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Archbishop joins Handicapables on group’s 50th anniversary

August 14, 2015
Tom Burke

Full speed ahead as she has lived much of her life, Nadine Calliguiri saw fellowship as a very sound method for people with disabilities to support one another. Calliguiri, herself living with cerebral palsy, founded Handicapables for just that purpose. She was 28 years old at the time. The group is celebrating its 50th year in 2015 and meets monthly in the lower halls of St. Mary’s Cathedral for Mass and lunch.

“The Mass is the key to the whole organization,” Calliguiri, a daily communicant, told Catholic San Francisco at Nazareth House, where she has lived the last two years. “We wrap our sufferings, joys and hopes in it.”

Calliguiri first began to know handicapped people when she attended a training program for the disabled after graduating San Francisco’s Presentation High School in 1958. “I asked God to help me love these people,” she said. “They often had nobody at home. They needed people, friendship.”

Volunteering has filled her life, and it was from visiting disabled patients at San Francisco General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital and San Francisco’s Pomeroy Center that the Handicapables was formed.

Branches now exist all over the world. Unable to travel there herself, Calliguiri sent instructions on the work by mail to sites including Hong Kong.

Calliguiri established Handicapables “from her own experience of being shut-in” and “felt the need to have such a group,” said Michele Trierweiler, a member of the Handicapables board of directors.

“We come together each month from all faiths, all walks of life,” Trierweiler said. “The love of God unites us.” Volunteers help the physically handicapped with transportation to and from the meetings and assist with serving lunch. “We receive a huge volunteer contribution from the San Francisco Fire Department to transport people every month.”

Treirweiler and her two daughters started to volunteer with the Handicapables when the girls were students at St. Gabriel School.

“When they went on to college I continued to volunteer,” Treirweiler said. “I really enjoyed the entire group. I am a nurse so my life has always involved caring and helping others.”

Father Kirk Ullery, retired pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, San Francisco, is longtime Handicapables chaplain.

Handicapables is funded through private donations and grants. Call for more information or to volunteer, Joanne Borodin at (415) 239-4865. Visit www.handicapables.com.

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