Both personally and professionally, Harry Pedigo has had quite a successful year. From purchasing a new home for his family to acquiring a new building to offer additional services to women and families, the executive director of St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter is on a positive trajectory.
“A lot has happened this year, that’s for sure,” Pedigo said, “We’ve kind of jumped forward in services — in that alone we have reduced barriers and gaps and health disparities immediately.”
Personally, Pedigo was able to graduate in 2019 with his undergraduate degree in social work and begin his first semester of graduate school. He also received his temporary certification as an alcohol and drug counselor (TCADC).
“It really has been a great year, especially for St. Benedict’s,” Pedigo said. “We opened the Women and Families facility, received a $41,000 Impact grant, hired two social workers and I have a new partner.”
As the renovations to the 2,400 square foot Women and Families Services facility at 905 Hickman Ave. near completion, Pedigo said he can’t help but be proud of what his team has accomplished through their partnership with Audubon Area Community Services, Inc.
“We’re really amazed with how everything’s coming together,” Pedigo said. “It’s been moving really fast considering we’re starting an organization from the ground up within five months of purchasing the building.”
Audubon Area Community Services, Inc. Chief Operations Officer Brandon Harley said Pedigo and St. Benedict’s have been tremendous partners over the years, with this year seeing tremendous growth in filling the void of emergent needs in the community.
“St. Benedict’s has truly worked to help homeless and precariously housed men stabilize their lives while working on the underlying issues of their struggles,” Harley said. “This year, under the leadership of the staff and board, St. Benedict’s expanded their call through the development of a women and children’s day shelter to provide a place for all who are struggling in our community to stay warm and dry while working toward self-sufficiency and stability.”
Although Pedigo will attest that it has been a community effort, much of the work he and St. Benedict’s have done is a true reflection of his heart for others as well as a testament to how far he has come on his personal journey.
“If St. Benedict’s has ever impacted anyone’s life — it’s mine,” Pedigo said. “When I started as a volunteer, I never knew it was going to take me back to school. I never knew it was going to help more than just men — and that I would be able to make a living out of it for my family. And I never knew that I would be able to lead the community.”
Over the past 12 years, Pedigo has transformed from a man with a past as a convicted felon and drug addict to a respected leader in the community transforming the lives of others who have found themselves walking down the same path.
“It took 14 board members that saw Harry for Harry,” Pedigo said. “Not the guy that’s got felonies on his record, but a compassionate individual that we want to give a chance.”
As the month of November and Governor Matt Bevin’s time in office came to a close, one of Bevin’s final decisions as governor was to grant a pardon to Pedigo for his former felony convictions.
“I was so humbled by it — I didn’t want any attention drawn to it,” Pedigo said. “I try not to boast or brag, but this is one part of my life I can be proud of and it’s not about work.”
As far as receiving the pardon and putting the past behind him, Pedigo said he has never been one to let his past define him.
“I knew it was done when God put me in a position of leadership in front of the community,” Pedigo said. “I’ve only gained wisdom and growth from my mistakes. That was just a piece of paper — I don’t let that stuff hold me back.”
And Pedigo has only continued to surge forward when it pertains to his work and its impact on the community. St. Benedict’s latest passion project involves a partnership with the Catholic Diocese St. Gerard Life Home which offers housing at no cost for unwed pregnant women who are over the age of 18.
Nearly a month ago, Pedigo was speaking to the Director of Owensboro Catholic Charities Susan Montalvo-Gesser about the crisis concerning these homeless expecting women.
“I said, ‘We’ll just take it over,’” Pedigo said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do right — when you see a need, speak up — if you can fill a need, step up? When you have a program that’s competent enough to provide more services to those women, you can provide a warm bed in a home setting for those ladies. I am humbled by what it’s provided for them — I guess it’s the social worker in me.”
Pedigo and Montalvo-Gesser signed a memorandum of agreement and already have a social worker in mind to provide services to the four expectant mothers currently residing at the home.
“That home is amazing and those girls are so grateful,” Pedigo said. “So just to come alongside them to show them the do’s and don’ts of how to be mothers and how to navigate and use the resources to succeed — it’s really humbling and rewarding. I think it’s just another milestone for St. Benedict’s.”
As 2019 comes to a close, Pedigo reflected on St. Benedict’s transitioning from a three-house nightly men’s shelter to a 24-hour men’s facility and a total of three traditional homes including women and children in crisis. But, he said, as much as the shelter has grown this year, he expects 2020 to see even more growth.
“We’re already thinking about what’s next — I don’t think St. Benedict’s is done,” Pedigo said. “You might think there’s nothing else left to do, but there is. I think the next step for us is permanent and supportive housing. How we get there and how we do it, I don’t know — but I trust that God will provide a way.”