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December 3, 2021, Flint, Michigan – Sisters Carol Weber, OP, and Judy Blake, CSJ, received the C.S. Mott Citizen of the Year Award during the 2021 Art of Achievement Evening Awards Ceremony, held last month at the Capitol Theater in Flint. Co-founders and Co-directors of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, they were recognized for their years of service to struggling people in Flint.
The award is named for Charles Stewart Mott, founder of a major foundation that funds community organizations around the world – including the N.E.W. Life Center.
“It was a very humbling experience because there are a lot of deserving people who do a lot of work in Flint,” Sister Carol said in an interview. “People are so grateful for what we are able to do. It’s a ministry – a call from God. I’m only doing what I’m called to do.”
The ministry of Sisters Carol and Judy is extensive. The N.E.W. Life Center focuses on helping people in the North End of Flint, which is predominantly African American and low-income. Services include a food pantry, a literacy center, employment preparation, and specific job training in areas such as commercial sewing and lawn care.
During the onset of the Flint water crisis in 2014 – when lead was found in the city’s water – the Center played a key role in distributing clean water and in teaching mothers of young children the importance of good nutrition to help combat the effects of the lead. “We’re still having problems with water,” Sister Carol said, adding that the Center received the donation of a filtration system to supply clean water for cooking and drinking.
The Employment Preparation Program teaches participants “soft skills” needed to be dependable workers, as well as specific job skills. The program helps participants to “get a better handle on who they are, what their goals are, and what their life plan is,” Sister Carol explained. The Center also partners with employers who are willing to hire people who have served in prison, she added.
One of the job-training components deals with making pallets for a business that supplies them to General Motors. Another aspect of that program, Sister Carol said, is training workers to take apart wooden crates found in the landfill and giving them to Habitat for Humanity to sell in their ReStore. “We’re trying to teach our people the skill of production,” she said. “The job they will get after on-the-job training most likely will be in production.”
The women in the Center’s commercial sewing company continue making clothing for Stormy Kromer. But, as Christmas approaches, they’re also working on a special project: making personalized Christmas bags – filled with gifts such as socks, underwear, a stuffed animal, a toy, a coat, and a blanket – for almost 500 local children under the age of 10. The N.E.W. Life Center also assembles a family box for other members of the family, including clothing, personal items, and toilet paper.
Sister Carol said two other Adrian Dominican Sisters have recently come to the N.E.W. Life Center to offer their gifts in special ministries. Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, is beginning a support program for pregnant women and for mothers of small children. Sister Patricia Magee, OP, is starting an after-school educational program for elementary school children from a local Catholic school.
“We’re growing,” Sister Carol said. “People are investing in us. It’s a good time for us in Flint because people recognize what we are able to do. The people in Flint trust us.”
View a slide gallery of the award ceremony.
Feature photo: This is one of more than 1,000 Christmas bags that St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center will be distributing to children in the Flint area. The bags contain gifts such as socks, underwear, a stuffed animal, a toy, a coat, and a blanket. To the right is Sister Carol Weber, OP.
October 13, 2021, Morris Plains, New Jersey – For the sixth year, Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, has been named one of the Top 50 Power and Influence executives of nonprofit organizations by The NonProfit Times (NPT). The 50 were chosen from among 300 top executives and were recognized as initiators, innovators, and leaders who worked as “day-in, day-out executives,” according to The NonProfit Times.
The 50 honorees were feted recently at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., at the Annual NPT Power and Influence Gala.
Sister Donna, the first woman to serve as President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), was recognized for her commitment to immigrants. She is “one of the few nonprofit CEOs who went to the border on more than a photo-op tour,” according to Paul Cholery, Vice President and Editorial Director of NPT. “She and her network are showing how to care for detained immigrants.”
Immigration Advocacy and Refugee Services is one of the top priorities of CCUSA. Catholic Charities agencies around the country provide critical assistance to immigrants and refugees, as well as citizenship education and other services.
In April, Sister Donna traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border at El Centro, California, to get a sense of the situation at the border and to give her support to Catholic Charities workers struggling to meet the needs of the immigrants. Local Catholic Charities agencies set up shelters with food and clean clothes for immigrants coming out of detention and helped them get transportation to their friends or relatives in the United States.
“There’s no way you can look at that degree of human suffering and not be affected by it,” Sister Donna said. “My hat is off to the people in Catholic Charities who are doing this all the time, every day. Each one of them is a walking saint. They reach out in compassion and respect.”
Feature photo: Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, left, takes time to chat with William and his daughter, Julia, who came to the United States from Brazil during her recent visit to Catholic Charities shelters at the U.S.-Mexico border.