January 30, 2015

Tutoring service to close after serving community for 20 years

Providence Sister Margaret Quinlan teaches an adult student at Education/Family Services in Terre Haute in 2000. After 20 years of ministry, the program of Guerin Outreach Ministries, Inc., which is sponsored by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, will close its doors on Jan. 31. (Submitted photo)

Providence Sister Margaret Quinlan teaches an adult student at Education/Family Services in Terre Haute in 2000. After 20 years of ministry, the program of Guerin Outreach Ministries, Inc., which is sponsored by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, will close its doors on Jan. 31. (Submitted photo)

By Jason Moon (Special to The Criterion)

SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS—After nearly 20 years of service to people in the West Terre Haute community and Vigo County, Education/Family Services (EFS) will officially close its doors on Jan. 31.

A program of Guerin Outreach Ministries, Inc., which is sponsored by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the ministry has provided after-school tutoring and life skills lessons for children since 1995. Basic education and General Education Diploma (GED) instruction for adults were later added. All services were offered at no cost.

Providence Sister Mary Tomlinson, director of development at Guerin Outreach Ministries, Inc., said the decision to close the doors at EFS was not taken lightly.

“I am saddened by the closure of EFS, but a realistic assessment of the financial situation shows that EFS can no longer sustain itself in the coming years,” Sister Mary said. “I know it has been a vibrant ministry for these years, but the time comes for all ministries to complete their mission.”

Providence Sister Margaret Quinlan was one of the sisters who established EFS two decades ago.

“In the summer of 1995, with the encouragement of [Providence] Sister Brendan Harvey, and then after discussions of possibilities with [Providence] Sister Barbara Ann Zeller at Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries, I negotiated with people from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the Vigo County School Corporation, a number of churches in West Terre Haute and other community organizations about the need for adult education in the West Terre Haute area,” Sister Margaret said. “We began with a few people, tutoring at Providence Pantry in the basement of the old St. Leonard’s School.”

She added they also began meeting people at the schools in West Terre Haute and the Vigo County Public Library, and had the use of a Vigo County School Corporation van to get to people for whom transportation was a problem.

In August 1996, Sister Margaret said EFS was moved to a permanent location by the north entrance to the Sisters of Providence motherhouse grounds.

Sister Margaret said EFS connected with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students through its Service Learning Program, and had several retired Sisters of Providence and volunteers who served as tutors, which helped the organization reach many people in the community.

She also said local resident Mickie Lane Frederick, who volunteered for six years and helped set up the children’s tutoring program, was a blessing for Educational/Family Services.

Sister Margaret retired from the ministry in 2006. For the past eight years, Penny Sullivan has served as director of EFS.

“Presently, she is working with 24 adults,” Sister Margaret said, adding the children’s program was discontinued at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year.

Sister Margaret said news of the closing brought back many memories.

“During the years I worked at the ministry, there were moments of sadness, learning that students or clients had died or been jailed, or had given up on their efforts with us,” she said.

“But there were poignant moments,” she continued. “The child who said, ‘I wish I could come here every day because it’s so clean.’ Or the gentleman who remarked, ‘I have no one to talk to but Jesus, I am so lonesome.’ There were also moments of triumph, with people attaining their goals, getting their GED or their driver’s license, getting employment, experiencing greater freedom at making healthy decisions for themselves.”

“I think Educational/Family Services has served the community well,” Sister Mary added. “But a series of things has forced EFS to complete its mission. Several schools in the area are offering their own tutoring program, thus EFS has had declining enrollment.

“While we had some success with grants and fundraising events, not enough funds were raised to maintain Education/Family Services.”
 

(Jason Moon is media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.)

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