Thursday, 06 January 2011 15:20
28 Most Interesting
Jen Day Shaw
Mark Van Soestenberg
Kelli Brew and John Zokovitch
By Nika Zecevic
For six and a half years, Kelli Brew and John Zokovitch have taken in less fortunate people, allowing the “strangers” to make the couple’s home their own.
“We see extraordinary, deep people who are struggling with things everyone else struggles with but in a more open way because they can’t hide it,” Kelli says.
Based on ideals of mercy and justice from Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day, they stress the importance of seeing people for who they are, instead of labeling them as “drunks, addicts or bums.” Rather than asking volunteers to donate food or volunteer their time, John and Kelly ask contributors—of which there are plenty—to cook an organic meal and eat with the homeless, instead of just giving them the “the oldest food from the back of our pantry that not even we would eat,” John says.
“The lines really blur here at the house, as the people who are ‘homeless’ are often the ones helping around the house,” John says. The result is rewarding for both the needy and the volunteers. Some students, who spend a semester living in the couple’s home and come for the rare feeling of living in a community, even end up changing their majors and the way they vote.
“We put a lot of stock in the power of relationships to transform,” Kelli says. John has been in ministry all of his adult life, and now works for Pax Christi USA. Kelli runs a local magazine for mothers and works with the Florida Organic Growers, which partially set standards for their current home to be “agriculturally oriented.”
They started their first Catholic Worker house when they met a couple of people in church who shared their vision of today’s society. Their current home has eight rooms, and often has between six and 13 people living with them—in addition to two of their six children.
Kelli and John experience daily “loves” and “hates” of their current life, as their household constantly tests their strengths and weaknesses. John says not a year goes by that they don’t question whether they should keep doing this sort of “experiment.” Their good work is often taxing, as most of their privacy is lost. However to them, it all seems worth it.
“This is a great way for us to be good in the world together,” John says.