Benedictine Sisters of Erie Home Home

Community Service Prepares Participants for Work Force

Supervisor Kara Bauer

Kara Bauer, program supervisor at SBEC, defines Community Service as on-site work experience. She explains upon meeting with an individual that they will discuss interests and skills before determining the two selections of work experience.  Depending on the participant, each will work 2-4 hours per day weekly. On-site experiences include the Production Center, Mending Place, the Garden, and Community Helpers. These experiences aid the participants’ basic skills of following weekly schedules, arranging transportation and child care, being on time, working to full potential, interacting with co-workers and staff...basically the skills one needs to procure and hold a job.

Site coordinator Maureen Donnelly directs the Production Center. She presently works with a company that provides machines and piece work to be done by participants. She sees the main goal for each individual to procure and maintain a job. Maureen works with reinforcing many of the skills necessary for a job: following specific directions and safety requirements, cleaning up the work area, communicating respectfully, and working with others, just to name a few. She finds that treating each with respect brings about the most positive attitude. 

Mary Lou McCall assists with the Mending Place and Garden.  At the Mending Place, the participants learn how to sew, work on inseams, hem, and iron, along with ripping out and starting over. They make articles like bags, aprons, pillowcases and cosmetic bags with zippers. As they progress, items are donated to other participants. She emphasizes team work, positive attitudes, being on time and seeing the strengths in one another.
Every Wednesday morning (weather permitting), participants walk to the Garden which is located off SBEC property. The lot is as large as a city block and was donated by Erie Insurance Collaboration. The participants work as a team cleaning, preparing, planting, weeding and harvesting. The fruits of their labor produce 900+ lbs. of food. By mid-June they were harvesting radishes which they shared with other participants and the Emmaus Soup Kitchen.

The Community Helpers site supervisor Sr. Patricia Witulski (Sr. Pat) oversees two projects. The first is based on the Linus Project which makes handmade baby blankets out of fleece for children at risk. Here participants learn measuring, cutting, customer service and telephone etiquette. Blankets are distributed to UPMC Hamot, Millcreek and St. Vincent hospitals and some shelters within the area. Each blanket has a beautiful inscription on it that reads, "Made by hearts and hands at SBEC."
The second Community Helpers on-site experience is cooking. Participants make casseroles and desserts. Measurements for cooking, baking, boiling, slicing and dicing, along with reading and following recipes are only some of the skills they develop. Every other week they prepare twenty casseroles for the City Mission. The City Mission provides services for families, women, children and men, serving three meals, 363 days per year, to more than 175,000 people.  On the other weeks, they prepare ten casseroles for Maria House, along with cookies, brownies, muffins or cupcakes, depending on the week’s menu.  The Maria House is a home that provides small group living for 30-35 men needing a community to heal. These individuals are recovering from addictions, mental and emotional illness, probation, parole, war and isolation. The participants are enthusiastic about what they create and the resulting outcomes.

 Each participant in a Community Service program works diligently at learning skills to prepare them for the work force. Receiving " Benny Bucks" rewards them for hard work and provides each one the opportunity to spend them for what they need at Treasures and Such. They might even find a blanket to purchase!