Derek Bentoff is a dear friend and well-loved member of L’Arche Cleveland. When he moved to the area, he started volunteering and getting to know our Core Members and assistants. As time passed, he was welcomed onto our Board of Directors. Derek reflected on his memories of L’Arche, and hopes that he may inspire others to get to know our community.
I currently live in Sheffield Lake and am a property manager. I became friends of L’Arche when I was living in Alexandria, VA. A friend of mine invited me to the L’Arche Solidarity Day Fundraiser. I was hooked from that day on!
How it started:
My first memory and exposure to L’Arche was Solidarity Day. I hadn’t even made it into the venue yet when L’Arche Core Member Eric came right up to me and said hello and walked me inside. We chatted for a bit and then Eric ran off because he was busy welcoming and talking to people. I became fast friends with Eric and the Highland House community members.
When I moved to Cleveland, I knew I had to connect with the L’Arche community here as well, and the rest is history!
The “why” of L’Arche:
To me, L’Arche means happiness, joy and laughter. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. I stay involved with L’Arche simply because I enjoy all the community members and the fellowship.
There are so many memories with L’Arche; From having Adam gently put his forehead against mine and calling me Hot Dog, or Jessie telling me to dye my hair pink, or making LaQuesha laugh when I show her one of my dance moves. I can’t forget checking out Bozey’s little white frog, or the adventures with Diane and BJ to Dunkin Donuts and so many of the in-person Prayer Nights pre-COVID. The more I spend time at L’Arche, the more memories are created!
How things have changed:
So many things are different now, but I still love seeing the community. Pre-COVID I was attending most of the community prayer nights every other week. After COVID, we started Zoom meetings and it was great to see the community members online, however it was just not the same. Even though we had smaller Zoom breakout rooms so we could talk and see everyone better, there’s nothing quite like sitting one on one with a community member and sharing smiles and laughter. I can’t wait for the day we can be together in person again!
I have learned so much from the L’Arche community. It’s definitely helped me to be a more loving and compassionate person. It’s allowed me to slow down and be present in conversations with others and to find common ground.