This is the summary that appeared in the program that Ms. Valentine put together for the celebration last week. The biography was written by Randy Cunningham, a long time environmental and housing advocate in Cleveland especially the NEAR WEST SIDE of Cleveland. 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. Check out our photo display from the award's ceremony.
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.
Jim Schlecht was born and raised in Euclid, Ohio. His father Jim, an IRS agent and his mother Jane were great role models for Jim. During his college years at Cleveland State University, Jim joined other progressive Catholics and settled in Cleveland’s Near West Side neighborhood in the early 1970s. There he joined a community of other Catholic activists whose roots extended back to the Catholic Worker experience in the 1930s. and the Thomas Merton Community of the 1960s.
Jim was part of a community that proudly called what has become Ohio City, the Near West Side. Or as a poster of the era said “This is a neighborhood. Cleveland is an Ohio city.” The community founded health clinics, schools, book stores, community organizations like Near West Neighbors in Action, and social service agencies. Jim thrived in this stew of idealism and imagination. Jim and his wife Patty raised three children on the Near West Side, Anne, Laura and Daniel Schlecht. During his long career of service to the community, Jim has worked at the Rose Mary Center, the West Side Community House, the West Side Catholic Center, and is currently with Care Alliance (the local health care for the homeless).
I met Jim while working for a housing group located in the headquarters of this community – the old West Side Community House on Bridge Ave. Jim ran the senior citizens’ meals program, and out of his small, crowded and chaotic office learned all that one could ever hope to learn about putting people and their needs in touch with the resources to help them. If Jim doesn’t know about a resource, or how to find out about a resource, it probably doesn’t exist.
Above all else Jim has made serving the least of us, the homeless, his life’s work. If you ever get a chance, take the opportunity to go with Jim on his daily rounds to the homeless shelters, the social service agencies, or the homeless camps that are tucked away un-noticed by most Clevelanders. The homeless know Jim, and Jim knows them by name and biography. They are not numbers or clients to Jim. They are people no better or worse in his view than he is.
While other people talk the talk, Jim walks the walk. Early in this life on the Near West Side, he joined the anti-war movement and was arrested on the grounds of the White House in the company of such iconic figures as the Berrigan brothers. He has not mellowed with age, and just hearing his name can cause the sponsors of the Cleveland Air Show to break out in hives. He has been arrested there, protesting war and advocatng peace.
This brief bio of Jim pales before the task of doing justice to a person who I proudly call my brother. I am not alone in that, and I know that when he calls me his brother he means it.
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