On November 27, the Guardian Angel Homes of Grand Rapids honored Peter M. Wege by giving him their first Grand Angel Award. Grand Angel Homes was started in 1992 by a group of Catholic families who wanted to provide care and housing for adults who are physically or mentally disabled. Because Peter Wege supported their cause from the beginning, they named him their first Grand Angel.
The program described the new award and why Peter was the first recipient:
The Grand Angel Award recognizes individuals whose genuine and profound love of humanity, as well as all of God’s Creation, excel in protecting, promoting, and uplifting it through their extraordinary vision, leadership, compassion, understanding, and generosity to all of mankind, but most especially for the Least of These
Some founders of Guardian Angel Homes, including philanthropists Ralph and Grace Hauenstein, have disabled children themselves. They wanted to make sure their children, and others like them, had good homes as they became adults and their older parents could no longer take care of them. Guardian Angel Homes now has several residences providing homes for almost 50 adults with varying degrees of disabilities.
The adults in two Guardian Angel Homes on Alten Street can function well enough to live on their own, with a social worker checking on them regularly. Many of the Alten residents hold jobs. The Guardian Angel group homes for those more disabled offer the same safe, nurturing home atmosphere, but with a full-time caretaker.
Although Guardian Angel Homes began with Catholic families, they have broadened their outreach to people of all faiths. Part of their mission from the beginning was to make sure their disabled children could continue practicing their faith. Staff and volunteers make sure that happens by driving the Guardian Angel residents to where ever their religious services are held.
Guardian Angel Homes has discovered how great the need is to provide good homes for disabled adults. There are 20,000 disabled people in Kent County alone. Guardian Angel Homes has 50 of them on its waiting list to move in , but there’s no more room to house them. At the November event honoring Peter Wege, Guardian Angel Board President Paul Solberg announced a campaign titled “Building Lives” to raise money for more homes.
Underneath Peter M. Wege’s full-page photograph in the program is this line from one of Peter’s own prayers: O Lord God, give us compassion and understanding of why we are here on this dot in the Universe.
TEXT FOR THE PHOTO Peter M. Wege sits beside the first Grand Angel Award statue by Mic Carlson. The statue depicts Brother Bernardo kneeling in prayer a the feet of St. Francis.