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Connecting hope and assistance to a community in need

Sister Dorothy collects donated yarn which she then delivers to men and women in prison. The inmates knit the baby yarn into baby hats, blankets and booties for needy families (in conjunction with Union Hospital). They create warm afghans for the Connelderly in nursing homes with the regular yarn.

Connecting Link will celebrate 20 years of service to West Terre Haute on July 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn more…

“It’s as if Providence is there, waiting to provide. Someone comes in and says ‘I have to take care of my grandkids whose parents are now in jail. I need some beds.’ Within 24 hours, I’ll have two twin beds show up,” said Sister Dorothy Rasche, SP, (formerly Sister Rose Martin), director of The Connecting Link, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. “Another time we were bringing a bed into the empty office space off a truck and someone came by and asked for it. We didn’t even make it in the door.”

Since 1997 Sister Dorothy has helped assemble citizens, officials and organizations to address and meet common community needs. She’s considered “the watchdog” of West Terre Haute, the small town nearest Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, with a population of 2,480.

In the past five years, The Connecting Link has assisted 4,240 clients, 701 of which were first-time clients. The ministry is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017. Whether it’s working with animal control, demolishing abandoned homes or finding social services for a family, Sister Dorothy connects individuals to direct-service agencies and vice versa. She’s also directed clients on how to obtain unemployment, disability and Social Security benefits and referred them for low-income legal assistance and home ownership assistance.

Besides her individualized assistance, Sister Dorothy has also helped address larger systemic issues that affect the whole community.

Sister Dorothy Rasche confers with Gary Couch, a WTH resident and business owner, about a client who needs assistance paying a utility bill before services are shut off.

Community Organizing

Saving the west branch of the Vigo County Public Library was a recent success. “We persuaded the library to relocate to a closed day care, rather than closing. The people on the town council have other jobs and don’t have time to do everything that needs to be done. I heard of something happening and helped get parents, students and teachers to show up at meetings to talk, in force,” said Sister Dorothy. The library’s move also resulted in a larger space for community programs.

Similar advocating resulted in the opening of an outpatient branch office of Hamilton Center (a not-for-profit mental health center) in West Terre Haute. Sister Dorothy helped pull the right people together for focus groups to determine the needs of the community. Bringing pharmacy services into West Terre Haute is next on Sister Dorothy’s to-do list.

West Terre Haute did not have town-wide trash pick-up. The town council president asked Sister Dorothy and Megan Miller of Providence Housing Corp., to look into the issue. The two talked with the clerk/treasurer in Farmersburg to find out how they solved a similar problem. They also talked to Republic Services. Town-wide trash pick-up services are now provided in West Terre Haute. It’s resulted in a cleaner town and a savings for residents who previously contracted individually for trash pick-up.

Sister Dorothy also ministers in the Federal Bureau of Prisons Life Connections Program as a spiritual guide to inmates interested in a pathway to personal change and development.

Whether she’s at the prison or at The Connecting Link, “being a Sister of Providence makes me more approachable,” said Sister Dorothy. “People are not afraid to share their personal stories, how their life has been so hard and what’s bothering them. They feel that I represent the Church (not just Catholics).”

20 years of advocacy

Storing donated furniture, including beds, frames, sofas, chairs and dining room tables is all part of a day’s work for Sister Dorothy. She never knows what needs will arise for West Terre Haute residents.

Sister Dorothy has always had a heart to serve. So it seemed a natural fit more than 20 years ago when then-General Superior Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, SP, asked her to open The Connecting Link ministry to help give back to the often-struggling community right outside Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Sister Dorothy, with the help of Sister Rita Black, SP, began the ministry in 1997. Today, a nine-member advisory board meets bimonthly.

Sister Dorothy can see a difference those 20 years of service and advocacy have made. The people of West Terre Haute seem more hopeful. There is a feeling of pride within the community, she said. “We’ve helped break stereotypes. People have come to believe that we are here to break boundaries and create hope.”

Your donations to the Sisters of Providence support ministries like The Connecting Link that make a direct impact in the lives of people in need.

If you live near the West Terre Haute area, Sister Dorothy says there are many other ways to assist the ministry. The Connecting Link can always use good quality furniture like mattresses, tables and chairs. Volunteers are needed to help the poor and elderly with roofing repairs, window, electrical and furnace issues. She also encourages people to consider serving on The Connecting Link board to help build up new programs. Contact Sister Dorothy at 812-533-4403 or drasche@spsmw.org to learn more.

(Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Diane Weidenbenner

Diane Weidenbenner is the annual fund manager and donor relations for the Sisters of Providence Advancement Services office. She's also a Providence Associate.

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