By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
A servant’s heart fueled one young man’s desire to help the less fortunate. And now, it’s earned Armando Parrish national recognition.
Parrish, a senior at Bishop Lynch High School, is being recognized this year as a recipient of the Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award by the National Catholic Educational Association. He is one of only 10 students in the country being recognized with the award in 2023.
Parrish’s recognition marks the second time Bishop Lynch students have been honored. Sisters Bella and Riley Sauter were recognized with a 2021-2022 NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award for their non-profit, Feed the People.
“One of the greatest intentions of a Bishop Lynch education and all Catholic education is the hope that students will be inspired to put their faith and learning into action,” said Chris Rebuck, president of Bishop Lynch. “Armando, through the development of Project Lorenzo, has demonstrated this very call to build explicit outreach to those within our community that are in need of the greatest love and service. His determination to learn about the underlying causes of poverty and homelessness and the motivation to live out the call to serve others has created this dynamic intersection of what we hope all of our students will find in their vocational call to work and serve.”
Rebuck said the school community takes pride in Parrish being the second Bishop Lynch student to receive the award in as many years.
“Our school is inspired by Armando and many others like him who are choosing to put faith and learning into action,” Rebuck said. “These gifts of a Catholic education are meant to be a light in the world and a beacon for others to follow. With this recognition on a national level, we are hopeful that others will take up the charge to see the needs around them and make the active choice to do good for the sake of others.”
Parrish, the founder of Project Lorenzo, is being recognized for his non-profit organization that helps people experiencing homelessness transition to permanent housing.
“I love what I do. It brings me great joy, and it is very fulfilling,” said Parrish, a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson. “It’s very validating to receive this award. It lets us know that the work we are doing is being recognized for what it is and how it is helping others.”
Parrish said as he was growing up, he would often join his mother and brother in packaging and giving food and supplies to homeless men and women. He learned from that example the Christian duty to treat others with dignity.
Then Parrish accompanied his mother to work one day and they met a homeless man named Lorenzo, who lived on the southwest corner of LBJ and Coit.
“Over time, we started bringing him water, food, batteries and art supplies — he loves to draw,” Parrish said. “He never asked for money. He never did drugs or alcohol. He just lacked some of the basic necessities of life, and I wanted to help him.”
Parrish eventually felt a call to do more to help Lorenzo.
“Just seeing him there living under a bridge for such a long time, it was crushing to see,” Parrish said. “So, you just have to step up and do something about it. And that’s what I did.”
In May 2021 Parrish started by creating a GoFundMe campaign to help get Lorenzo into a hotel, which ended up raising thousands of dollars. From there, Project Lorenzo was born.
“I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to help people and, in particular, I’ve always been interested in helping the homeless,” Parrish said. “With Project Lorenzo, I’m able to do that.”
With time, Parrish’s dream of helping one homeless man has developed into a growing nonprofit ministry aimed at helping homeless men and women get off the streets permanently. To do that, he and his supporters began fundraising efforts. Project Lorenzo has sponsored an annual benefit 5K run at Breckinridge Park since 2021. This past August, the nonprofit held a music festival featuring 27 bands, local businesses and food trucks that drew more than 500 people. The funds raised go toward Project Lorenzo’s goal of providing long-term solutions to homelessness in Dallas.
Then, in November, Project Lorenzo was named a finalist for the Dallas Foundation Pegasus Prize, which earned the non-profit a $10,000 grant to help fund initiatives.
To accomplish that goal, Project Lorenzo offers programs that help individuals navigate the system to find temporary housing, bring food and care packages to people experiencing homelessness and bring specialized job skills training and mentoring to help individuals get back on their feet. Parrish said Project Lorenzo also is working with a recovery center to pilot a Microsoft and Google computer skills certification program.
“While we are teaching these courses to people, a recruiter will be working with them to find jobs,” said Parrish, explaining that Project Lorenzo also offers subsidies for first-month’s rent and deposits.
Parrish has watched Project Lorenzo grow from a simple idea into an impactful nonprofit. He said learning that his efforts have earned him an NCEA award has only validated his passion for Project Lorenzo.
“It’s our duty as Catholics to help others — to help the less fortunate,” Parrish said. “It’s not a matter of choice. It’s a matter of duty. We have to do it.”