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PAB Announces Loan Investments to Four Community Organizations

June 15, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – The Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) of the Adrian Dominican Sisters is sending out low-interest loans to four community service organizations. The loans – sent to organizations from Oklahoma and California to Maryland and South Carolina – were recommended by the PAB and approved by the Congregation’s General Council. The funds are scheduled to be sent out on June 15 to:

  • Staff members of the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation, located in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 
    Citizens Potawatomi Community Development Corporation (CPCDC). This certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) provides several kinds of loans – from microloans and business loans to asset-building Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to Citizen Potawatomi Tribal members and other Native Americans throughout the United States. The loan from the Congregation will be pooled with those from other capital investors to make small business and micro-loans to at-risk Native American households in Oklahoma. CPCDC, founded in 2003 and headquartered in Shawnee, Oklahoma, also offers financial education workshops and small business development services. The organization’s mission is to “promote, educate, and inspire entrepreneurial growth and financial well-being of the Citizen Potawatomi National tribal community.”

  • Morro Del Mar, a 21-unit tax credit rental project for seniors, is located in Morro Bay, California.
    San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund (SLOCHTF). Founded in 2003, this non-profit organization makes loan funds available to very low through moderate-income residents of San Obispo County, California, filling a niche between financing offered by banks and government housing programs. The Housing Trust Fund offers more flexible and favorable terms than banks and is generally more responsive and flexible than government housing programs. The Congregation has already made a loan to SLOCHTF; the recently-approved loan will be used as loan capital to finance affordable housing projects for lower-income households. Since 2005, when the organization first offered loans, it has provided more than $17 million to finance 641 units of affordable housing.

  • Families take part in National Night Out in August 2015.
    St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center. St. Ambrose aims to “create, preserve, and maintain equal housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income people primarily in Baltimore City and encourage and support strong and diverse neighborhoods.” The loan from the Adrian Dominican Congregation – with loans from other sources – will support a multi-year, multi-phase project to preserve, stabilize, and expand St. Ambrose’s rental portfolio to provide quality affordable housing to low-income Baltimore households headed by single women with dependent children. The 310 affordable rental units owned and managed by St. Ambrose are a significant source of stability for hundreds of households in Baltimore City and County.

  • Midlands Housing Trust Fund Executive Director Brian Huskey at the groundbreaking of Phase II of Village at River's Edge, a 124-unit, multi-family tax credit development in Columbia, South Carolina.
    Midlands Housing Trust Fund (MHTF). This non-profit organization provides financing, technical assistance, and advocacy for the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable housing in the Midlands of South Carolina. While the Congregation has already invested in a low-interest loan in MHTF, the additional loan will be used to expand the organization’s service area to include 15 counties, most of which are rural with high rates of poverty. The Congregation’s loan will be used in areas which have no other funding. When formerly rent-burdened households receive access to affordable housing, they have more money to spend on other necessities, such as transportation, health care, food and clothing. Midlands places high priority on lending for the creation of permanent service-enriched housing for individuals and families who are homeless.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the PAB was a response to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ vision for social change. Firmly rooted in the tradition of Catholic social teachings, the PAB helps the Congregation to advocate for social justice in two ways. Through Community Investments work, the PAB offers low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities. The PAB Corporate Responsibility arm monitors the Congregation’s investments and engages in shareholder activities on matters of justice involving corporations in which the Congregation invests.  

Feature photo: Members of the St. Ambrose community get ready to volunteer for YouthWorks.

All Saints Literacy Center Finishes First Year of Service to Detroit

June 14, 2016, Detroit, Michigan – About 100 Detroit residents – predominantly Spanish-speaking – have passed through the doors of a very special room in the former St. Anthony Church on Vernor Highway in Detroit, exploring the opportunity to improve their skills in English. In all, 58 learners have actually begun the hard work of improving their English. This is a promising and hopeful beginning as All Saints Literacy Center prepares to mark its one-year anniversary in July.

All Saints is the seventh literacy center to be founded and sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – the third in Detroit. The literacy centers provide the opportunity for the Congregation to meet the needs of our times by building on the traditional ministry of education.

All Saints has been under discussion since 2012, said Sister Mary Hemmen, OP, who had served as director of Siena Literacy Center in Detroit. She represented the Adrian Dominican Sisters at archdiocesan meetings to determine the needs of Detroit. “Demographics in this area showed the need for literacy,” she said. Once a Lithuanian center, the area is now predominantly Hispanic, with most residents from Mexico and others from such countries as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. 

From left, Roger Frank, Sister Mary Hemmen, and Chris Verklan stand in the middle of All Saints Literacy Center.

Sister Mary worked to develop All Saints and continues serving the center as mentor and tutor. Serving on the staff are Roger Frank, director, and Chris Verklan, program assistant.

Once described as a “beehive” of activity, All Saints is filled on Wednesday evenings – its busiest time – with adult learners and their tutors, working together at open tables or cubicles, taking coffee and cookie breaks from their two-hour session, or working individually on computers. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays and 9:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Currently, 25 students – mostly English as a Second Language (ESL) students – attend sessions at All Saints, a slight dip in attendance during the summer months. 

“One-on-one tutoring is the highest draw here,” Roger said. “Some students have tried group classes, but haven’t felt comfortable or found them intimidating or embarrassing. They like working one-on-one.” But the students are also asked to work individually on the computer on another day for 90 minutes to two hours, using such programs as Rosetta Stone and USA Learns. 

Students come to All Saints with a variety of needs, interests, and goals, Roger said. Literacy center staff members meet with the students three times to assess their needs and their literacy level. A few are illiterate in their native language, mostly Spanish, while others are referred to All Saints through the nearby Adult Learning Lab, which offers GED classes, so that they can enhance their literacy enough to take the GED courses.

“We work with the students where they are to meet their needs,” Roger explained.  For example, while many of the students have experience with the Internet through Smart phones and about half have access to computers at home, “three or four students so far have no access. We teach them to use the mouse and set them up with email so they can communicate with family and friends and do job searches.”   

The former St. Anthony Church, now owned by the social services agency Southwest Solutions, houses All Saints Literacy Center.

All Saints staff members, often with the help of tutors, also help students to articulate specific goals. “Many students at first come with a very broad goal – just to get better at English,” Roger said. “We don’t push them, but we might encourage them to think about the last time they were asked something and they didn’t have the English skills they needed.” 

He estimated that 80 percent of the students are women, and that about 90 percent of the women have children. “Almost all want to know English so they can help their children with their homework or speak with the teacher,” he said. One student said she and her daughter work on their homework together. “You couldn’t ask for a better family literacy program,” he said. “It’s great for kids to see their parents learning.”

Roger has learned not to make any assumptions about the adult learners. “What’s amazing about ESL students is that they have all kinds of skills.” Some, he noted, are well educated in their native countries but haven’t yet mastered English – and thus can’t find jobs here on a level with their training and experience, so they’re underemployed. “Some don’t really know English but they could take a car apart and put it together.”

Roger said that the emphasis of All Saints’ first year was establishing a routine for adult learners and their tutors. As the literacy center nears its second year, he hopes to work on one of the major challenges: finding more tutors. Throughout the first year, students have had to be placed on a waiting list until more tutors can be found.  

Tutors receive orientation and training, as well as an overview of All Saints and the other six literacy centers sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters under the Adrian Rea Literacy Foundation. After tutors have worked for 20 hours with their student, All Saints staff members check in to see if they need more help and support in their work. Tutors also receive ongoing help and support from the staff whenever needed. 

For information on how to become a tutor at All Saints, call 313-297-1399 or email allsaintsliteracy@gmail.com

Roger discovered his own passion for tutoring as a volunteer tutor for Dominican Literacy Center (DLC), the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ first literacy center, established 25 years ago in Detroit. When he felt it was time to change his career after working in an advertising agency, he followed his passion and earned certification in education through Wayne State University in Detroit.    

“It is the work of the Holy Spirit” that Roger and Chris have been able to offer their services and gifts to All Saints Literacy Center, Sister Mary said. “This is sacred space. It’s always been sacred space.”




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