CLEVELAND, Ohio—April Boone has been named Community Leader and Executive Director for L’Arche Cleveland, a faith-based nonprofit that supports fourteen adults who have intellectual disabilities in four family-like homes. She began the role December 1, 2015.
Founded in 1975, L’Arche Cleveland is one of the oldest of the 18 L’Arche communities in the United States. These communities provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers; create inclusive communities of faith and friendship; and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries. At the heart of L’Arche are the adults who have intellectual disabilities—known as “core members”—and the relationships that arise from a shared life.
Boone has a degree from Trinity College from Hartford, Conn., and a Master of Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. She is also a certified chaplain through the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
Boone first became aware of L’Arche in the early 1980s while part of Covenant House, a faith community located in Times Square. “During those early days, we read Jean Vanier’s books and began to synthesize his vision into our work to bring about dignity and human tenderness to kids on the streets,” she said.
Time and again, the writings of Vanier, who founded L’Arche, and Henri Nouwen, a priest and theologian who lived in L’Arche for the final 10 years of his life, wove their way into her work with people who were homeless or experiencing illness and death.
In the Bronx, Boone helped start a soup kitchen and residence for the homeless. She spent ten years there in a variety of roles. “I was able to build relationships with people over those ten years who were economically disadvantaged, or what we now call ‘food insecure’, but came to realize there was a beautiful mutuality in our care.”
Most recently, Boone served as the Bereavement Coordinator of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens where she trained facilitators in local parishes on best practices for supporting people in grief and hosting places of warm hospitality for sharing and building community.
“I have been privileged to work in many differing capacities among groups of marginalized people, all the while responding to the whispering inspiration of Jean Vanier’s call to tenderness,” Boone said.
Boone recently relocated to Cleveland and is receiving training from retiring Community Leader/Executive Director Becky Brady.
“Our four houses in Cleveland have a stable legacy,” Boone said. “I hope to strengthen awareness of L’Arche’s mission with a renewed urgency … building community where there is no ‘us and them.’”
L’Arche USA is part of an international federation of L’Arche communities that seeks to make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, revealed through mutually transforming relationships. There are more than 145 L’Arche communities in 35 countries, including 18 in the United States.
In 2015, L’Arche founder Jean Vanier received the Templeton Prize, valued at $1.7 million, and honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Vanier believes that those who have intellectual disabilities, when fully welcomed in society, can be sources of healing, joy, unity, and peace in our world.
—Bethany Keener, L’Arche USA Communications Manager