Called by the Spirit

Written by Sister Kathleen Feeley, SSND,
Marian House Board Member

Sister Sharon Brunier, a School Sister of Notre Dame, (SSND), lost her heart  to the ministry at Marian House—helping women begin a new life after personal struggles—on August 15, 1987, the day she joined the staff as a pastoral counselor. She has always felt that the Holy Spirit led her to Marian House, and she has never left. 

Sister Sharon’s earlier ministry was teaching in SSND schools in Maryland and South Carolina for 15 years. She left the South to obtain a master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling. Upon her graduation, she began looking for an appropriate ministry. At a large SSND gathering, Marian House Board member Sr. Ellis Denny told her that Marian House, a co-sponsored ministry of SSND had an opening for a counselor. Sr. Sharon applied and was hired by then Executive Director Sr. Marilyn Graf, RSM.

After serving for 11 years in that position, Sharon felt the need for a change. A new counselor replaced her, and she took a six months sabbatical. She had not intended to return, but she found that her heart was still there. She took a position in the Development Office, reaching out to current and potential donors for six years. Then the position of Education Coordinator opened, and she found that she could combine her talents as educator and counselor.

For the past 17 years, Sister Sharon has worked with Marian House women to achieve educational goals by first counseling them on the power that education brings, and then helping them to set goals and achieve them.

One of her bittersweet memories is of Dawn, who completed Marian House I, and moved across the street to supportive housing at Serenity Place with her three-year-old son, her only family. Dawn really wanted to obtain her GED. Sister Sharon worked with her, and she passed all the exams but math. Dawn was ready to give up. But Sharon was not. She tutored her and worked with her until Dawn finally passed math. But obtaining her GED was only one of Dawn’s dreams. Sadly, those dreams were left unfulfilled. Dawn died four years later after a valiant battle with cancer.

Sister Sharon is a Spirit-centered woman. After 34 years of fruitful ministry at 949 Gorsuch Avenue, she feels blessed to still be where her heart led her: to the women of Marian House.



You Can Provide Joy the Holiday Season

This year has been challenging in so many ways and the 2020 holiday season will be quite different from those past. The holidays are, for most of us, a mixture of stress along with joy and celebration.

For the women and children that we serve at Marian House the holidays can be quite challenging, bringing on more severe depression, sadness, and painful memories of the poverty, isolation and trauma they have experienced. Marian House strives to combat this sadness by providing our women with a loving home and the support they need to get to a new year.

You have been a wonderful supporter of Marian House and for that we are truly grateful. With blessings all around us, we invite you to support Marian House at this time, when we need it the most.

Your gift will directly impact women like Tyona Patterson. Tyona Patterson came to Marian House 11 months ago from a residential recovery center. When Tyona contacted Marian House, she was told there was a waiting list and Tyona said she would wait. She waited 3 months and called every day until a space was available for her.

Tyona had been at the treatment center for 8 months on this occasion but had been in recovery multiple times in the past. She is committed to her sobriety today, “I was tired of the revolving door in and out of recovery for so many years”, stated Tyona. “I started using drugs at age 16 and had been in and out of addiction for 19 years. I’ve had enough!”

Tyona lives at our Mercy Residence where she was able to reunite with her 3 children, 14-year-old twins Labria and Labron, and her youngest daughter 9-year-old Aliah. Tyona has three bedrooms for her family and shares the kitchen and other common areas with other Mercy residents.

“It has been wonderful living in the Marian House program”, says Tyona. “I have taken advantage of every opportunity that the staff has suggested, not just because they recommended it but because I honestly believe that is what I needed if I wanted to succeed.” Tyona continued, “the children have adjusted very well, and I work to make them as comfortable as possible because I made them uncomfortable for so many years. I want to be the best mom they deserve.”

Tyona is doing so well that she is ready to move into her own house, having qualified for a re-entry program Section 8 voucher. She has been working at Flagger Force for 5 months and received a promotion to Crew Leader after just 3 months on the job. She also has access to a truck she uses to commute to and from the job. Tyona is very optimistic about the future for her and her children. “If you are patient and work hard to improve your life, good things will happen,” said Tyona.

We can fulfill our mission to provide housing and support services to homeless women and children with your donation. Your gift in any amount can make a difference. You can restore hope and provide joy this holiday season and all year long to the women and children in our care.

Thank you, and may you enjoy the holiday season.
God Bless You.

In Peace,

Katie Allston, LCSW-C Executive Director

Thank You – Race to Embrace Independence 5K Results

During an unprecedented year, we had a truly unprecedented, fully virtual, Race to Embrace Independence 5K.

Thank you for your continued engagement with our annual fundraiser

celebrating the journeys of our women.

We had over 400 registrants and 36 teams participate in the safety of their own homes and communities.

With an eight day race week we worked to pay homage to the history of the race while embracing the unique circumstances of 2020! A new registration and fundraising platform and your hard work helped us to exceed our peer to peer fundraising goal of $35,000.00.

With an amazing array of prizes from our donors, this year’s online raffle was more popular than ever! This event wouldn’t have been possible without our long list of race sponsors, who despite the current economic climate, continued to show their commitment to the cause. 2020 sponsorship pledges exceeded $74,000.00.

We also owe an extra special debt of gratitude to our 2020 5K Planning Committee, whose creativity and ability to adapt to new challenges, made a successful virtual event possible. You all are as a golden as our 2020 race shirt! The one thing that rang true throughout this experience is that the race must go on!

Indeed it did, and our projected net from the 5K is likely to be over $100,000.00 again this year!




Happy Fall to All,
Although it seemed as if 2020 would last forever, I have to admit that it has gone by quickly and I can’t believe the holidays will soon be upon us. As you may know, at Marian House we celebrate every major and minor holiday with the intention of spreading cheer and lifting the spirits of all the women and children in our care. We expect the 2020 holidays to be very different than in previous years, but we will do everything possible to make them special regardless. Please see the article on “Tis the Season” for details on how you can help. We continue to be blessed with good health, despite the number of COVID-19 cases locally and nationally. Our attention to CDC protocols and guidelines for all staff and residents at Marian House have helped us to avoid any positive cases.
We hope you and your family are also in good health. Since March, all of our events have become virtual. We recently completed a very successful 12th Annual Race to Embrace Independence that was held virtually over an eight-day period. Necessity is the mother of invention for sure! Look for details in the 5K wrap-up article in this newsletter. We also had a fun Trivia Night fundraiser that was so popular, we plan to hold another one in January.
We miss our volunteers coming to visit and have created some virtual volunteer opportunities. We can share these with you by contacting advancement@marianhouse.org. We are excited to share that our volunteer Cate Hutson was able to finish the Girl Scout capstone project that she started pre-COVID. We hope you enjoy reading about her beautification of the playground at our Independence Place campus.
I wish you a healthy fall and the happiest of holidays. Please know how much we appreciate your support of Marian House and we hope we will see you in person very soon.
Wishing You Peace,
Katie Allston, LCSW-C
Executive Director

Heart of the House – July Quarterly Newsletter

The pandemic may have brought about some changes, but it has not slowed us down! We’re adjusting to the virtual world of events and fundraising, all of which are critical to the ongoing operations of Marian House. In addition, our women continue to excel, not only amidst a pandemic, but against the injustice and systemic oppression that many of our residents face in their lives. View the full newsletter below

Heart of the House – July Newsletter

A Letter on Current Events

Dear Marian House Friend,

As we approach the midpoint of 2020, I want to take a step back and reflect upon what a year it has been, and what our experience tells us about where we are going.
Little did we know in January that the first six months would result in three devastating, world-changing crises, the intensity of any one of these is enough to shatter who we once thought we were as a society. The Covid-19 pandemic quite likely ensures that we will not return to the “normal” we once knew. It has been quickly followed by a rapid and all-encompassing recession as jobs, businesses and other institutions may be permanently lost as a result of the virus.

Then, just three weeks ago, we learned of the tragic and avoidable death of George Floyd. His death, and those of numerous others before him, stripping bare the systemic racial inequities that continue to plague our country. We now see daily ongoing activism and the coming together of a nation trying to correct the disenfranchisement that continues to occur in black and brown communities. This includes citizens returning from incarceration and others struggling to find a place in our society, and most importantly, the women and families we serve.

Our vision is clear: Marian House must continue to strengthen our society by unlocking the potential found within the women we serve, and the values which guided us through our first thirty-eight years must continue to guide us through these troubling and turbulent times. We must still value the innate dignity of each human being.

Within a culture of respect and understanding of the human condition, the values of patience, trust, honesty, and integrity direct all of our interactions and endeavors. Marian House will remain committed to equity and inclusion. We will continue to value diversity of thought and honor individual identity including race, color, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and religion.

Our work is hard. Our work is important. The realities of the fast changing world in which we now find ourselves make our work harder, and even more critical. But we must do more. And we will.

Thank you for joining our commitment to the community by helping us live the core values we espouse, as we strive, with love, care, patience and persistence to do the right thing for the women we serve. Please work with us to explore how we can do more, how we can do better.

Our women and our community deserve no less than that.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support of our important work at this critical time.

Katie Allston, LCSW-C
Executive Director