CCUSA 2020 Volunteer of the Year Finalist, Renee Hooks

Ask Renee Hooks why she has volunteered every day for the last three years at the Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center, and her answer is simple: it’s the people.

“My heart goes out to the families, the women, the men,” Renee said. “Because I’ve been there.”

Because she, too, was homeless.

Through Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, the Bishop Cosgrove Center offers daily hot meals and other services for the city’s homeless and disenfranchised, including pantry and clothing distribution.

Renee’s lived experience helps her connect with guests on a deeper level. After her husband passed away unexpectedly in 2015, Renee struggled with substance use and found herself in a women’s shelter just a few blocks from the center.

“It was like God had brought me down here to give me hope again, to give me motivation,” she said.

Even as a guest at Bishop Cosgrove, Renee always offered to volunteer wherever help was needed. She does the same now, whether it’s helping to prepare meals, cleaning up the cafeteria or distributing clothes. But what’s most important to Renee is talking with the guests and showing that she cares.

“Just somebody to say, ‘Good Morning, How are you doing,’ that really makes a person’s day,” Renee said. “If it’s just one word, or that smile. They need that. I just thank God that I’m happy to do that for them.”

Renee Hook’s life was changed by the help she received at the Bishop Cosgrove Center. Now she works to change lives every day as a volunteer.