Joseph M. Ranieri, 79, passed away as the result of an automobile accident on January 15, 2020 in West Palm Beach, FL. He was born January 29, 1940 in New York City to parents Esterino Ranieri and Katherine (Dunn) Ranieri. He had five siblings and grew up in the Bronx and later served in the U.S. Army. He moved to Florida and earned his degree in psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic College. He was deeply touched by the loss of his brother Michael to homelessness and mental illness on the streets of New York and had a dream of opening a facility to help families who were homeless in Palm Beach County. In 1979 he opened a soup kitchen but saw the need for more. In 1983 he slept in a dumpster outside of St. Ann Catholic Church in Downtown West Palm Beach to call attention to the issue of homelessness and to raise the $150,000 he needed to purchase a former hotel on Broadway to open a place for homeless families to get off the streets and back on their feet. He told God if He would help him raise the money, he would name it after him, so it became The Lord's Place. He served as its executive director until retiring in 1995. He was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church in 1982, hence his nickname of "Brother Joe." For his efforts in founding and carrying The Lord's Place through its beginning years, he received the Congressional Award as part of President Ronald Reagan's Private Sector Initiative in 1984, the Sun Sentinel Publisher's Award in 1986, the United Nation's International Year of the Shelter for the Homeless Award in 1987 and was one of President George Bush's Thousand Points of Light Awardees in 1992. The Lord's Place has grown from the agency he started. Today it serves more than 1,900 men, women and children annually at five housing campuses, hundreds of individual housing units across the county, three thrift stores and a job training and placement site. The agency has currently raised $15 million toward a goal of $20 million for its Home for Good capital campaign to expand its programs and services, increase its supportive housing and sustain future growth. In 2013, The Lord's Place presented Brother Joe Ranieri with its highest honor, the Ending Homelessness Award, presented by longtime Board Member Jack Scarola, who met Joe during his 1983 dumpster campaign and remained friends. Joe Ranieri is survived by his wife, Corina, five children and two grandchildren. He was laid to rest in a private family service with military honors at the South Florida National Cemetery with services provided by Dorsey Funeral Home. A public memorial service will be hosted by The Lord's Place on Wednesday, February 19 at 4:00PM at The Royal Poinciana Chapel, 60 Cocoanut Row in Palm Beach, with the Rev. Dr. Robert Norris officiating. Memorial donations may be made to the Brother Joe Ranieri Fund at The Lord's Place, 2808 N. Australian Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407 or online at (www.thelordsplace.org).
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Published in Palm Beach Daily News from Feb. 12 to Feb. 16, 2020.