Abell Salutes: Sister Charmaine, St. Ambrose and St. Vincent de Paul

September 2000 / Salutes / Health and Human Services

For improving quality of life — by the numbers.

Of good intentions to come-to-the-aid-of-the-poor, there is no shortage; many hearts and minds are at work. But in an area of social service that is more art than science, actual measurements of results are hard to come by. Which makes the work of Sister Charmaine Kroh notable: In the distressed southern Park Heights neighborhoods where she moves words into deeds, she keeps track. She has numbers.

Sister Charmaine directs the St. Ambrose Outreach Center, now partnered with the St. Vincent DePaul Society, operating in new, state-of-the-art administrative headquarters at 3445 Park Heights Avenue. The streets that once were home to the middle class are now an unhappy mix of the worst of the social pathologies—drugs, hunger, alcohol, domestic violence, crime, joblessness, low graduation rate. But the size and stubbornness of the problems do not deter her in her work—to turn lives, and a neighborhood, around.

In the scheme of things, in the larger context of the distressing numbers, Sister Charmaine’s record for “getting things done” may be viewed as modest, but don’t tell that to the people living in southern Park Heights Avenue whose lives have been touched by the Sister and her work. In the past year, through the center’s programming, they can point to Sister Charmaine’s numbers—so far this year…

  • 15 adults have earned their GED’s
  • 10 have been placed in jobs
  • 1,500 have been fed lunches
  • 25 are now taking a literacy course, and are working towards their GED
  • 300 families have received supplementary food

Of course, not all data in support of Sister Charmaine’s efforts are hard; some are soft. Major John McEntee, Commander at the Northwest District, says, “We seldom get calls from the people in the several blocks where Sister Charmaine lives and works. I think that is because she has made it her business to know everybody and to be there for them—those not in trouble and those that are, including the junkies. I took a walk with her through the area. We must have stopped and talked to 30 people. I could tell by the conversations how much Sister has helped these neighborhood families, She is their advocate in the support agencies that they are involved with. Without quoting numbers, I know she is making a difference.”

The Abell Foundation salutes Sister Charmaine, who with the help of the St. Ambrose Outreach Center, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, do not merely aspire to improve the quality of life in southern Park Heights, they are making it happen.