January 18, 2019

Endowment gives $5 million grant to St. Mary’s Child Center, $1 million grant to Holy Family Shelter

By John Shaughnessy

When she received the news that Lilly Endowment Inc. had awarded a $5 million grant to St. Mary’s Child Center in Indianapolis, Connie Sherman viewed it as “an amazing gift” to help the center continue its work of helping re-shape the future of young children who now live in poverty.

David Bethuram had a similar reaction when Lilly Endowment announced that Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis—an agency of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities—will receive a $1 million grant to continue its care for homeless children and families.

Both grants are among the 10 overall—totaling $48 million—that Lilly Endowment recently awarded to human services agencies in central Indiana.

“The grants are designed to help these valuable organizations build long-term financial strength and resiliency,” said Rob Smith, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for community development.

“The grants are not intended to fund ongoing operating support that is essential for these organizations to meet the day‑to-day needs of the children, families and individuals they serve. In fact, we hope our grants help these agencies more effectively attract additional support for their critically important work.”

That is also the hope of the leaders of St. Mary’s Child Center and Holy Family Shelter. Still, the leaders are also thrilled to begin the year with the grants.

We are absolutely delighted and are very honored,” noted Sherman, the executive director of St. Mary’s Child Center. “We are grateful to the Lilly Endowment and to all who have provided the support through the years that has allowed us to do the work that resulted in this amazing gift.”

As the executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, Bethuram said, “This is truly a blessing for our agency and the shelter.

“This was a grant process that was initiated by the [Lilly] Endowment wanting to reach out to strong community organizations with a long track record of effective and efficient care for homeless children and families. Holy Family Shelter’s staff continues to provide exceptional work since it first opened its doors 34 years ago.”

Bill Bickel oversees the shelter in his role as director of program evaluation and development for the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities. He knows the difference the Lilly Endowment grant will make.

“The real benefactors of this funding are Indianapolis’ most vulnerable and poorest members: homeless families,” Bickel said. “This generous support will allow us to continue to offer high quality emergency services to the poorest of the poor, which includes more than 650 homeless children each year.”

Both Holy Family Shelter and St. Mary’s Child Center aim to improve the futures of children and families who live in poverty.

Holy Family Shelter does its part by offering services that include health care, job training and legal assistance. Life skill classes also focus on parenting, nutrition and budgeting.

St. Mary’s Child Center has a strong history of serving children from poor family backgrounds, according to Sherman.

The center’s website notes that 93 percent of its students live in poverty, a reality that creates the risk for these children to fall behind academically at an early age and never recover. St. Mary’s strives to counter that risk with high-quality, early childhood education, giving the children equal footing for their futures, Sherman said.

The Lilly Endowment grant will help “ensure the long‑term financial sustainability” of the center, she noted.

“The grant will be invested in an endowment. The grant is not intended to fund ongoing operating support. The annual proceeds from the investment will be used for targeted, one-time investments designed to move the organization forward in big ways.”

Sherman said proceeds from the grant will allow the center to address issues that include “technology, improved fund development, the recruitment, development and retention of staff and long-term leadership.”

The Lilly grant is a difference maker in helping the center continue to make a difference, she said.

“The success of our mission to powerfully impact the lives and futures of our young children and their families who live in poverty will be sustained.” †

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