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Keeler Women's CenterWanjira Mathai, speaker, leads the development of the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi. She spoke on the topic of "hope" and said of the Keeler Women's Center, "Keeler gives hope to women in Kansas City because it emphasizes empowering them to change their lives for the better." (Photo by Marlo Brooks)
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Keeler Women's CenterJudy Valente, left, produced, wrote and narrated a video, “An Enduring Vision: A Tribute to Keeler Women’s Center’s 10 Years of Empowering Women.” Sister Carol Ann Petersen, right, is director of the Keeler Center. Valente is a producer and correspondent for WTTW-TV in Chicago. (Photo by Marlo Brooks)
Keeler Women's Center
Keeler Women's Center
Re-inventing, rebuilding, reclaiming their voice, and healing – these are just a few of the words that describe what happens at the Keeler Women's Center.
These words were shouted out from women who were part of a dance troupe performing for an appreciative and packed audience at the 10-year anniversary of the center at the Jack Reardon Center on July 12. The Keeler Women’s Center is a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica of Atchison, Kan.
As Sister Carol Ann Petersen, director of the center, said in her speech that day, the center offers its hospitality to anyone in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Although it has the word "Women's" in its name and some groups are only open to women, its activities are also available for men. Most of their classes and groups take place on the second floor of the Catholic Charities building at 2220 Central Ave in Kansas City, Kan. Yet the center also offers community outreach such as a life-skill program at the Wyandotte Detention Center, “Easy English” classes at the main library in Overland Park, and literacy classes in several other public libraries.
Its mission statement: "Empowering women in the urban core of Kansas City through education, advocacy, personal, and spiritual development" is apparent in every activity held at the center. In the average month, it serves about 350 women, 20 to 25 men and offers childcare to approximately 20 children whose mothers are attending programs or receiving services. The staff consists of Sister Carol Ann, director, along with two other full-time Benedictine sisters, one full-time counselor and another Benedictine sister who works part-time offering specialized therapy for refugees who have been the victims of torture and war.
And the staff doesn't do it alone. They collaborate with other nonprofit organizations and about 100 volunteers each month to offer a variety of programs and services that includes creative writing classes, Bible study, massage, and job-hunting workshops.
Some of the nonprofit organizations the Keeler Center works with: Literacy Kansas City, K-State Research and Extension, Heartland Habitat for Humanity, Bishop Ward High School and more. The Keeler Women's Center has received awards in 2012 and 2013 from Friends of Yates, Jewish Vocation Services and MOCSA recognizing its contribution in combating sexual and domestic violence, and community partnership.
The center is named for Sister Jerome Keeler foundress and first president of Donnelly College, who had a vision of offering higher education to those in the urban core who would normally not be served. Donnelly College was the center's first home until the Keeler Center was moved to its present Central Avenue location.
The keynote speaker of the anniversary celebration, Wanjira Mathai, the daughter of a student at Mount St. Scholastica back in the 1960s, spoke eloquently about overcoming challenges in her country by facilitating three-day empowerment workshops in her native Kenya. Planting trees to her symbolizes hope, and saplings of Eastern Redcedar, durable trees known as "the survivor," were placed in the middle of each table at the event. Participants were invited to take the saplings home to plant and thus continuing the mission of the Keeler Center: empowerment and giving hope to those in need.
Great article. Thanks, Linda
Anne K. Shepard, OSB