I Get Goose Bumps! I’m Doing Cartwheels!

“I get goose bumps every time I look at the before and after pictures!”

You might think Jessica Woolbright is talking about the women she encounters in her work as the Director of Saint Martha’s, a Catholic Charities ministry that helps women and their children who are impacted by domestic violence by offering safe, confidential shelter and services. Instead, she is talking about a building.

“There has been so much love and generosity poured into that building. And, you can feel it when you walk in.”

The building served as the parish office at Assumption in South St. Louis County when the parish was larger and needed more staff. The old building was in disrepair and being used to store items that probably just needed to be thrown away. In 2021, Saint Martha’s was looking for a place to serve as a drop in site, a place where women in crisis could drop in for help and healing.

Denise Riek was the parish business manager at the time. She and Jessica, along with Carla Maley, Saint Martha’s Director of Community Engagement, began talking about the dreams they had if they could share parish resources – the building and the parishioners – with Saint Martha’s existing resources to serve women and children.

“It’s what we are called to do as Catholics,” said Denise. “And the more we talked about the social justice issue with our parishioners, the more people came together to help.”

Parishioners, other volunteers and Saint Martha team members mobilized to rehab and refurbish the office building into the first St. Martha’s Drop In Center. The center has helped more than 150 people and moved even more parishioners to grow more deeply in their faith.

“When you see the need in front of you, you feel called to help, and our parishioners have given so much of themselves to help these families in so many ways,” said Denise. “In the end, though, we are all just loving our neighbor, and all of us benefit from the relationship between our parish and Saint Martha’s. When I think about how All Things New could bring about the same kind of shared resources with the same effect of helping us all grow closer to Jesus, I just want to do cartwheels!”

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