By Diane Holloway
This is an exciting time for us at Trinity Center as we prepare to gather for our annual April fundraiser, the Barbara Jordan Celebration. We will eat, drink and be inspired as we raise money to support our mission of helping Austin’s homeless neighbors. We also will proudly honor the extraordinary service of the Sarahan Family with our prestigious Pat Hazel Award, named after the beloved priest who spent many years as our spiritual leader.
We hope you will join us on Tuesday, April 24 at 5:30 in St. David’s Bethell Hall. Tickets are on sale now, so please reserve yours!
We have never bestowed our Pat Hazel Award on an entire family before, but the Sarahans certainly deserve it. Parents Sarah and Paul and twin siblings Kate and Will came to us four years ago through Good Shepherd Episcopal Church’s participation in our Sunday afternoon worship service and meal that we call Trinity Streets. They quietly take charge of the kitchen, prepare and serve the meal and participate in the service. Good Shepherd has increased its Sundays with us over the years, and the Sarahans seem to be the spark for this boost.
“Trinity Center is a wonderful place to remind yourself of the central part of your faith,” Sarah said on a recent evening as the family gathered around a table at home. “We really love being there.”
Paul taps into the same emotion: “I’ve been surprised at how often there’s been a moment when you really can feel the presence of God.”
Recently Sarah also joined our Thursday volunteer team that helps with financial assistance to replace IDs and birth certificates.
Kate and Will, 16, are juniors at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Sarah and Paul are both attorneys who went to University of Texas Law School — and both had Pat Hazel, in his previous life in law, for a trial advocacy class.
“He was a great professor,” Sarah says smiling.
While living in Houston for a time, the family was involved with homelessness issues at Christ Church Cathedral and in the larger community. Sarah volunteered with legal aid services at Beacon Law, a nonprofit helping the Houston homeless community, and Paul was involved with Health Care for the Homeless.
“We’ve always been drawn to this population,” Sarah says. “My dad is an Episcopal priest and was headmaster of a school, so I grew up in that community. There were always homeless people around, so we always interacted.”
When they moved back to Austin, the Sarahans looked for ways to stayed involved with the homeless community. Will and Kate come by their compassion and comfort level naturally, always looking forward to helping at Trinity on Sunday afternoons and even some weekdays in the summer.
“The people really appreciate what we’re doing,” says Will. “Sometimes it seems like they value our time more than we value it. They always thank us for being there. In some ways, I’m more comfortable with them than some of my peers.”
Whenever there’s a Sunday (rarely, but it happens) when a church in the Streets rotation hasn’t signed up to serve, the Sarahans take charge. New Year’s Eve, 4th of July … they’re dependably available any time they’re needed.
Kate, who tends to be more shy at first than her brother, appreciates how friendly the neighbors are. When the Sarahans served at Streets on New Year’s Eve, Kate and her mother set up a photo booth, and Kate snapped photos for neighbors to take with them. Lots of smiles and laughter accompanied each photo.
“They’re so friendly,” Kate says softly. “We come home hungry, and we know we can just go in the kitchen and get food. They can’t. It makes you think, and you definitely get a different perspective on things.”
Will agrees: “We always look forward to going. It’s a chance to do something really meaningful – and it’s fun.”
Working hard for our neighbors and enjoying every minute of it, the Sarahans have opened their hearts to service, and we’re certain Father Pat would be exceptionally proud of his former students.
“I’m a big believer in connection,” says Sarah. “We’re all in this together. There are always forces trying to pull us apart, but I really believe we’re all connected. … Trinity Center feels like home, like the people who come here think of it as their community. There’s a sense of home and love, and we love it, too.”