy socks the two of you can wear in the hospital, a Starbucks card so you can grab some coffee on the way to an appointment, lip gloss.”

Taking action to help others is a component of her Catholic faith Clark says she learned while attending St. Barnabas School and Roncalli High School, both on Indianapolis’ south side.

“A lot of times we look at Jesus praying, but nobody got to work more than Jesus,” she explains. “He went out there and worked with the people and made a difference. I’ve always been really inspired by that.

“Prayer is crucial, but it was the people that lived the message by helping and reaching out and being there that made the big difference [when she was a caregiver]. You looked them in the eye, and you saw Jesus and felt everything you were taught growing up.”

The organization now has chapters in Florida where the Clarks lived, Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

And now that Clark and her daughter live close to her family in Westfield, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, a chapter is starting in Indianapolis.

Which brings her back to her roots, receiving the Archangel Gabriel Award from the Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove on the south side of Indianapolis.

“I’m still so in shock by it,” she says. “When I found out [about the award], I really couldn’t believe it. To come back to [the south side of Indianapolis] is really special.”
 

(The Angels of Grace fundraiser and luncheon will be held at Primo Banquet Hall & Conference Center, 2615 National Ave., in Indianapolis, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 30. Tickets are $35 per person, or $260 for a table of eight. Fashions by The Secret Ingredient will be modeled and available for purchase, with 10 percent of proceeds going toward women’s programs at the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove. The event includes raffles for gift baskets, a week’s stay at a home on Lake Michigan, and a raffle for a 14k, white gold, black and white diamond necklace in honor of the 10th anniversary of Angels of Grace. For reservations or questions, contact the Benedict Inn at 317-788-7581 or www.benedictinn.org.

For more information on Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry, call 317-400-5511 or visit www.mavhm.com.

For more information on Joy’s House Care and Community for Adults, call 317‑254-0828 or go to www.joyshouse.org.

For more information on Cocktails and Chemo,go to www.cocktailsandchemo.com.)

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