Heroine of Fight Against Homelessness to be Honored Oct. 25

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On Sunday, October 25, Sister Marie Sullivan, O.P, will be honored in a special tribute event to commemorate her tireless commitment over the last 50 years to helping save countless families on the brink of homelessness.

We try to give individuals the tools and the resources they need to become self-reliant

On Sunday, October 25, Sister Marie Sullivan, O.P. -- one of the nation’s quiet heroines in the fight to help people on the margins of the economy -- will be honored in a special tribute event at the Georgia State University Arena.

For the past quarter-century in Atlanta – and for a quarter-century before that in Kansas City – Sister Marie has led small, but potent, non-profit organizations that have earned the recognition and gratitude of thousands.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, among other dignitaries and community leaders, will be on hand to laud Sister Marie in person. The 4 – 6 pm tribute ceremony and reception will follow the Atlanta commemoration of National Project Homeless Connect Day, also to be held in the GSU Arena. Also scheduled to speak is Bill Bolling, the founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank

“We try to give individuals the tools and the resources they need to become self-reliant,” says Sister Marie, 75, a quiet but powerfully determined person for whom selfless service to others is not just a spiritual mantra, but a daily practice.

Admission to the public recognition ceremony is free. Individual tickets for a private reception following will be $20. All proceeds will go towards The Sullivan Center to aid in continuing its work in homelessness prevention.

In 1984, Sister Marie’s work with a coalition of churches that provided emergency assistance and education to low-income and homeless people helped give birth to the Christian Emergency Help Centers. Ten years later, in 1994, the board of the CEHC voted unanimously to honor Sister Marie by changing its name to The Sullivan Center.

In the last fifteen years, Sister Marie’s namesake—a true gem in the Atlanta community—has evolved into a source of assistance, knowledge and inspiration for many of its clients. If a father is in need of money to pay his mortgage, he will only receive a check after completing a series of financial literacy classes; similarly, if a mother in the midst of job hunting asks for job leads, she will work privately with a career coach to learn the skills necessary for today’s employment market and collaborate on a tailored action plan for moving forward in her job search. Additionally, if a family is in need of food, they are required to attend a nutrition class in order to learn the importance of providing healthy food to all family members.

In addition to her work with the homeless and near-homeless population, Sister Marie is regarded as a true visionary, possessing that rare ability to address issues before they even appear as problems. In 1986, Sister Marie recognized that there was a need to use emerging technology as a means of tracking both the assistance programs as well as aid received by clients in the Atlanta area. To this end, she worked to establish Metropolitan Atlanta Clearing House, the first centralized computer database for Atlanta area assistance agencies.

Now called Pathways, this independently run organization links together the assistance programs in Atlanta and is also used in several other cities across the United States. The success of this program has allowed for ease of sharing necessary information between agencies as well as ensuring that clients are using their assistance wisely.

Marie Sullivan has received awards and recognition over the years for her ongoing efforts and success in helping those who most need “a hand up, not a hand out.”
A few highlights include:

  • Received the 11 Alive Community Service Award (WXIA-TV, Atlanta). June 1995.
  • Appreciated for "Outstanding Leadership" by Technology/Career Education, A Division of the Atlanta Public School System. August, 1999.
  • W.O.M.E.N. (Women of Multi-Ethnicity and Nationality) recognize Sister Marie as one of the diverse, outstanding women in Atlanta. March 2007.

For more information, please contact The Sullivan Center’s executive director, Terry Tucker, at (404) 753-0531 ext. 11. To register for the Sister Marie tribute event, submit your own personal story about Sister Marie or make a donation to the center, click on The Sullivan Center .

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