Fourteen years of volunteer work with the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, helping to initiate the Labre ministry at Walsh Jesuit High School in Stow, service to Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio and volunteering with other service programs and projects earned Ed Plaspohl the 2018 InnerCitySaints Award from Notre Dame College.
The InnerCitySaints Award was initiated in 2016 to recognize those who through their humble service have made a meaningful difference in Cleveland’s inner-city urban areas. This year’s award was presented during a Nov. 15 luncheon at the Tudor Arms Hotel in Cleveland.
Attendees dined on tomato soup and grilled cheese at the event, which is the main fundraiser for the college’s Caring Hearts Fund that supports students who face unforeseen financial, physical or emotional crisis during the academic year. The fund assists students with needs such as food, winter clothing, computers, books and emergency travel expenses to help them complete their degrees.
Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries offered remarks and prayers at the luncheon, as did Father Don Oleksiak, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Cleveland. Father Oleksiak, a close friend of Plaspohl, also shared remarks about him.
Notre Dame Sister Melanie Svoboda, a Notre Dame College alumna and nationally acclaimed author and spiritual director, was keynote speaker.
Russ Mitchell, managing editor and lead anchor of the evening newscasts at WKYC TV3, returned as master of ceremonies.
Attendees also saw a video showing highlights of some of Plaspohl’s volunteer work.
Plaspohl, a Strongsville resident, is an active member of St. Ambrose Parish in Brunswick. Since 2004, he has spent hundreds of Sundays with other volunteers from the St. Ignatius Labre program searching for homeless on the streets of Cleveland. The volunteers provide the homeless with meals and other assistance — meeting them where they are. Plaspohl arrives with food, clothing and other items to help the homeless on the East Route – from downtown Cleveland to East 55th Street.
He also spends Monday nights volunteering with the Labre ministry at Walsh Jesuit. Plaspohl helped bring the program to Walsh 12 years ago in order to assist the poor and marginalized in the Akron area. The Walsh volunteers have worked more than 600 consecutive weeks at their Labre ministry.
Plaspohl, 62, is a retired global account executive with SAP America. He also serves as a volunteer with the Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership at St. Ignatius and as a board member of the Ignatian Identity Committee at Walsh Jesuit. In addition, Plaspohl is a board member of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio.
A native of the Dayton area, Plaspohl was valedictorian of his graduating class at Chaminade High School. He was inducted into the Chaminade Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
Plaspohl earned a four-year athletic scholarship to play football at the University of Dayton. In 1978, he received the Emil Karas Award as the most inspirational player on and off the field. He graduated with a double major in business management and secondary education from Dayton.
Plaspohl and his wife, Mary Ann, have three children and six grandchildren.
The inaugural InnerCitySaints Award was presented in 2016 to Notre Dame Sister Rita Mary Harwood, secretary for parish life and development with the Diocese of Cleveland. She established and has led the diocesan ministry to the incarcerated since 1996.
Last year’s InnerCitySaints Award recipient was Father Jim O’Donnell who helped establish the community of the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Eucharist, which has provided a ministry of presence in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood for more than 35 years.