Close to a dozen or so SLH and SAC residents have been running regularly for the last six months or so, chalking up hundreds of miles – with no one chasing them! The “Back on My Feet” program was started three years ago in Philadelphia as a means to help individuals focus on rebuilding their lives, one foot after another. Currently, the program has 600 members in cities along the East Coast. That number will grow with additional runners here in Chicago. SLH and SAC program participants consider their running to be therapeutic in many ways – “Gets the bugs out of your mind.” Having run half marathons and preparing all winter, runners are setting their sights on a full marathon sometime this summer.
St. Leonard’s Ministries was honored to be featured recently in the Newsletter for HUD – US Department of Housing and Urban Development. SLM was selected for this national coverage because of its very positive and long-standing record of providing appealing housing and accompanying comprehensive supportive services for a particularly marginalized population. Talented and committed staff members at all four SLM program sites are the foundation of all the good that is accomplished. Congratulations to each of SLM’s very special staff members for this well-deserved recognition.
Early in the morning on the first Sunday of March, several SLM stalwarts participated in the “Polar Plunge” into Lake Michigan. The day was cold but hearts were warmed by this event which raised funds for the Special Olympics. SLM’s team of staff and residents raised $1,240 dollars to help ensure that the Special Olympics take place this coming summer. This is a good example of a basic component in recovery – helping others in need.
At its March 2011 meeting, the SLM Board of Directors approved the Agency’s recently completed Long Range Plan that will guide SLM workings through 2015. Board Members pledged support for the goals of the Plan at several levels. Much of the Plan focuses heavily on providing more finely tuned and responsive services for program participants. Additionally, the Plan calls for several initiatives that will better equip staff members at all four SLM sites to accomplish their work on a renewed professional – maybe even state of the art – level. Among other components, this focus will include educational opportunities and improvement of technological resources available to staff members. Planning consultant, Lis Williams, will revisit the Plan on a regular basis with staff as the years unfold to help provide accountability and guidance.
Some seventeen years ago, Sister Mary Dolan came to St. Leonard’s Ministries to open the doors of Grace House. Actually, when Mary started her work, there were no doors to Grace House – just a lot of ideas and work to be done. Little did she know that this was going to be one of the more remarkable journeys of her life as Grace House took shape and opened its doors to women exiting the Illinois prison system. Sister Mary took leave of her role at Grace House at the end of March with the knowledge that more than 850 women have come through the GH program under her careful and caring watch. Mary’s job description did little to lay out all the duties, chores and tasks that she carried out so selflessly during her years at Grace House. She was always honest with residents, sometimes stern, but clearly very loving. And what about the once-in-a-lifetime move of Grace House from 51st Street to its current home on Adams and Wood – not something Mary would like to repeat! Current and former GH residents honored Mary at a Thank You Event on March 25th. Friends from “way back when” came to wish Sister Mary well. On March 31st, the GH Advisory Board and SLM’s Board and Administration hosted a luncheon to express their deep gratitude for Mary’s exceptional stewardship during her tenure at Grace House. Family Members and friends filled Zangs Hall at the Barlow Center for the Event which was a surprise for Mary.