By Gordon Nary
Sister Carol: I joined the Adrian Dominicans on August 28, 1965. I entered because one of the Adrian Dominicans at my high school as me if I had ever thought of becoming a Sister. I wanted to be a teacher.
Gordon: The St Luke New Life Center which you and your colleague, Sister Judy Blake, founded is a model program that many other communities may want to consider adopting. What inspired you to organize the St Luke New Life Center?
Sister Carol: We were taking clothing out onto the streets of Flint and we heard the stories of the people on the streets. We especially heard the plight of the women and children suffering abuse, hunger, lack of education. In January of 2012, we encountered a woman who was looking for newborn baby clothes. She was looking for a car seat and clothing for a woman who had given birth the night before in the abandoned home next to her. She called 911 and they took the woman and newborn baby to Hurley. They would not let her leave the hospital until she had a car seat and clothing for the baby. This neighbor was begging for these items for the new mom and baby. We gave her what she needed and put her on the bus to get to Hurley. We drove away from that experience that day saying to one another, we have done more than take clothing out onto the streets of Flint. In March, the building we now occupy was being rented by the Flint Public School. St. Luke Parishioners had gone onto the streets with us and heard many of the same stories. When the school was going to close, we had a meeting in Church after Mass on Sunday. Sr. Judy told the parishioners what was happening and asked them what they thought should be done with the school building. They immediately said we needed to do something for women and children. That experience was the birth of what is now the St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center. Today, fourteen years later, we continue to be a beacon of Hope for the people of the north end of Flint by providing: a three year program of life change for at-risk women and their children; a literacy center, a food pantry that assists some 3,000 men, women and children each month with groceries and hot meals on three days a week; a Sixteen Week employment preparation program for women and men; two businesses to train men and women for jobs. We hire them here in our businesses of sewing and lawn care to make sure they have a work ethic before we move them into better-paying jobs. Our partnership with Stormy Kromer is our better-paying job for our seamstresses. The needs of the people we encounter continue to be our focus for continued programming.
Gordon: What are some of The St Luke New Life Center's most immediate needs and how can our reader's support your mission ?
Sister Carol: Finances are always our greatest need since we exist on grants, fundraising, and donations. Other needs include support for our food pantry ministry with food donations and volunteers; tutors for our literacy program (we do one on one tutoring); mentors for our programs, an exercise teacher (three hours per week), grant writers.
Gordon: What role has poverty had on domestic violence in your community?
Sister Carol: Poverty plays a huge role in domestic violence in the individuals we serve. They are always trying to eke out an existence in order to survive.
Gordon: I know that you and Sister Judy, have been very active in working with local social justice advocates to help resolve the local water lead poisoning crisis. What are some of the proposals that you have made and what progress has been made in response to these proposals?
Sister Carol: We continue to focus on getting help for the people in most need, especially the little children and moms who are pregnant. We have added special programming for women who are pregnant and parents of small children. We have the EPA here every Wednesday during the meeting to answer their questions and give them the most recent updates. We then provide lunch for them. After lunch, we have nutrition class focusing on the three nutrients needed most: Iron, Vitamin C, and Calcium. After class, we give them food rich in these nutrients as well as several gallons of milk. We will also be offering another programming for the participants: counseling; classes in understanding the elements of breastfeeding; parenting; understanding behavioral problems in children and overall support.
Gordon: What impact did the broadcast of the Democratic Presidential debate have on donations of water and funding to help address the water crisis?
Sister Carol: Not sure I could determine whether or not the debates have affected the water donations. I know that people helping people, churches reaching out to churches and businesses wanting to make a difference have had an effect on water donations.
Gordon: I understand that you and Sister Judy initially discussed that other communities could also be experiencing lead poisoning in their water, shortly after which the Newark public schools announced the discovery of lead poisoning in their water supply, and that is providing now voluntary blood testing for their children. What advice can you give our readers on what they actions may want to consider testing in their communities for this potential challenge?
Sister Carol: Be active citizens. Be involved in your community. Attend City Council and school board meetings. Have your water tested and follow up on the results. If you have any questions about the quality of your water, don’t wait. Get it tested!
Gordon What would be the most important action that the federal government could take to help reduce the lead poisoning crisis in your community.
Sister Carol: Release the funds so the pipes can be replaced.
Gordon: I hope that our readers will contact Michigan and Congressional officials to help release these critical funds to reduce the challenges to all of the Flint residents' lives, especially the children's lives. and that someone will fund a grant writer for the St Luke New Life Center.