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After temporarily closing, our Pierre Toussaint Dental Office for the uninsured has reopened and is welcoming patients with enthusiasm and quality care!
Pierre Toussaint Dental Office has been serving uninsured patients since 1995. Throughout the years, we have seen dental staff come and go, and for a short time, the office had to close. Fortunately, on June 4, PTDO re-opened for patients with an almost entirely new staff! They have been busy over the past few weeks, and are excited to see patients. In the short amount of time they have worked together, they have already built a tangible camaraderie, and look forward to working together every day. Every morning before opening their doors, the staff pray for the patients who will walk through the doors, for their own wisdom and sharpness of mind, and for the office, that it will be a program that blesses the community around them.
Our new dentist, Dr. Tawana Medlin, is a Dover native and has been working in the dental field for almost twenty years. After receiving her bachelor’s in Biology from Delaware State University, she attended Howard University’s Dental School. According to her, her career really started in 2003 when she helped Delmarva Rural Ministries write a grant to start a dental program. That’s when Dr. Medlin discovered her passion. Although she has experience in both public health and private practice, Dr. Medlin’s passion is giving care to those who need it through community dentistry. “Working with underserved and underrepresented patients: that’s what I’m good at; that’s what I do,” she says. Dr. Medlin recognizes her blessings and considers it her life’s calling to use her education and resources in the community, helping people look good and feel their best.
Now that she has joined the PTDO team, Dr. Medlin has a few ideas about ways to improve the practice. She envisions implementing a dental software system and digital x-rays, so that patients have access to the latest technology. She also wants to give patients an incentive to come to their appointments by encouraging them and getting the word out about PTDO’s services.
Ashley Quailes is the veteran member of PTDO staff. After working there for two years, she has built relationships with each of the clients. “In this job you have to have empathy and compassion,” Ashley says. “I love listening to the clients… And I know when something’s wrong. So I’ll say, ‘I haven’t seen you smile today,’ or ‘What’s going on?’ I want to see them smile.”
Ashley knows the importance of caring for underserved and underrepresented populations. She has many passions, including adoption and humanitarian work. She’s going to school right now for Human Services and set to graduate in a couple weeks. Ashley wants to make a difference in what she does and can see herself working with Child Protective Services in the future. “A lot of people in these fields are burned out, things get overlooked, and children still need help.” But she doesn’t plan on leaving the dental field anytime soon. “I have a lot of aspirations,” Ashley says, “But there are always ways to combine them. I want to do both.”
Liz Beaver is the newest member of the PTDO staff, and also knows what it means to be passionate about her work. “I’m excited to be here,” she says; “This is an opportunity for me to serve, and it’s rewarding, giving back to those who need it.”
Liz first came to the Ministry in January. “My mother actually sent me here,” Liz tears up as she tells the story: “She passed in September, and she used to go to every International Night with my uncle. I went with him this January, and when I was there, I just had a feeling in the back of my mind. So I asked Priscilla if the Ministry needed a dental hygienist. She put me in touch with Marie Keefer and I was hired soon after that.”
After working for 34 years in private practice, Liz has seen a wide variety of patients with all sorts of dental and health needs. “All people are the same,” she says. “No one wants to be identified by an illness or condition; I see them as people first.”
Liz is passionate about educating her clients on overall health. They look at each patient holistically, even taking blood pressure checks for new clients so that they can be referred to other qualified healthcare providers if necessary. PTDO performs basic dentistry such as cleanings, exams, x-rays, and sealants. But if they can’t help a client with something, they always make sure to point the patient in the direction of the care they need, including other Ministry resources like clothing, food, and shelter.
Liz’s goal now is to help the dental office get running full tilt. “It’s a challenge. We’ve been dropped in an environment where other people were here, and I want to leave it so others can step in after. I think I’ll be here a long time though.”
When asked what people should know about PTDO, Liz smiles and says to send people their way. “Our patients here will receive the best treatment they’ve ever had,” she guarantees. “Pierre Toussaint is open for business.”
On Monday, May 14, the Child Care Center received a 5-star designation from the Delaware Department of Education’s Stars Program, in what is a huge accomplishment for our MOC child care centers!
On Monday, May 14, the Child Care Center received a 5-star designation from the Delaware Department of Education’s Stars Program, in what is a huge accomplishment for our MOC child care centers! Il Bambino and Guardian Angel achieved five stars in 2017, making each of our three centers among the highest quality child care facilities in the state. Five stars means that all of our centers go above and beyond– the teachers and staff don’t just settle for what is required of them. It means everything is high quality. The materials are age-appropriate, the rooms are high quality, and the teachers are excellent.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication to get us here,” says Paulette Annane, our child care centers Program Director. With the help of Delaware Stars Specialists, our centers have worked on ensuring that they are eligible for grants by updating room layouts, developing better curriculum, and training our teachers in necessary skills. “We’ve been on a journey of quality improvement. We’ve had four assessments in a year!”
Certainly, the assessment process is an arduous one: Delaware Stars representatives show up at the center relatively unannounced, and select two classrooms to observe for a day. The assessors watch everything from how teachers speak to children, to how closely they follow the daily routine, to whether the toys and the facilities are in proper order. Paulette admits that being watched so closely can be very nerve-wracking for the teachers!
After the observation is over, the teachers are interviewed. Questions can be about the materials they use, whether they follow the weather in their outside play time, and a number of other topics. The interview portion is intended to assess how well teachers know the policies, and whether those policies are being followed.
Now that all three of our centers have reached five stars, Paulette’s hope is that we will be able to maintain this quality. For her, the key will be “keeping everything age-appropriate, building relationships with our families, and for our teachers to continue their education journeys… Teacher education is the key to keeping up with our ratings.” Congratulations to everyone at our child care centers who have worked so hard to make this possible!
This Mother’s Day, donors wanted to make sure the women in our Hope Houses were not forgotten.
This Mother’s Day, the women in our emergency shelters, transitional residences, and permanent supportive housing programs received wonderful gift bags donated from Great Dames and the parishioners of St. Mary of the Assumption. Each bag included lotion, body wash, perfume, makeup, and other fun items! In addition to the “spa kits,” donor Judy Settings gave money so that each woman could have Mother’s Day bouquets, completing the surprise.
After all the care they give towards their children, these women deserve to pamper themselves, and this donation was a great way to remind them of that. “The mothers tend to be so focused on doing what is best for the children that they fail to think of themselves or engage in any self-care,” says Hope House II and III Program Director Kim Boulden. These gifts will allow the women to take time for themselves as well, which is especially important in the stressful life circumstances in which they find themselves. We thank everyone involved in treating our residents to such a wonderful surprise!
Settled right in Wilmington’s East Side, Mother Teresa House is an independent housing facility for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Renee Mosley has many roles at the Ministry of Caring. Part-time site manager at Emmanuel Dining Room West and the Job Placement Center, she is also site manager at Mother Teresa House. “More housing like this is needed,” Renee starts. “The reality is that people with HIV/AIDS live longer with modern technology and medicine. And these people want dignity.” According to Renee, Mother Teresa House offers exactly that. Residents have their own bedroom and bathroom, they cook their own food, and they’re given their own space to truly live independently.
Opened in 2011, MTH facilities are relatively new and beautifully furnished. Residents enjoy a common living area with large windows and high ceilings, and a patio area where people can sit outside in the fresh air. “[Living in this space] gives people a sense of pride. I want them to not just take pride in where they live, but to be able to move on, into their own place. This is a wonderful opportunity for those who aren’t ready for that step.”
One resident, Anthony, who has lived at MTH for about a year and a half, has enjoyed his time there. “This place is good for what it does,” he reflects. “It’s good if you’re trying to save money. There’s privacy here. It’s safe.” Anthony enjoys the neighborhood as well. “I don’t worry about running into drugs or anything outside,” he says.
Renee echoed Anthony’s sentiments about the neighborhood. According to her, this used to be a very economically depressed area, and now it’s being built up. Directly behind MTH, a row of townhouses is under construction. Community and volunteer groups can often be seen helping clean or beautify the area.
Renee loves what she does at MTH. Although Renee’s time is split between three programs, she wants to be an active presence onsite whenever she can: “I build trust with the clients. I’m firm but fair… I represent the Ministry of Caring, so the poor should not be treated poorly.” Renee has many hats at MTH, as the Enforcer, Mother, even Cleaning Lady, and wants to show her residents that she respects them and cares about them. “I make the commitment to be invested,” she admits as the key to successfully building relationships.
When asked what people should know about MTH, Renee responds: “When this program came along, it gave hope and provided housing that some people never thought they’d see, based on the conditions of how they were living before. This program is so needed, and more like this is needed.” We thank the staff at MTH for the work they do in the community and look forward to many more years of serving the Wilmington community!
The DOL’s mobile outreach bus brings their services to the community.
The Department of Labor’s mobile outreach unit parked outside of the Job Placement Center on April 5 to offer DoL services to clients, community residents, and passersby. Bradley, a supervisor from the Department of Labor, has driven the DoL mobile outreach unit bus for the past six years. “We go all over. Prisons, farmers markets… we’re in the community.”
The purpose of the Outreach Program is to provide services to those who would not normally think of coming to the Department of Labor’s main office for assistance. “A lot of people hear Department of Labor and think, ‘unemployment,’” says Bradley, “But we also handle training, disability, and vocational rehabilitation.” In Bradley’s experience, “People don’t take advantage of a lot of our services. [For instance], they don’t know they can register and take the GED for free through us.”
This mobile unit is a great resource for everyone in the community! Stay tuned for updates on when the bus will come to the Ministry next.
In honor of AmeriCorps Week March 11-17, our AmeriCorps members supported Kuumba Academy’s “Girls on the Run” after school program.
In honor of AmeriCorps Week March 11-17, our AmeriCorps members supported Kuumba Academy’s Girls on the Run after school program. Girls on the Run’s mission is to provide a fun body-positive environment for girls while promoting teamwork, confidence, and healthy behaviors. This was the first practice of the season for this team, and our members wanted to make sure the girls were excited to learn and participate. Members had a great time helping facilitate the event and weren’t afraid to get in some exercise right alongside the girls! Thank you to AmeriCorps for helping the event go so smoothly!
The University of Delaware brings cooking and nutrition classes to our shelters and is changing the way our residents approach healthy eating.
Many residents at our shelters have never been taught about the impact that food has on their bodies. Many have never had the financial freedom to make healthy food choices and instead must settle for whatever is available, affordable, or easy. Some have diet limitations due to health conditions or allergies, so choosing nutritious foods is vital in order for them to live a healthy lifestyle.
The women at Hope House I are looking to change the cycle of unhealthy eating behaviors. Recently they wrapped up a six-week class on cooking and nutrition. The course, which happens twice a year, is facilitated by Kim Silva from the University of Delaware’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Topics covered include nutrition, reading food labels, understanding the food pyramid, planning healthy meals, choosing fresh produce, and cutting back on toxic foods.
“This is one of our most-loved workshops every year,” says Annie Mountain, Program Director of Hope House I. Participants watch a cooking demonstration and have a chance to make yummy treats like yogurt parfaits that they can enjoy at the end of each session.
Annie has already noticed a difference in the way residents approach food: “I often hear the women chatting in the kitchen when they are doing meal prep about what is on a label or what would be a good side dish because they want a balanced meal.” The class is an exciting opportunity for the women in our shelters!
It has been one year since our child care facilities adopted the Devereux Center’s Early Childhood Resiliency Project into their everyday curriculum.
This year, parents and teachers have been implementing strategies to boost resiliency in children. There are three measurable factors that determine resiliency: attachment, initiative, and self-regulation. High levels of these three characteristics are essential in building a child’s ability to take on life’s challenges.
Paulette Annane, Program Director of our three child care facilities, is hopeful about the progress that we have seen so far. “A lot of training has gone into this. The teachers had a two-day training and the administrators had even more. I got to go to Villanova for a ‘Flip It’ training about failings, limitations, challenging children, and strategies for those.” According to Paulette, there have been measurable improvements across the board in each of the three resiliency factors, and fewer observable negative behaviors.
In 2018, Paulette wants to build on the work we have started. “We want to look for kids who are under the radar and we want to support the parents. Because we don’t just cater to the kids; we cater to families. When a parent has a need, we refer them to Hope House or Pierre Toussaint, whatever they need. Our centers are safe havens – we want to project love and caring no matter what. We want parents to know that they’re dropping off their children at a second home.”
After years of homelessness, one EDR guest is gaining independence– and has this to say.
Anthony Byrd (known just as “Byrd” to his friends) was fifty years old when he first moved to Wilmington. Diagnosed with bone cancer in 2015, Byrd faced financial challenges and other health issues, including a heart attack that same year. He lived in a private apartment but the cost of rent forced him to spend most of his income on housing; he was unable to pay his medical bills or buy groceries. He walked two blocks every day for breakfast and lunch to EDR West where he greeted staff, volunteers, and guests with a smile and a kind word. “If all of you can come in daily to serve me, the least I can do is show my gratitude,” he can be heard saying.
However, Byrd was still struggling to get by. Feeling desperate, he remembers telling God, “If you’ll get me health insurance and get me back on my feet, I’ll do the rest of the work. I’ll go to Emmanuel Dining Room every day. I’ll live for you.” And according to Byrd, that’s exactly what God did.
On February 5, Byrd was able to save up and move into his own efficiency apartment where he can to cook his own food, sleep under his own roof, and enjoy freedoms that he has long awaited. “I give it all to the man upstairs,” Byrd says. “EDR helps people in hard times and I’m no better or worse. God has smiled on me, so now I help others.”
Anthony says he tries every day to respect people and make them smile. The one piece of advice he would offer to anyone going through a hard time is that “It ain’t over. Give it to God. He’ll sort it out; He’ll come through.”
MOC’s full-time AmeriCorps Volunteers spent a day dedicated to service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with thousands across the country.
On January 15 and 16, the Ministry’s thirteen full-time AmeriCorps volunteers joined with thousands of others around the country to participate in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
MOC volunteers served at the Parkway Academy-North Community Clean-up, cleaning the streets of Wilmington in honor of Dr. King, and making our neighborhoods a more beautiful and safe place to live. The event finished at the Youth Empowerment Center with a parade and performances from local youth dance teams. MOC volunteers were joined by AmeriCorps groups from around Wilmington including those from Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School.
AmeriCorps volunteers also served at the Ministry’s Samaritan Outreach, helping pack hygiene kits and sort through donated clothing for distribution to those in need in our community.
The new Village of St. John in Old Brandywine Village will offer affordable housing to low- and moderate-income seniors.
Exactly 160 years ago, the Cathedral Church of St. John laid its foundation in the Old Brandywine Village neighborhood. After more than a century as a place of worship, the diocese was forced to vacate the church as attendance fell and the building could no longer be maintained. Finally, on December 15, 2017, the church started a new phase in life as low- and moderate-income senior housing. During the groundbreaking ceremony, MOC and VSJ Board member Mark Reardon offered this: “When God closes a door, he opens a window. That’s what is happening with this building.” St. John is returning to its roots. As a church, the building offered warmth and community to Old Brandywine Village; as the Village of St. John, it will offer comfort and hope.
Brother Ronald first considered the building and began obtaining funding in 2012, calling it a “perfect place for housing.” And during the groundbreaking ceremony, Brother Ronald was described as the lightning bolt that ignites MOC’s fire: the fire that spurs the Ministry’s creativity, resourcefulness, persistence, and passion for serving the poor. As an MOC-sponsored program, the Village of St. John will continue to be a symbol of hope for Wilmington and will touch the lives of many to come.
As construction begins, please pray that no obstacles stand in our way and that it will not be long before we stand at 2019 North Market Street at the opening ceremony of the Village of St. John.
“I’ve never gotten a wrapped gift before,” said one Hope House resident as she was handed a present of robes, slippers, and toiletries this Christmas season.
A group of volunteers gathered to wrap 47 of these presents in a lovely holiday tradition benefitting the women in MOC’s three Hope Houses. Rita Wilkins has organized this event, affectionately called the Robe Wrap, for the past seven years. The residents of Hope House I, II, and III often go without gifts for Christmas, so the kind gesture is very special to them. Making the event even more memorable, volunteers at the Robe Wrap had a chance to meet some of the residents and learn about the work that we do in our emergency shelters!
Our Wilmington community came together this year to give back the the Ministry of Caring on Thanksgiving Day.
The Ministry partnered with 99.5 WJBR and the Hockessin ACME Markets to give hungry families a delicious Thanksgiving meal. MOC employees broadcast live all day while accepting donations of turkeys and non-perishable food items to give to the needy. We’re thankful for everyone who donated and everyone who helped put together this wonderful event!
BlackRock employees served a meal at Emmanuel Dining Room South to spread holiday cheer to the hungry!
The first year results are in: the children in our programs are improving their resiliency, thanks to Highmark Delaware and the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.
This year, our three child care programs have been busy implementing the Devereux Center for Resilient Children’s Early Childhood Assessment Program. This program was generously funded by a grant from Highmark Delaware, and has resulted in significant resiliency improvements after the first year.
Rachel Wagner, MSW, National Trainer and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist provided training for our staff and had this to say about them: “The core leadership team amazed me with their insights and dedication. Paulette Annane, Program Manager, led the team to develop a comprehensive year-long implementation plan… [which] was thorough, thoughtful, and impressive. What impressed me further was their commitment to following the plan. In my regular check-ins over the course of the year, Paulette and the team stayed on track with their plan. And their commitment showed when the end of the year results came in.” She praised our staff as hardworking, dedicated, and enthusiastic, and it is clear that these qualities have had great returns for our children’s resiliency.
We’re grateful to Highmark and the DCRC, proud of our staff, and looking forward to year two!
A precious historical artifact was recently stolen from the Cathedral Church of Saint John. The Ministry is offering a reward for its intact return.
For nearly a century, a stunning bronze lectern has stood in the Cathedral Church of St. John in Wilmington. With four intricately-carved apostles at its base, lions on the main column, and an eagle and Holy Bible making the top, the lectern is certainly striking. It stands at almost seven feet tall and weighs hundreds of pounds, so stealing the piece of church history would not have been an easy feat.
The Ministry of Caring is planning on turning the church into housing for low-income seniors. On a recent tour of the building, it was discovered that the lectern was missing. “Having stood safe here for so long, to have this disappear is heartbreaking,” says Priscilla Rakestraw, Development Director. The Ministry is offering $1,000 for information directly leading to its intact return. Police are investigating this theft, and anyone with information should call the main office at 302.652.5523.
This year the Ministry has been implementing a new project to improve resiliency of children at three child care facilities with some exciting early results.
Last year, the Ministry’s three child care facilities received a $48,000 grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware to fund the Early Childhood Resiliency Project. The project is designed to tackle a major problem that children in low-income families often face: a lack of resiliency. This character trait sets children up for emotional and social success, but children growing up in low-income households are less likely to develop it. A lack of resiliency can have short and long-term consequences on children’s performance in school, behavior at home, and involvement in the community and the workplace.
This is an issue that the Ministry’s child care staff are familiar with. Approximately 90% of children at MOC sites come from low-income families. In response, the Ministry received grant funding to implement the Resiliency Project, which would in part provide professional development to staff. Program directors and lead teachers received training on the skills necessary to support classroom teachers and assistants and develop the social and emotional health of children in their direct care.
On Friday, August 18, Highmark CEO Tim Constantine and Community Relations Officer Matt Stehl visited the Child Care Center to assess the early results of the Resiliency Project. They made some exciting observations: 73.7% of children displayed a positive change in their resiliency levels throughout the 2016-2017 school year! At the beginning of this endeavor, only 15.8% of children had strong resiliency, but by the end of the year, that number increased to 40.8%. This is an exciting result for the Ministry’s child care centers. As a result of this project, the needy children who attend these programs have significant social and emotional growth. Many thanks again to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield for their collaboration in helping our children grow and succeed!
Local farmer Stewart Ramsey dedicates an entire field of sweet corn to the Ministry of Caring’s Emmanuel Dining Room every harvest.
Did you know that there is a farm in your backyard? Ramsey’s Farm, just a short drive from downtown Wilmington, is in the business of giving back to the community. In 2013, owner Stewart Ramsey called the Ministry of Caring to ask whether the Ministry could use an extra 1,000 ears of sweet corn. Since then, Stewart has faithfully planted and donated almost an entire field of his corn to Emmanuel Dining Room. “I don’t have enough money to make a difference,” he admits, “But I do what I can with my resources. It feels good to give back.”
Stewart is the fifth generation of Ramseys to run the farm, with his son Carl planning to take over one day. With changes to the competitive farming industry, Ramsey’s Farm has evolved from a predominantly crop-growing farm to what he calls an Entertainment Farm. They offer corn mazes, bonfires, a beautiful site for birthday parties, and more. Stewart prides himself on having relationships with his customers, and clearly loves being involved in the community. Many thanks to Farmer Ramsey for his generous contribution to the Wilmington community!
Guardian Angel Child Care has received a five-star rating through Delaware Stars for Early Success.
This August, representatives from Delaware Stars for Early Success observed and assessed Guardian Angel Child Care and awarded the center five stars. Delaware Stars is a Quality Rating and Improvement System administered by the Delaware Department of Education, whose mission is to offer high-quality care for the children of low-income families. A prestigious fifth star is the highest rating a child care facility can earn. GACC follows on the heels of Il Bambino, which achieved the same exemplary rating a few months ago!
Delaware Stars observed six of GACC’s teachers in action—more than fifteen hours of observation and interviews over the course of that week. Representatives inspected every classroom, every toy, making the rating a rigorous process. Throughout that week, GACC staff excelled. When ranked on a scale from one to seven, GACC teachers averaged 6.58—an almost perfect score! GACC earned some of the highest recorded scores of all time, and when you spend time with the teachers there, it’s clear the staff love what they do.
The Ministry’s Curriculum Coordinator Patti Lynch emphasized that cohesion among the staff and volunteers was a huge part of earning this rating. “Everyone at GACC got us this star. Teamwork was huge. Everybody pitches in, and the staff is always eager to learn and grow.”
So what’s next for Guardian Angel? Patti’s job is to ensure that each of the Ministry’s three child care facilities continuously improve their overall quality. “It’s my job to ask myself, what can we do better?” Since higher star ratings mean more funding from the state, stars are vital to helping GACC give kids the best care possible. “Now we’re going to shoot for the stars and keep getting better, at all three of our child care sites.”
Tamia Patrick, with son Bryson Patrick, 5, is grateful for the small classes, safe environment and outstanding teachers at the Child Care Center.
Ask five-year-old Bryson Patrick about the Child Care Center of the Ministry of Caring and he will delight you with everything you ever wanted to know about flowers, popular songs and his favorite subject of all, hermit crabs. Ask his mom Tamia Patrick and the topic shifts to small classes, a safe environment and outstanding teachers. But when you mention Bryson’s June 11, 2010, graduation day, mother and son speak with one voice. Departing from the only child care programs that Bryson knew—and came to love—was a bittersweet experience for both.
“I wanted for Bryson the teacher-child intimacy that small classes offer,” remarks Tamia, a 31-year-old single mother of two. “I found it first in Il Bambino, the Ministry of Caring center for infants and toddlers, and later the Child Care Center, where Bryson had only 12 to 13 students in his class.” Describing her son as a sometimes “rambunctious” boy and a “very determined, go-getter,” Tamia watched him thrive under the patient care of his teachers, especially Vivian Johnson and teacher’s assistant Yolanda Miller. “They helped him learn to listen, stay on top of his behavior and not to interrupt adults as he used to.” “Bryson is a very intelligent child,” adds Vivian. “It would not surprise me if his love of animals and flowers leads him to a science career some day.”
Tamia, an administrative assistant, receptionist and file clerk in a Wilmington law firm, remarks that the Child Care Center and its affordable sliding-scale fees helped make it possible for her to work outside the home. “With Bryson in a safe place all day, I was free from worry about him,” notes Tamia. “And I always felt confident that his teachers would promptly address with me any concerns they had about Bryson.” She proudly adds that in September 2010, Bryson entered kindergarten at the Thomas Edison Charter School, where he has an older brother too.
At peace that her sons are on the right educational track, Tamia has begun a new venture of her own. She is pursuing a certificate in art and design at night school while her mother cares for the boys. “I hope to work in an art museum someday and learn how to run it,” she says.
Tamia’s journey toward self-sufficiency continues. Next, she plans to move from her mother’s home and live with the boys in her own apartment. Bryson’s former teacher’s assistant, Yolanda Miller, also a former case manager, is providing the moral support and practical assistance to help Tamia reach that goal. “Yolanda has also shown me how to budget my money. I’m now better with my finances and I’m finally saving.”
“It’s not easy to become independent. I’m still struggling,” she smiles. “But, like my sons, I’m on my way!”
Jamar Freeland, a formerly homeless man, now provides security for Sacred Heart Village through the House of Joseph Training Program.
How would you describe the ideal caretaker? Maybe words like “dependable” and “trustworthy” come to mind. Sadly, incorrect assumptions and stereotyping prevent some people from ascribing these qualities to persons who experience homelessness. Thanks to an innovative Ministry of Caring program, however, many people are seeing another side of the homeless. And many homeless men in this program are receiving invaluable skills training as well as a newfound sense of purpose and mission.
For over ten years, House of Joseph Transitional Residence has been assisting homeless men on the path to self-sufficiency. A unique feature of this facility is its job training program funded through the Supportive Housing Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Residents engaged in the training program earn stipends and receive on-the-job training while working at Ministry sites. The training program filled a previously unforeseen need when the Ministry of Caring opened Sacred Heart Village in 2001.
Now an entirely separate corporation, Sacred Heart Village was initially sponsored by the Ministry of Caring. A 77-unit housing complex serving low-income senior citizens, Sacred Heart Village has never been a typical apartment building. From its inception, the project has been envisioned as a community of neighbors who know and care about one another. An integral part of this vision is round-the-clock security provided by onsite “doormen.” Through outside-the-box thinking, it was decided to employ homeless men from the House of Joseph Training Program to provide security for the seniors living at Sacred Heart Village. From this unlikely idea was born an unbeatable match, a partnership that has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.
Strong bonds have formed between the residents and their caring protectors. Perhaps each meets the other’s need for friendship or family. Residents often stop at the front desk to offer the doormen a home-cooked meal or some friendly advice gathered from years of experience. For their part, the doormen go beyond what would be expected of typical security guards. The gentlemen working at Sacred Heart Village have become surrogate family members, knowing when to make a joke and when to offer comfort. Following their experience at Sacred Heart Village, many have gone on to full-time careers in security.
By adding an intensive work-readiness component to its transitional housing program, the Ministry of Caring helps prepare homeless men to become self-reliant members of the community. By providing security 24 hours a day, Sacred Heart Village raises the bar for quality in affordable senior housing. By uniting the two programs, the organizations leverage financial resources that improve services in two disparate programs. The true benefit—the value that goes beyond cost effectiveness or best practices—is the love, support and friendship that has transformed two sometimes-overlooked segments of the population.
Smiling is contagious at Emmanuel Dining Room! Volunteers Mary McKernan and Barbara Kreuer and guest Gregory Lay prove it.
The Ministry of Caring is a special place where many long-lasting friendships begin.
Take for example the Emmanuel Dining Room (EDR) on Jackson Street. When you approach the kitchen window, you just might hear frequent bursts of giggling and laughter. If it’s a Friday morning, the culprits are very possibly Barbara Kreuer and Mary McKernan. The two serve milk and water every other Friday morning to the dining guests at a table by the kitchen, greeting them with a warm and sprightly “Good Morning!” Mary is the one with the infectious laughter. “I enjoy (this work),” she says, “It makes me feel good, helping all of these people.” No slacker in jocularity herself, Barbara concurs, “We do have fun!”
Over 40 years ago, Mary and Barbara met through the Wilmington Newcomers Club. Even then, they shared a strong interest in community involvement and volunteerism. Years passed, both women raised families, and each pursued her own philanthropic interests.
Around 2001, the women reconnected through a volunteer group at their parish, the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wilmington. It was “God’s timing,” according to Barbara, that the two reconnected and began volunteering together at EDR. Their longtime friendship has been “built on the strength of common interests in the Ministry of Caring,” says Barbara.
Barbara has over 20 years of volunteer and leadership experience with the Ministry of Caring. In 1990, she launched with Sr. Ann Marguerite Gildea, OSF, the Guild, the highly successful volunteer fundraising arm of the Ministry of Caring whose membership numbers 300 today. She was the Guild’s first president and planned the first Eleganza Fashion Show, a still-popular Guild event that raises funds for the Ministry. Moreover, Barbara has chaired the EDR Auction and was President of the Board of Directors of the Ministry of Caring for a term that ended November 2010.
Mary began her volunteer work at EDR about 10 years ago with her late husband. She has also spent much time with the Ministry, attending EDR International Night dinners at Francis X. Norton Center. And she also has toured many other Ministry programs. Mary knits beautiful sweaters to be auctioned at the EDR spring auction each year.
According to Sister Kathleen O’Donnell, OSF, EDR site manager, the two women are a “cheerful pair” who “have great chemistry.” Both women enjoy the “camaraderie of the people who work here, like Tony Attaway.” Tony, assistant site manager of EDR, keeps the dining room orderly while he mingles with the guests, volunteers, and employees, entertaining them with his stories and wit.
A guest at EDR once told Barbara “When I came in, I was down. I feel so much better, just listening to your laughter.” Barbara exclaimed to the gentleman, “Now YOU have made MY day!” Barbara has observed that some people who have more worldly goods are less grateful for the gifts that life has given them. She is amazed, she says, by how most EDR guests respond positively when greeted, despite their circumstances.
As her parting comment, Barbara quoted the homily that she heard from Father Bob at Mass that morning , “Why do we do things for other people – what are our motives?” He responded to his own question, “Whatever we do for others, we get back so much more.”
“Amen!” say Barbara and Mary in unison!
A series about super special people in the Ministry of Caring community who do extraordinary things to help the poor.
The following story, about Brother Rudolph Pieretti, a Capuchin friar, is the first in a series about super special people within the Ministry of Caring community who do extraordinary things to help the poor. Do you know someone who rocks? Then, feel free to nominate your choice for the next story in this series. Please tell us about him or her at email@example.com and remember to include your phone number. Be clear, concise and specific about why you have nominated this potential Ministry of Caring “rocker.”
The Development Staff of the Ministry of Caring
You can set your clock by his daily 8:00 AM appearances outside Emmanuel Dining Room, where he meets and greets his beloved clients lined up for their first meal of the day. You also might spot him walking miles around Wilmington neighborhoods in solidarity with the poor, who have no means of transportation but their feet. If you see him diverge occasionally from his “no automobile” lifestyle, it is only to accept food donations for the poor from local stores and businesses. “He” is Brother Rudolph Pieretti—Capuchin Franciscan friar, Delawarean since 1972, master mechanic and former Zambian missionary. He also is director of Emmanuel Dining Room, where the poor consume over 200,000 nutritious meals each year in comfort and dignity.
Soon after graduating from Wilmington’s Salesianum High School, Brother Rudolph entered the Capuchin Order of Friars. Like their founder St. Francis of Assisi, the friars have labored among the world’s poorest of the poor for over eight centuries. “Brothers work a lot with their hands and they spend much time in prayer” remarks Brother Rudolph. “I like to do both and found that this life suits me well.” Brother’s dexterity with his hands is evident in his talent for plumbing, building, carpentry and vehicle maintenance, skills that his father, Rudolph, a civil engineer, taught him as a boy. Mr. Pieretti and Brother Rudolph’s mother, Joan, still live in Wilmington, Delaware, where they raised a family of four sons and one daughter, among whom Rudolph is the oldest.
In November 2009, Brother Rudolph arrived at the Ministry of Caring after 18 years of missionary work in Zambia, a landlocked country in Southern Africa formerly called Northern Rhodesia. Here, he worked among the local people caring for the sick in hospitals, visiting prisons, ministering to patients with AIDS and helping in any way that he could. He also repaired the mission vehicles and taught plumbing and carpentry to the native people. Brother describes Zambia as “a beautiful country with many natural resources—just as God created the earth.” The Zambians are noted for their peacefulness, hospitality, cheerfulness and kindness, he adds.
The poor in America and in Zambia are “alike and different,” according to Brother Rudolph. “People are people. When we find ourselves in great difficulties, we all look for assistance wherever we hope to find it.” Poverty in America, Brother continues, is somewhat more complicated––layered with needs that often stem from drug abuse, alcoholism, the breakdown of society or family and other negative experiences. The people of Zambia, on the other hand, have much to offer in terms of how a person can be happy and content with the simpler things in life. Brother Rudolph departed from Zambia in 2009 only because “it was time to return” and to hand over the mission projects to the indigenous clergy.
Zambia’s loss of Rudolph Pieretti is the joy of the many people associated with Emmanuel Dining Room. “We all love him and love to talk with him,” says Tony Attaway, assistant site manager. “He makes you feel that you’re the most important person he knows whenever he speaks to you.” According to Dining Room West site manager Sr. Kathleen O’Donnell, OSF, Brother Rudolph is “wonderfully, totally committed” to Emmanuel Dining Room and its people. “He knows people’s names at all three dining rooms and he often takes needy people he meets there to other Ministry of Caring sites for clothing, case management, job assistance and other services,” states Sister Kathleen. “He also has added lovely touches to the dining room such as flowers and vases on each table.” Dorine Layton, assistant manager of Emmanuel Dining Room, summarizes the thoughts of the hundreds who come in contact with Brother Rudolph everyday, “We love and respect him for his quiet grace,” she said. “He inspires us to do our very best work so that ‘the poor should never be treated poorly’ at the Ministry of Caring.”
Rob Bair had passed out for the third time that day, when someone finally called an ambulance. He awoke in a hospital, with IV bags hooked up to both arms. “I thought, ‘I’ve already been 24 hours sober, let’s see how long it will last,’” he said. “This April will be four years.”
Rob Bair had passed out for the third time that day, when someone finally called an ambulance. He awoke in a hospital, with IV bags hooked up to both arms.
“I thought, ‘I’ve already been 24 hours sober, let’s see how long it will last,’” he said. “This April will be four years.”
Rob’s recovery from alcoholism ran through the Ministry of Caring. He went through House of Joseph I (HOJI), a Ministry shelter for men, before moving into a transitional residence and, finally, a shared home with other men in recovery.
An Air Force veteran who worked full-time at a paint store and part-time at a liquor store, Rob’s life fell apart when his disease overtook him in 2011.
He was fired from his job at the paint store, and then he lost his home when his income dried up. All of this caused him to drink even more. He was squatting in the home he’d been kicked out of and drinking heavily.
“Everyone has a season, my season came in 2011. I was really in bad shape,” he said. “I smelled. I didn’t bathe. I was a real mess. My eyes were bloodshot all the time.”
He’d begun using drugs, too, when he finally hit bottom. That’s when he passed out, woke up in Wilmington Hospital, and decided to extend his sobriety indefinitely.
He joined Alcoholics Anonymous, found a sponsor, and came to the Ministry of Caring looking for help. After meeting Br. Ronald, he was admitted into HOJI, a men’s shelter. At the time, the shelter’s permanent location
on West Third Street was being renovated, so he stayed in the temporary shelter at Sacred Heart Residence.
“I met tons of nice people,” Rob said. “Jeremiah [Thaara, case manager] was really great. He was tough, but good, honest, really nice. But he didn’t pull any punches. They all were like that, which is good. You don’t want somebody to pamper you.”
Now 54, Rob is employed and sober, with dreams of opening his own auto detailing business. He started a recovery support group, even though, early on, there were meetings where no one else came. He credits his sobriety to God, and thanks the Ministry of Caring for helping guide him back to the right path.
“I’m going to be four years sober in April,” he said. “But I’ve got to get through today first.”
Governor Jack Markell visited Sacred Heart Village, an apartment complex for very low-income seniors sponsored by the Ministry, on September 30 to sign into law HB #417. The legislation helps protect senior citizens from becoming victims of financial fraud by providing a mechanism for banks to freeze transactions that they suspect are exploitation
of an elderly person.
He was joined at the table by state legislators and residents of Sacred Heart Village. Before signing the bill, Gov. Markell praised the Ministry’s efforts to help the people of Delaware. “The work you do in providing a sense of dignity for so many people in this state is extraordinary,” he said to Br. Ronald.
Guild Founder Honored By City At the 12th annual Wilmington Awards ceremony held Oct. 1, longtime Ministry supporter and former board member and president Barbara Kreuer was honored for her faithful leadership in serving the homeless and poor in the greater Wilmington community over a span of more than 25 years.
At the 12th annual Wilmington Awards ceremony held Oct. 1, longtime Ministry supporter and former board member and president Barbara Kreuer was honored for her faithful leadership in serving the homeless and poor in the greater Wilmington community over a span of more than 25 years.
Starting out as a volunteer in 1989, Barbara soon founded the Ministry of Caring Guild, a volunteer group that remains vibrant to this day. Barbara’s steadfast commitment to serving the homeless is an inspiration, and we are thrilled to see her recognized for her selfless, tireless efforts. The annual Wilmington Awards ceremony honors community members of the greater Wilmington area who actively make a difference in the lives of their fellow Delawareans.
Barbara received the award from the Honorable Dennis P. Williams, Mayor of Wilmington.
Anne and Angela Grimes had more than their share of dental problems before they discovered Pierre Toussaint Dental Office (PTDO), a program of the Ministry of Caring.
Anne and Angela Grimes had more than their share of dental problems before they discovered Pierre Toussaint Dental Office (PTDO), a program of the Ministry of Caring.
The twin sisters, 38, of Newark, say they’ve felt well cared for and respected since their first appointment in December of 2014.
Anne had lost most of her teeth, and the six remaining teeth were rotting. Angela, having not been to a dentist in 10 years, had broken teeth and 10 cavities. They both had been living with missing teeth and severe tooth pain for a long time.
Anne appreciates how personable the employees are, saying, “They know our names when we come in.”
PTDO was able to fill the twins’ cavities, remove broken and rotten teeth, and provide Anne with dentures. “I had a lot of tooth pain for months,” Angela said, “and as soon as I came in to [PTDO], it stopped hurting.”
“I feel significantly better about myself,” Anne said, “Going out was embarrassing… I would never leave the house unless I had to.”
The dental office provides free dental care to homeless men and women, and low-cost services to those with low income, like Anne and Angela.
Anne and Angela speak very highly of PTDO, calling the employees gentle, respectful, kind, and more wonderful things. Anne said, “I lucked out when finding this place.”
“I tell anybody that needs a dentist to come here,” Angela said.