We have good news to share! On October 6, 2022, the East Side Heart and Home Family Center broke ground for a brand-new building to house their home/office. Despite economic contraction, a lingering pandemic, and political discord, new life is springing forth in East Saint Louis. For almost 30 years, the Family Center has been a beacon of hope for local families through their hallmark programs: Women’s Circle, Senior Citizens, Tuition Assistance, Summer Programs for Youth, Family Outings, and the Home Ownership Program. But community-building at the Family Center goes far beyond any particular program. It’s an approach, an attitude that puts people and families first. It is not only about the staff and volunteers helping residents, but also about creating an opportunity and space for empowerment and ownership among the community.
I (Sister Jeanne Shary) was privileged to visit the Family Center and tour their Resurrection Park neighborhood, which has new homes for 23 families to feel the joy of home ownership for the first time. Director Sister Carol Lehmkuhl, OP recounted in the Building Campaign brochure:
September brought our two newest homeowners, Crystal and Earl, to the Center just after they had signed the papers to purchase a house in Resurrection Park. Crystal was in tears telling us that she never dreamt they would have a house for their family. She was grateful that we never gave up on them while on the journey to establish credit and learn how to care for a home.
We commend Sisters Carol Lehmkuhl, Mary Ann Buhr, and Ann Gregory Bischof, working in collaboration with ministry partners for years with dedicated service making this dream come true. Many friends, family, original participants, Sisters, Associates, parishioners, and local residents have offered their help building homes alongside of potential homeowners. This ministry is a labor of love and brings people together!
Today, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This feast is most special to our community because we were founded under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God, under her title, Our Lady of the Rosary. And 146 years later, we continue our mission by serving in East Saint Louis by doing work in the spirit of our foundress—offering the light of hope, support, and strength to families in great need. As Pope Francis has affirmed in his 2015 letter, Laudato Si, we share an integral ecology, a close relatedness, with all people and creation, and our efforts need to take an integrated approach to eliminating poverty, restoring dignity to those who are excluded, while simultaneously protecting nature. The Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary trusts in the protection of Mary as we seek to proclaim the Reign of God through our ministry for justice and reverence for all people and creation. The legacy of this ministry shines brightly at the Family Center. Viva La Familia!
For more info visit: https://familycenterestl.org/
– Sister Jeanne Shary, OP
Sister Jeanne worked with foster youth at Cardinal McCloskey Community Services and now serves as the Communication Coordinator for the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.