30th Anniversary Gala Snapshot—Sister Mary & Joan Dawson McConnon
Below are the full remarks made by Sister Mary and Joan at our 30th Anniversary Gala.
JOAN: We have so much to celebrate tonight. The stories and the statistics, the videos and the speeches only scratch the surface of all that has happened these past 30 years. We truly witness our deepest measure in the thousands of lives that have been transformed, and through them, the seeds that have been planted in countless ways to strengthen our ever-growing community. There is so much richness in the relationships we experience in Project HOME—people from all walks of life, people with different kinds of struggles but also with different gifts and strengths, people who might never encounter each other if we didn’t take the risk of defying subtle social barriers. And we gather together this evening, as one amazing community, united in a shared purpose.
SISTER MARY: We are highlighting the many accomplishments and we are truly grateful for all that has happened, in large part through your generosity. We think of our dedicated, talented, and committed staff, past and present, who work tirelessly and give of themselves every day to bring our mission to life. We are grateful for the passion and strength of our residents, our neighbors, our adult learners, and other program participants.
We are grateful for the energy of the children and teens at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, who give us such reason to hope.
JOAN: Just five years ago at our 25th anniversary, we were celebrating the transformational gift by Leigh and John Middleton. We were also celebrating the opening of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Homes, where we began our young adult program. Since then we’ve developed the Stephen Klein Wellness Center, we’ve added 237 supportive housing units through the generosity of the Rayner Foundation, Ruth and Morris Williams, Sheila and John Connors, Janet and John Haas, and many others, and we’ve continued to engage with our brothers and sisters through the expanded services at the Hub of Hope. Our work is made possible because of our strong collaboration with the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Housing Authority. Our community is especially grateful for the invaluable partnership with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency under the visionary leadership of Brian Hudson.
SISTER MARY: Our theme tonight is “until all of us are home.” That very phrase tells us there is still much work to do. We know all too well that many people still live far from the home they so urgently need.
Many are on the streets, in the throes of addiction or untreated mental illness, suffering from abuse and marginalization, or young people facing uncertain futures. So tonight is a celebration, but it is also a launching of the next phase of our work. Next month we will officially open Gloria Casarez, an LGBTQ-friendly residence for homeless young adults. Sacred Heart will open shortly thereafter as a place for those beginning recovery right out of detox or off the street.
We have set three major goals for the next five years:
Housing is the cornerstone of what we do, and the most crucial element in overcoming homelessness. We will increase and preserve affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness. Our $150 million plan includes a substantial investment to develop and preserve 450 units of housing which will bring us to over 1,000 units. A key part of this will be the development of 100 units of recovery housing under the leadership of Megan Maguire and Paul Hondros to combat the opioid crisis in Kensington.
But housing is only the beginning.
Under this five-year initiative, we will expand our education and workforce development programs, including the expansion of the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, which your generosity tonight is helping make possible.
Our third area of focus is those who are still on our streets. Building on the success of the Hub of Hope, we will launch the Ambassadors of Hope, an expanded outreach program, in partnership with Center City District, the business community, and the City of Philadelphia.
JOAN: We have been deeply moved in recent years by the beautiful phrase often used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Beloved Community. Dr. King envisioned the Beloved Community as a society based on economic and social justice, rooted in love of one’s fellow human beings and sustained through the power of compassion to transform fear and hatred. While we are far from perfect, and we keep learning every day, the Project HOME community brings this vision to life in many ways. We share stories. We support each other in our struggles. We affirm each other’s dignity and we create the space for everyone’s gifts to come forth and contribute to our success.
SISTER MARY: Our plans are ambitious. The need is great, but so is the wellspring of concern and compassion. And so is the hope. We are ready to take the next steps on our common journey home. The future begins tonight, and looking around this room, I think we are off to an excellent start. We realize that kindness, mercy, and love are in fact the strongest truths we have. We share the conviction that beyond the many labels that keep us apart—nation, religion, ethnicity, gender, class, ability—all people share a deep bond, and that ultimately we need each other. We have grasped the mystery that by responding to human suffering we are led to the deepest truths about who we are and it is there we find the strength and energy to continue “until all of us are home”.
SISTER MARY: Joan and I want to take this opportunity to thank our phenomenal co-chairs, Margie and Jeff Honickman whose hard work and leadership has made this one of the most successful fundraising events ever in Philadelphia! And to honorary co-chairs Dorothea and Jon Bon Jovi for their invaluable partnership, dynamic leadership, and treasured friendship over the past 15 years. You are truly our rock stars!
And to our beloved honorees, Lynne and Harold, whose steadfast dedication, creative collaboration and golden hearts have made all the difference in our City, in our work, and in our lives. Congratulations and thank you!
JOAN: At this time, as we prepare for our meal, we would ask everyone to take a moment to reflect on the many blessings we share and to ask for the grace to continue to build the Beloved Community. Amen.