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Tamia Patrick, with son Bryson Patrick, 5, is grateful for the small classes, safe environment and outstanding teachers at the Child Care Center.
“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.
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, guest Gregory Lay and volunteer Barbara Kreuer prove it.
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 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.”
“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.
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.
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.