“Love brought us here. God brought us here.”

A Live The Good Volunteer shared these words during reflection following our service at Mission of Mary Cooperative in Dayton.

Yet love was the last thing on my mind when Sister Rita Sturwold and I finally arrived at Mission of Mary. We’d left Cincinnati 90 minutes early for the 45-minute drive, leaving plenty of time to get there. Instead, we ended up circling narrow streets with tiny, dilapidated houses, winding around parked cars, and navigating blocks that constantly led us to the same roundabout.

We circled this way and that way at least a dozen times but nothing led us to the elusive Mission of Mary Cooperative. How do you hide an urban farm in Dayton, anyway? My stress was mounting. We couldn’t reach anyone at Mission of Mary, nor any of our Dayton friends who had been there before. I pulled over and turned to Sister.

“What are we going to do? And if we can’t find it, how will anyone else?”

“Go this way,” she said, pointing down a street we’d been down several times.

“We tried that way. Many times.”

“Well, let’s try it again.”

“There’s no point.” I was adamant.

“Just try it and we’ll see where it goes.”

“Sister, nothing has changed since we went down that street last time. Everything is in the same place. Nothing has moved. It’s the same as it was and there is no Mission of Mary here.”

“Let’s just try again.”

I took a deep breath and put the car in drive. There was no use changing her mind. Then, like magic (or a miracle), a tiny sign appeared with an arrow pointing to a small alley across the street. We crept forward, our wheels bouncing on the brick road past tiny old garages until an oasis of green space appeared. We were there with two minutes to spare.

Live The Good is more than just service. It’s about moving forward when all you want to do is stop. It’s about faith. It’s about love in action.

Leo Lehner’s family, who joined us that day at Mission of Mary, knows a thing or two about moving forward when you have every reason to stop. Leo’s sudden and tragic death at age 14 could have left his family immobile with grief. It didn’t. Instead, they honor Leo by continuing to do what he loved doing: volunteering. Along with Live The Good Volunteers and Chaminade Julienne students, the family found their way down that bumpy alley to the field of abandoned green space and joined forces with us to help the vacant lot be reborn. Together on that chilly, wet morning we hauled mulch, prepared garden beds, and planted vegetable and flower seeds, trusting that new life would spring forth to feed others and bring beauty to the world.

It’s so easy to stop when things get hard. It’s so tempting to throw our hands in the air and give up. When I wanted to stop, Sister Rita insisted we keep going. I’m glad she did.

Let’s not stop. Let’s push through whatever barriers and challenges stand in our way. Like Leo’s family, let’s keep making God’s goodness known in big and small ways



Holly Schlaack
Director of Volunteer Engagement