Dorothy Ann “Dottie” Carpenter, the fiery red-head who ran the Ave Maria Hospitality House across the street from St. Mary Mother of God Church at Lafayette and Madison Streets, passed away on June 9, 2023. She was 89 years young.
Since its inception in 2008, the Ave Maria House has been serving the downtown homeless population as a daytime respite center. Visitors to the house find a place to do some laundry, take a shower, enjoy a cup of coffee, sit with friends and watch some television. Some fifty people use the Madison Street address to receive their mail, and many access the internet there for job searches and checking email.
The idea for the Ave Maria House came when Dottie, who was working at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, struck up a conversation one day with people receiving soup. By listening she learned that many of the homeless were feeling the need for a welcoming place to spend the day. Dottie took the idea of using an available house across the street to then Pastor Phil Widmann and to St. Mary’s parish council and the wheels began turning. When the House opened Father Widmann put Dottie in charge, and she spent the next 15 years practicing her unique hospitality.
Dottie was born and raised in Churubusco before coming to Fort Wayne. She and her husband Richard “Dick” Carpenter raised five children and three foster children. She came from humble beginnings, and maybe it was for this reason that she was so empathetic to the poor and those in need of some human kindness.
“She put in the effort to truly understand the experiences of the people she helped. She was loving but no-nonsense—a real live-wire of love and compassion.” said Wayne Township Trustee Board Member, Tony Henry, who worked with Dottie for many years helping individuals through St. Mary’s service missions. “She demanded respect for and from everyone, visitors and volunteers alike, and she got it. Over the course of all those years she kept a safe and welcoming respite in a sometimes-volatile environment.”
The Wayne Township Trustee Office and the whole community rely on activists like Dottie Carpenter who are continually working under the radar to help people in need. They are holding together the human fabric made up of people from all walks of life, and we appreciate them.