• Jeremy Clark

Building authentic relationship with youth

At Cup of Cool Water, we are a Volunteer-based ministry. We are entirely dependent on volunteers not only for their support with running the ministry, but also because the body of Christ is diverse and we need diversity of experience, perspective, age, gender, ethnicity, race and more. These all contribute to the authentic relationships we seek to build with youth in the drop-in center.

Joe Valente has been volunteering with us at Cup of Cool Water for more than 5 years. When I first met Joe, I was intimidated all I knew about him in the beginning is that he is a Judge. This terrified me. I usually get nervous when a police officer drives behind me. This is roughly the type of emotion I had when I considered the time I would soon spend in close quarters with a person who I might refer to in another context as “your honor.”

When Joe walked through the doors, I was a little nervous; he was cordial and professional. The first thing I noticed was that he rode his bike to the drop-in center. This was a little disarming right away. You may remember from my previous post that Joe was present at Joey’s court case. This was one of my early experiences with Joe. In my conversations with Joe he let me get a peek behind the curtain of his thought process when deliberating about lengths of sentencing, what is reasonable and all of the factors involved in making judicious decisions, it was through our many conversations that I garnered a tremendous amount of respect for him.

A picture of Tex when Joe was his mentor.

At one point, Joe was mentoring a regularly attending youth with the nickname of “Tex.” Joe and Tex couldn’t be more different. Tex struggled with mental illness and substance abuse and Joe, like I said lives a healthy and active life. What I realized after some time of observing their relationship unfold is that once they overcame their pretenses, there was mutual respect and appreciation for one another. I remember one day we were sitting in mentorship and we were playing “I’ve never.” If you are unfamiliar with this one, you hold up your fingers and you say something you have never done. One of the youth advocates said something like, “I’ve never committed a crime.” To our surprise, Joe puts down his finger. We expected Joe so say that he got a speeding ticket or something innocuous like that, but Joe proceeded to tell us a story where, as a child he shot out a few windows of a convent back in New York when he was a kid! We were so shocked, but Tex’s admiration for Joe grew tenfold at that moment when he suddenly saw another side of the venerable Joe Valente.

Joe is generous, fair, and compassionate and has been a role model for many of us at Cup of Cool Water, including staff and other volunteers. He is a man of God and I am so appreciative for the impact he has had on the ministry. He has supported countless youth with legal paperwork, where he helped them wade through legal jargon, he has paid court fines and in some cases, he has attended court hearings with youth. Reconciliation has many faces, but this version makes so much sense in our drop-in center among youth who have had so many negative interactions with authority figures.

Joe with members of the CCW team in 2016.

I have to include something here. Joe was fine with me making a post about him, but he did request that I include a story about a priest who passed away in Italy last week. “The 72 year old parish priest named Giuseppe Berardelli.  He was hospitalized in Italy with c-19 and needed to be placed on a ventilator.  His parishioners pooled their money to buy a ventilator just for him.  However, a younger man, a stranger, was at the same hospital and also needed a ventilator.  The priest gave up his machine to save the young man.  The priest then died.  He literally gave up life to save the stranger.”

I have included the link here:  https://www.newsweek.com/72-year-old-italian-priest-who-gave-his-ventilator-younger-patient-dies-coronavirus-1493868