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EFS closing its doors

Educational/Family Services, located at 3850 United States 150, West Terre Haute.

After nearly 20 years of service to people in the West Terre Haute community and Vigo County, Education/Family Services (EFS), a program of Guerin Outreach Ministries, Inc., which is sponsored by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, will officially close its doors at the end of January.

Since 1995, the ministry has provided after-school tutoring and life skills lessons for children and basic education and GED instruction for adults. All services were offered at no cost.

Guerin Outreach Ministries, Inc., Development Director Sister Mary Tomlinson said the decision to close the doors at EFS was not taken lightly.

“I am saddened by the closure of EFS, but a realistic assessment of the financial situation shows that EFS can no longer sustain itself in the coming years,” Sister Mary said. “I know it has been a vibrant ministry for these years, but the time comes for all ministries to complete their mission.”

Sister Margaret Quinlan was one of the sisters who established EFS two decades ago.

“In the summer of 1995, with the encouragement of Sister Brendan Harvey, and then after discussions of possibilities with Sister Barbara Ann Zeller at Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries, I negotiated with people from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the Vigo County School Corporation, a number of churches in West Terre Haute and other community organizations about the need for adult education in the West Terre Haute area,” Sister Margaret said.“We began with a few people, tutoring at Providence Pantry in the basement of the old Saint Leonard’s School.

“We also began meeting people at the schools in West Terre Haute and the Vigo County Public Library, and had the use of a Vigo County School Corporation van to get to people for whom transportation was a problem.”

In August 1996, Sister Margaret said EFS was moved to a permanent location, 3850 United States 150, by the north entrance to the Sisters of Providence property at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Sister Margaret Quinlan teaches an adult student in 2000.
Sister Margaret Quinlan teaches an adult student in 2000.

Sister Margaret said EFS connected with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students through its Service Learning Program, and had several retired Sisters of Providence and volunteers who served as tutors, which helped EFS reach many people in the community.

She also said local resident Mickie Lane Frederick, who volunteered for six years and helped set up the children’s tutoring program, was a blessing for EFS.
Sister Margaret retired from the ministry in 2006. For the past eight years, Penny Sullivan has served as director of the EFS.

“Presently, she is working with 24 adults,” Sister Margaret said, mentioning the children’s program was discontinued at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year.

Sister Margaret said news of the closing brought back many memories.

“During the years I worked at the ministry, there were moments of sadness, learning that students or clients had died or been jailed, or had given up on their efforts with us,” she said.

“But there were poignant moments,” she continued. “The child who said, ‘I wish I could come here every day because it’s so clean.’ Or the gentleman who remarked, ‘I have no one to talk to but Jesus, I am so lonesome.’ There were also moments of triumph, with people attaining their goals, getting their GED or their driver’s license, getting employment, experiencing greater freedom at making healthy decisions for themselves.”

“I think Educational/Family Services has served the community well,” Sister Mary added. “But a series of things has forced EFS to complete its mission. Several schools in the area are offering their own tutoring program, thus EFS has had declining enrollment.

“While we had some success with grants and fundraising events, not enough funds were raised to maintain EFS.”

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a Congregation of nearly 250 women religious, with more than 280 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries may be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.
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For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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