In 1983, five women religious –one of whom is a Sister of Hope– decided to respond to the need they saw on the streets of Newburgh, New York. While many residents chose to leave due to a weakening economy and increased poverty, these women rented a store front on Broadway, put on a pot of hot coffee, and responded to the needs of those around them.

The Ministry staff in the early days

Forty years later, the coffee pot is still perking. The Newburgh Ministry was incorporated in 1988; current programs include a pre-employment program that provides people with rides for job interviews, a play center for children, a thrift store, homework help, a medical clinic, jewelry making classes, and, of course, a hospitality center where people can come and talk, read the newspaper, play dominos, share stories, or just sit quietly.

“The services offered are different, the place is different, but the focus remains the same: What are the needs of the people, and how do we meet those needs?” said Sister Margaret Anderson, OP.

Richard Gadbois was a Newburgh native who has volunteered at Newburgh Ministry for many years. He said that the Ministry is all about helping people out.

“If you have somebody who is hungry and doesn’t have many clothes, and you open the door and take him into your house, and you sit him down and give him a good meal, let him take a shower and give him clothes to get dressed, that person is going to feel pretty good when he leaves,” Gadbois said. “Basically, that’s what the Ministry is. It takes care of people’s needs.”

Dominican Sister of Hope Lois Dee, OP currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Newburgh Ministry. With Sister Lois’ help, the Dominican Sisters of Hope are currently providing a large variety of hygiene items for distribution to those people in need., such as Pampers, feminine hygiene products, and toothbrushes.

According to Sister Norma Carney, PBVM, who worked at Newburgh Ministry for roughly two decades, Newburgh Ministry helps people meet basic needs while “the system of social services keeps [them] in poverty.”

“If they were to look for work, they’d have to find childcare. On a minimum wage job with no health benefits, many can’t make it. The only alternative is to stay on social services, and, in a sense, that’s demeaning for the individual. There’s hardly any alternative to get out of the cycle,” she said. “We’re here for them.”