News

For further information on any of the news items listed here, please contact Alice Black, PhD, OPA, Director of Communications & Mission Advancement, at 614-416-1020.


 

During pandemic, Yale helped address urgent city challenge: food security

The Believe in Me Empowerment Corporation (BIMEC) on Dixwell Avenue in the Newhallville neighborhood of New Haven used its grant from the Yale Community for New Haven Fund to purchase food for several food drives it held during the early months of the pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, Sister Margaret Mary Kennedy knew that some of the people she works with through Fair Haven’s Springs Learning Center suddenly faced a painful question: Do I buy food for my family or pay this month’s rent?

The center, which Kennedy directs, helps adult immigrants improve their English communication skills so they can apply for citizenship and succeed in their new community. Some of these adults lost their jobs due to the pandemic but could not apply for unemployment benefits because they are undocumented.

To ensure the families would not have to go without food, Kennedy applied for a grant from the Yale Community for New Haven Fund, which was established by President Peter Salovey in March 2020 to help New Haven neighbors struggling during the pandemic.

Managed by Yale’s Office of New Haven Affairs, the fund — supported by donations from university staff members, students, and alumni and with direct and matching contributions from the university — distributed approximately $3 million to nearly 200 local nonprofit organizations that offered pandemic-related assistance to city residents. These New Haven organizations in turn were able to assist families with such basic needs as clothing, housing or shelter, personal protective equipment, childcare, computers for remote learning, mental health support, and more.

But for many of the nonprofits, the most urgent challenge facing the community was food insecurity. A 2017 “State of Hunger in New Haven” report found that 22% of city residents are food insecure, and with the increased unemployment rate in the city during the pandemic, that percentage grew. In total, over $700,000 in Yale Community for New Haven Fund grants were allocated specifically to improve access to food for local residents.

Grants were distributed to the Coordinated Food Assistance Network, a partnership between the United Way, the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Loaves and Fishes, and other agencies that delivered food to people who were ill, immunocompromised, or stuck in their homes during the pandemic; Keep New Haven Thriving, an effort by local restaurants to supply meals to frontline workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings; Square Meals New Haven, an initiative by local restaurants to feed some 250 homeless individuals; and other nonprofits providing meals and groceries to New Haven residents. Nearly 40 nonprofits focused directly on providing meals to local residents — via food drives, food pantries, food delivery to the homebound, the distribution of grocery store gift cards, and more — in every part in the city.

We purposefully distributed grants from the fund across different neighborhoods in the city,” said Lauren Zucker, associate vice president for New Haven Affairs and director of University Properties. “We funded organizations which in turn provided food gift cards or helped local residents pay their utility bills, for example. By connecting with the organizations that know personally the families in their communities, this grassroots approach allowed us to get resources to New Haven residents who were most in need.”

The Springs Learning Center, which is supported by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, spent more than half of its $6,000 grant on $25 grocery store gift cards, Sister Kennedy said. Those cards, she said, were distributed to about 50 local families.

The recipients were so surprised and grateful,” said Kennedy. “When they thanked me for being able to have food on their table, I told them: ‘I’m not doing this. This is possible because there are a lot of people who care about you.’ For the recipients — who sometimes feel on the fringes to begin with — knowing that people cared about them during the pandemic gave them a sense of belonging, she said.

Some of our students who received gift cards in turn helped out others in the community by giving out food baskets at a police substation on a weekly basis. There was a snowball effect in generosity during this challenging time, and the Yale grant is what got things rolling!”

Kennedy also purchased with the Yale funds Wi-Fi hotspots in Fair Haven so that her students could continue with their English language study on their computers.

Like Kennedy, David Greco, the co-founder and director of ARTE Inc., knew that some of the families his Fair Haven-based nonprofit serves would be struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic. With ARTE’s $15,000 grant from the Yale Community for New Haven Fund, Greco distributed $50 grocery store gift cards to local families in need. Typically, ARTE Inc. provides artistic and cultural programming for local children and their families, but Greco was grateful he could go beyond the organization’s usual mission.

Yale University allowed ARTE to help so many people,” said Greco. “One of the side benefits of this grant is that it helped us build an even better relationship with our constituents.”

Men packing boxes with food
BIMEC staff members prepare for a drive-through food distribution event. BIMEC was one of numerous local organizations supported by the Yale Community Fund for New Haven that addressed food insecurity in the city during the pandemic. Over $700,000 in grants from the Yale fund were used specifically to give city residents access to food in the early months of the pandemic.
BIMEC staff members prepare for a drive-through food distribution event. BIMEC was one of numerous local organizations supported by the Yale Community Fund for New Haven that addressed food insecurity in the city during the pandemic. Over $700,000 in grants from the Yale fund were used specifically to give city residents access to food in the early months of the pandemic.

In the Dixwell/Newhallville neighborhood, grant funding supported organizations including the Believe in Me Empowerment Corporation (BIMEC), which offers programming and services to improve the lives of children, young adults, and families impacted by incarceration. Specifically, the Yale Fund helped provide quality meals at the year-round BIMEC food pantry and groceries for three drive-up food distribution events hosted by the nonprofit along with area churches.

[It] also allowed us to offer transitional housing to our clients for an extra two months who would otherwise have gone homeless during the pandemic,” said James Walker, BIMEC’s executive director, who estimates that with the support of the Yale Fund, BIMEC was able to provide meals to 800 people in the wider New Haven community.

The pandemic created major barriers for our clients,” he said. “And with that support they were able to keep going forward through a hard time.”

Other organizations in the city, including the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven in the Hill neighborhood, supported city residents by distributing debit cards that could be used to purchase food or to pay a utility bill, housing costs, or other basic needs in the early-spring days of the pandemic.

With our $20,000 we gave out 97 cards valued at $200 each to families of the Boys & Girls Club that we identified as most needing help,” said Barbara Chesler, interim director of the organization, whose mission is to provide a safe environment — such as in summer camps and after-school programs — for children to play, learn, and grow.

In the letter we sent to families with the card, we told them this was made possible through a Yale grant,” Chesler continued. “This was the first COVID-19-related grant we received, and I was incredibly grateful that Yale provided us with this funding, with the number-one priority of making sure people had food in the house.”

As the nation begins now to emerge from the pandemic, Kennedy said she feels uplifted thinking back to the earliest days of the crisis and how the community came together to help those who were hit the hardest.

The help Yale provided was a life saver for many people in our city,” she said.

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Eighty-Five Years of Dominican Service

Sister Teresita Huse celebrated 85 years of religious life in May 2021.

Sister Teresita Huse, OP, spoke to Southwest Kansas Catholic Editor Dave Myers about her of her childhood in Kansas, and how her Dominican education brought her to religious life.

“I was the only girl,” she said. “I had three brothers. I was the second child.

“The big thing in my life was the commitment of my parents to a Catholic upbringing,” she added. “I was born in Kingman; there was no Catholic school. They wanted us to have a Catholic education, so for nine years, early every morning, they would put us in the car and drive 20 miles to Willowdale where Grandma lived. We would attend St. Peter’s School where the Dominicans taught.”

Sister Teresita’s aunt was a Dominican Sister, as was a cousin, so the Sisters were well known to the siblings. “At four in the afternoon on Friday, I would come out of school and Dad’s car was there. In six years, only twice was he not able to pick us up because of the weather.”

In 1931, St. Patrick School opened in Kingman — about the time that Sister Teresita’s family moved to Wichita.

Sr. Teresita (far left) serves at a Fundraising Bazaar in Great Bend, KS.

“When my brother was in high school and I was in the seventh grade, our little brother died at age 5. He was sick for only three days. He had spinal meningitis. Our uncle came to pick us up and said that Cletus was really sick. We were quarantined for two weeks, so we couldn’t even go to the funeral.

“There was no closure,” she said, a hint of sadness in her voice all these years later.

Her new school was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, one of whom Sister Teresita approached one day and announced, “I’m going to be a Dominican Sister! That year, they had a skit and there was a Sister in it. Guess who got to be the Sister?”

On the day of the presentation, the future Sister – not even yet a teenager – dressed in habit, and was even mistaken for a Sister by a Christian Brother.

“I was a St. Joseph Sister for one day,” she said with a smile.

A few years later, the habit she wore would be real, and her title not the name of a character in a play. At 15, she became “Sister Teresita.”

Sister Teresita ministered as an educator in Kansas and Oklahoma, as a librarian, and in parish ministry. She also taught an adult English class in Kyoto, Japan, during her sabbatical year. She caught the travel bug in 1969 when she visited New Zealand, Australia and Alaska. She has also visited the Holy Land, Korea and India.

She has held various leadership positions in her religious community and served as their first development director. She has always had a great love for the Nigerian missions and has given countless hours to projects which benefit them.

Sr. Teresita Hughes celebrates her 100th birthday in 2018.

After teaching 57 years, Sister retired to the Motherhouse in Great Bend in 1996 and presently resides in the Convent Infirmary. Although “retired,” every year she devotes countless hours giving mission appeals in parishes, coordinating the annual mission bazaar raffle, and challenging groups and individuals to sponsor water wells and build education centers.

“God’s great goodness to me as a Dominican for 75 years boggles my mind, and God willing, there will be more. I’m very, very happy with my many years in the convent,” Sister Teresita said. “I’ve been truly blessed.”

 

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Dominican Observes Juneteenth with Celebration of Freedom: Remembering Our Shared History

At St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Juneteenth celebration, the Rev. Ajani Gibson celebrated the Black Catholic Mass in the school Our Lady Queen of the Rosary Chapel.

On June 19, the first officially declared federal holiday of Juneteenth, St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Alumnae Association presented, Celebration of Freedom: Remembering Our Shared History. The gathering of reflection and rejoicing was a virtual gathering for Dominican alumnae around the country. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that the Union Army informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than two years earlier, President Abraham Lincoln had signed the executive order to free all enslaved people in places that were still “in rebellion against the United States.” The effective date was January 17, 1863.

Dominican alumna Arthel Neville (’80) gave a virtual welcome. Before the beginning of the morning Black Catholic Mass in Our Lady Queen of the Rosary Chapel, Robin Barnes (’05) sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Mass celebrant was the Rev. Ajani Gibson, who was ordained on June 5th at St Louis Cathedral. He now serves as pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Treme, his childhood parish that fostered his vocation.

Director Devin Boucree, at piano, with The Young Voices of Praise Choir and Musicians at the Black Catholic Mass, part of St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Juneteenth celebration.

The Young Voices of Praise Choir and Musicians, under the direction of Devin Boucree, sang his new arrangements of old Negro spirituals, including, “I Am His Child,” “Oh Freedom,” “Kumbaya,” and  “This Little Light of Mine.” Readers were Elana Perriott (’21), Shaysa Lewis (’13), and Nayah Thomas (’20). Giving his blessing at the end of Mass, Fr. Gibson encouraged all to keep their faith and to trust in God.

A presentation, Racism Is A Sin, by keynote speaker Sr. Patricia Dual, O.P., encouraged meaningful conversation and dialog on the challenging topic, and addressed how people of faith must take part in the process of dismantling racism and working toward racial healing and equity. Sr. Dual is a member of the Peace Ministry of Welcome-Vocation Team and Coordinator of Formation for the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

A virtual Jazz lunch break featured internationally acclaimed New Orleans jazz vocalist Sharon Martin. The afternoon sessions featured guest speakers Ansel Augustine, D.Min. – The Importance of Blacks in the Catholic Church Today; Mona Lisa Saloy, Ph.D, New Orleans Black Culture Before and After Juneteenth; Sybil Morial, M.Ed., Witness to Change: From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment; Winnie Sullivan, M.S. – Sister Mary Antona Ebo: This Far By Faith.  Dr. Augustine is Executive Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Dr. Saloy is the Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor of English at Dillard University, New Orleans. Educator, activist, and community leader, Mrs. Morial documented her remarkable life in her memoir, Witness to Change: From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment. Ms. Sullivan is a writer, editor, and the director of PenUltimate Press, a nonprofit publishing company in St. Louis.

Keynote speaker Sr. Patricia Dual. O.P, addresses attendees of St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Juneteenth celebration presented by the school’s Alumnae Association.

Dominican’s Juneteenth Celebration featured an art contest that drew 28 entries from the school’s students. Click here to view a video of these pieces.

Judges were New Orleans-based artists Terrance Osborne, Samantha Ramey (’13), and Wade Griffin. The top three winning entries were, First Place – Freedom Is A State of Mind by Jade C. Mason, freshman; Second Place – Healing Wounds by Shania Raimer, sophomore; and Third Place – Flying Free by Ella Stolberg, senior.

The Juneteenth Celebration Committee included Co-Chairs Vallerie Maurice (’78) and Denise Marrero St. Cyr (’82); members Celeste Shelsey Anding (’82), Mary Baudouin (’74), Amanda Bonam (’13), Lisa Bernstein Cates (’84), Katherine Johnson (’03), Shaysa Lewis (’13), Adrienne Breaux Quinlan (’69), Nelita Manego-Ramey (’79), Beryl Radcliff Small (’79), Samantha Ramey (’13), Bianca San Martin (’08), Gloria Thomas (’20), and Nayah Thomas (’20).

Click here to view a video of the open sessions of the event.

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Siena Learning Center Featured

June 24, 2021

 

NEW BRITAIN – Inspired by its community of gardening enthusiasts, the Siena Learning Center created an “International Garden” to highlight the importance of love, joy and peace.

 

 

 

 


One of the chairs that was painted by a Colombian artist, who is also a learner at the Siena Learning Center

To view this story online, please click here.

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