My Thoughts on Jim Schlecht

Commentary by Brian Davis

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

I had the privilege of planning and speaking at the Jim Schlecht celebration.  No he is not retiring or dying.  Randy Cunningham of CTO decided that it was time to celebrate Jim's amazing body of work on behalf of the hungry and homeless.  Here is what I tried to say if I was a better speaker.  If you want to see more pictures or read more about Jim go to the NEOCH website and search “Jim Schlecht”.

I can't believe that Jim attended this event.  Thanks to everyone who kept the information electronic so that there was no way that Jim would see it.  Jim transitioned from assisting with hunger programs into homelessness.  I have to say that he is one of the few people that lives his faith.  I do worry that Jim is looking more and more like John Brown in his later years, and we all know how that ended.  I am sure that if we solved homelessness in the 1980s, Jim would be working with victims of AIDS or the mentally ill, or those working on re-entry issues. 

He is not an executive director type and he freely admits this.  Jim does not spend a great deal of time on paperwork preferring to meet people where they are and figuring out how to help.  He goes to the wall for people, and will help multiply times because he knows that no one is perfect.  Jim expects people to make mistakes.  There are people on the streets who don't like Jim.  I was flabbergasted when I heard this.  How could someone not like Jim Schlecht?  There were people who don't like Mother Theresa so I guess it is understandable.  Jim doesn't let him get it down.  He still reaches out a helping hand even to those who scorn him. He meets people where they are and when they are ready for a hand up. 

He calls all the time with requests, and it is impossible to say "no" to Jim.  So, earlier in the week Jim called asking about getting TV converters for homeless people moving into housing.   I am asking right now, spread the word, Jim Shlecht is looking for tv converters to turn the old analog TVs into usable entertainment for lonely homeless people moving into apartments. 

I have seen Jim at many anti-war rallies.  I remember being surprised to see Jim being arrested at the annual War Show in Cleveland during the labor day weekend one summer day.  I know that he lives his faith everyday when interacting with the hungry and the downtrodden.  He lives his faith when confronted with a society that spends tax dollars on killing people. I have seen him at vigils to remember those who died nearly every year, because the job is part of his faith.  He has stayed overnight at the Metanoia Project because his faith is 24 hours a day. 

Families are better off to have Jim Schlecht in Cleveland.  We are glad that Care Alliance hired Jim.  We are happy that he is willing to forgive and move on as a living expression of his faith.  He does not get involved in ageny squabbles and is not distracted by Facebook, Twitter or even e-mail. Jim just talks to people and helps thousands into housing sometimes more than once.  Cleveland is a better place because of Jim Schlecht. 

We have to thank Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman for his certificate of recognition and for Congressman Dennis Kucinich who honored Jim with a recognition on the floor of the US House of Representatives.  Toni Johnson, Terrell Valentine, and Randy Cunningham worked for a couple of months to put this celebration together.

This is an appreciation of Jim Schlecht, who for over thirty years has demonstrated exemplary service to the least of our community's citizens, who does not just talk about justice and compassion, but lives it day to day on the streets of Cleveland.  All Clevelanders can learn from his life of service and all our lives made better by his work.