Tackling women's needs for 100 years

  • Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 26, 2011 - 5:40 PM

One hundred years ago, the League of Catholic Women built a residence hall for single girls from across Minnesota who migrated to the Twin Cities in search of work.

A year later, it helped open St. Joseph's Home for "fatherless children and their mothers.''

Over the decades, the League's work evolved with the changing lives of women -- creating an AIDS ministry, a project for women leaving prison, and most recently a women veteran's outreach program.

This month, as the League marks its centennial, members reflected on its philanthropic role in the Twin Cities.

"They [members] tried to look at women's needs of the time and meet them,'' said Mary Ritten, the League's historian. "Our main thrust has been to support women as they try to better their lives.''

The League is an independent nonprofit, not part of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, and is volunteer-driven. It has about 600 members, said Ritten.

Its work is designed to fill gaps in the social safety net, she said. For example, the League delivers "Welcome Home Tote Bags'' to women leaving the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee. The totes hold grooming supplies and other personal items for women, as kind of a starter kit for entering their new lives.

Likewise last Sunday, members delivered hundreds of bags of "fresh, nutritious food ... not available at food shelves'' to churches in lower-income communities.

And the league is laying groundwork for a project to help women veterans get information on services to help them re-enter civilian life.

Like most nonprofits at this time, however, the league faces financial challenges, said Ritten, such as shrinking revenue from its endowment, rising costs of maintaining its downtown building, and ever-growing needs in the community.

"I can't say what keeps us going,'' said Ritten, "but I think someone wants us to continue.''

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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