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.
Forty years later, the coffee pot is still perking. At its fortieth anniversary celebration, the Newburgh Ministry honored the Dominican Sisters of Hope who have served as founders, volunteers, and board members.
In her ministries as a teacher, principal, guidance counselor, and social worker, Dominican Sister of Hope Margaret Anderson, OP, had become familiar with the needs of the poor. So, when she had the opportunity to join the Board of Directors of the Newburgh Ministry, she agreed– and she stayed on the Board for nineteen years.
According to Sister Margaret, the mission of the ministry is as alive and as necessary as ever.
“The mission of presence, service, and transformation has stayed the whole time,” Sister Margaret said. “That’s really what the ministry is all about. It’s meeting the needs of the people it serves.”
At the celebration, sisters and friends of the Ministry shared stories about the beacon of care for the Newburgh community. Dominican Sister of Hope Pat Sullivan, OP recounted a Christmas event during which the Ministry invited parents to shop for their children –and choose what they wanted– rather than having donors choose gifts for families. Doug Hovey, executive director of Independent Living in Newburgh, said that the Ministry has “supported people to become more self sufficient.”
Current programs at the Newburgh Ministry include a new housing project, 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.
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 donating a large variety of hygiene items for distribution to those people in need, such as Pampers, feminine hygiene products, and toothbrushes.
As Dominican Sister of Hope Joann Boneski, OP said, the Ministry is “about caring for one another.”
“What I love about the Ministry is nobody is judged,” she told the crowd at the fortieth anniversary celebration. “Who am I to judge? I have everything that I need or want. I can get up in the morning and drink coffee. Some people have nothing warm to drink. So we give them a hot cup of coffee.”
“It’s showing them they’re loved,” she continued. “The ministry does this on a daily basis, and has for forty years.”