It is one of the poorest areas of Pennsylvania, Fayette County, located in the western part of the state. The land is hilly and breathtaking, but the beauty is sometimes eclipsed by the struggle that so many families face, that of daily survival. In the area of Dunbar alone, where there are a little more than 1,200 people, 10 percent of the residents rely on food banks.
Rendu Services is working to improve the lives of the impoverished and marginalized through a wide variety of social outreach programs. SCNs are part of this collaborative ministry along with Sisters from the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. The Sisters working at Rendu Services provide services in after-school activities and other outreach programs for children as well as a monthly food pantry distribution center. They also offer a nursing program and a mobile health clinic. These innovative programs are making a difference.
A renovated RV which serves as a mobile health clinic visits 18 locations around the county. Often sitting behind the steering wheel of the RV, Alice O’Connell, SCN, who drives to key locations, like the post office to set up the clinic. There she administers a number of check ups including monitoring blood pressure and discussing healthy eating habits.
Among the successes, the story of one young pregnant woman who was rushed to the delivery room after a routine checkup at the mobile health clinic van. She was not aware of her high blood pressure, discounting the discomfort as labor pains. The quick actions of SCN Sarah Geier, a nurse, sent the young woman to the hospital. The woman’s mother is forever grateful to Rendu Services saying the program saved the life of her daughter and that of her unborn grandson. The woman is now a volunteer with Rendu Services.
Another Sister in ministry in Western Pennsylvania, Ann Horvat, SCN, works at the St. Vincent DePaul store. She assists the economically challenged people of the community to create access to the basic needs of daily living.
During these tough economic times, food pantries in the area are finding that they have less food to give families in need. Such is the case with the Rendu Services food pantry. In fact, the pantry was not able to sign up new families until January 2012. In an effort to highlight this plight, Sister Alice found a creative way to raise awareness and food donations, a zumbathon.
Mary Francis Bassick, DC, is the administrator of Rendu Services. She lights up when talking about this ministry, “this program is not about bringing Christ to the poor, that Christ is already with them. It is Rendu Services that provides a moment of peace in someone’s life, whether it be a break for their children in an after-school program or peace of mind at a health screening. So that in that moment of peace, that they may find Christ in their lives.”