Chances are good that you’ve passed a man or woman sitting at an intersection holding a cardboard sign. That man or woman might be sun-weathered, weary, unkempt, and clutching a threadbare backpack. The cardboard sign declares their homelessness, their lot in life, and their need. Chances are also good that you’ve passed a man or woman sitting at an intersection and have tried not to notice them. You’ve ignored that person on purpose. You have looked the other way or kept your eyes straight on to the horizon, or just pretended they literally weren’t there. It’s not cold-hearted to ignore. It’s just what we do.
When we ignore, though, we make that man or woman invisible. And if hundreds of people ignore them each day, then that invisibility begins to become permanent and very tangible. Kathleen (Cass) Cronan knows this. She’s the Visible Woman. She fights to ensure that that man or woman never disappears behind the barriers we place between ourselves and others. She makes people visible. She gives hope. She imbues skills. She offers opportunities.
She also helps protect the planet. Our environment, much like our homeless neighbors, is sometimes taken for granted. It’s something we make invisible. For Cass, it’s the planet and its people that are knotted together. EarthLinks, where she is Executive Director, creates work and educational opportunities for impoverished people to make and sell Earth-friendly products, take day trips in nature, and engage in specialty programs.
“It is in a welcoming community that our dignity is restored and hope for Earth is reborn.”
A background as a lawyer allowed Cass to battle the breadth and depth of poverty through litigation, but it also showed her the failings in established benefit systems. Even as some persons get some of the help they need, that help will one day run out, leaving the impoverished once more high and dry. Cass started taking action, by volunteering through her church, working with the team at Metro Denver Habitat for Humanity, as well as participating with Denver Road Home Initiative. Before joining EarthLinks, Cass served as Executive Director at Franciscan Friends of the Poor aka Father Woody’s Haven of Hope. She continues to work with the homeless, finding ways to provide meaningful work, to teach sustainable living practices to supplement benefits, and to make the earth a better place. She rids the world of walls and she’s not picky about whether it’s by scaling, digging under, or just plain knocking down.
“Whether these barriers are cultural, economic, political, regional or religious, they all serve to separate us from community. We really are denizens of Earth -- along with the other flora and fauna.”
Cass Cronan seeks to grow generous hearts by making our fragile environment, and our most at-risk citizens, visible once again. She does this not with a spotlight, or the clattering bells and whistles of a casino, but with the respect and dignity of candlelight. Wherever you don’t see someone, Cass is already there, seeing them, inviting them to EarthLinks, and bringing them into full, colorful view.