Retiring Sojourner Truth House director honored at annual walk benefit
Steve Euvino, The Times of Northwest Indiana
GARY — They were jammin’ Saturday along West 13th Avenue. They had music, BBQ, snow cones, popcorn and fresh produce.
There were also plenty of walkers for the 22nd annual Walk for Sojourner Truth House. Their goal was $115,000, and, according to walk officials, that goal would be met.
The walk was also an opportunity to honor retiring Executive Director Sister Peg Spindler. Gary Mayor Jerome A. Prince presented her with the key to the city.
“Sister Peg is the epitome of re-imagine Gary,” the mayor said, “but for her it did not take a slogan. She’s been re-imagining Gary great for a long time.”
Over Spindler’s 23 years as executive director, Prince went on, “thousands of women and men have been positively impacted.”
Spindler, 73, plans to minister in continued care and environmental areas.
“This is momentous to me,” she said of the city honor. “I want to thank a fantastic staff. The staff always makes the leader look great. The volunteers we have make the staff look great. I also thank our board for their oversight for us and guiding us.”
Spindler is retiring July 1. Angela Curtis will move from senior case manager to the organization’s executive director.
“I’m looking forward to just continuing the mission,” Curtis said. “I have been charged with a task, but I’m ready.”
Embracing her former boss, Curtis commented, “She has believed in me, she trusted me, and I’m so grateful.”
Named for an 18th-century abolitionist and women’s rights activist born into slavery in New York in 1826, Sojourner Truth House is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. STH serves homeless and at-risk women and their children and underserved members of the community.
Clients staying in local shelters come to the day center for help obtaining benefits, referrals to community support agencies, basic skills and employment training, healthcare screenings and referrals, counseling and assistance with finding housing.
STH also offers programs and support through therapeutic programs and ongoing case management, along with a food pantry.
Despite being closed for several months in 2020 due to the pandemic, STH still served a monthly average of 3,741 clients by phone or other means, a 40% hike over 2019. Twenty-seven families were moved into housing.
The day center’s food pantry became a drive-thru operation, serving 5,000 to 6,000 clients each month.
Felice Jackson, a former STH client, recalled how the ministry housed and fed her through rough times.
“They saved my life,” Jackson said.
Among the walkers was Bishop Robert J. McClory of the Catholic Diocese of Gary. The bishop praised STH for its “tremendous impact on the city of Gary.”
McClory cited the “spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood” at STH as it helps others “experience mercy in Gary.”
Among the walking teams was American Hellenic Educational and Philanthropic Association Chapter 78. After starting 11 years ago with eight walkers, AHEPA this year brought more than 30.
“We’ve been supporting Sister Peg, not just this walk, since 2009,” said AHEPA’s Nick Gianikos.
Families representing Crosspoint Church of Crown Point also walked, including Lis Mubibya, of Merrillville, with her three children, Destiny, 8; Reuel, 6; and Aria, 3.
“We’re part of this community we want to help in any way we can,” the mother said. “We believe in the work they’re doing.”
Sarah Scott, of Hobart, also brought her three children, Quincy, 9; Zuri, 2; and Zeya, 1.
“It’s important to take care of people,” Scott said. “If you’re able, you should help.”