By Ashley Stewart Herald Writer
EVERETT — Carlene Nelson can tell you something about everyone in her ministry.
She knows as much about 52-year-old Jeffery Hoerr as he knows about classic rock and John Cena. And he knows a lot.
Since she and other volunteers at Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help started a ministry and art class for people with disabilities in 2003, Nelson has formed close relationships with those who attend.
“My refrigerator has a lot of stuff on it,” she said.
No Disabled Souls Ministry gives people with disabilities a place to draw, paint and make crafts — like rosaries, terrariums and turkey placemats for Thanksgiving — and friends.
“Our main objective is to create friendships and, with art, they have something they can show off and be proud of,” Nelson said.
Hoerr, the ministry’s first member, was born with Williams syndrome, a condition that affects development.
When he’s not making crafts, Hoerr uses class time to talk to others about subjects he likes: music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, wrestling and animals.
The class has always been open to anyone, but when Hoerr started attending in 2003, he said he wanted to join the church.
Hoerr was apprehensive at first. He said he’d been asked to leave other churches in the past. Sometimes he would get frustrated or rock back and forth.
“Everyone embraced him kindly at first, but they didn’t really know how to act around him. They shouldn’t have to act anyway,” Nelson said.
That has since changed.
“He really broke down barriers at our church,” Nelson said.
Hoerr is now an usher at the church, where he is known for his knowledge of music.
“Jeffery knows all the words to all the songs,” said Alexandra Nyfors, who has bipolar disorder, which led her to No Disabled Souls. She eventually became a mentor for others with disabilities.
“That’s the idea here, to get everybody to feel like part of the community and get to know each other,” Nyfors said.
About 20 people come to the bimonthly art class, but the ministry is more than that.
“These people are living 365 days a year,” Nelson said. “I truly feel responsible for them.”
Nelson, art teacher Fede Chavez and other volunteers drive a group of about 50 people with disabilities to church, the grocery store, doctor appointments and anything else that comes up, even the fair.
“These people are awesome human beings who, a lot of times, get lost in the shuffle,” Nelson said.
“Our goal is for every single person to know how valuable they are and that they’re all equal in the eyes of God.”
No Disabled Souls art class meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 2619 Cedar St., Everett.
Donations of art supplies can be dropped off.
Ashley Stewart: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, call Carlene Nelson at 425-355-3138 or the parish office at 425-349-7014.