It was early morning in 2004 and November’s heavy night frost still hung in the air. As Sister Pat hurried past the covered patio outside the clothing bank’s sorting room, she noted that the homeless woman whom she had allowed to sleep there had not yet awakened. Concerned, she approached her to make sure she was alright. She was shocked to see that the woman’s hair was actually frozen!
This encounter led to Sister Pat and our founder, Doris Michalek, having a serious discussion about whether they should allow Leslie to sleep inside the family home building on the property. Realizing that this homeless woman was newly estranged from her family, they had been trying to help her find work. Keeping her from freezing to death now seemed an even higher priority.
The next night found Leslie safe and sound in an upstairs room of the house. In the course of the next weeks, Doris succeeded in helping Leslie secure work at the local Baskins Robbins. Within a month after finding work, Doris had suggested to one of St. Francis House’s friends that she offer one of her small apartments to Leslie. This kind landlady took Leslie in and befriended her.
But Leslie’s times of trial and tribulation were not over. She was diagnosed with cancer and required a surgery that was followed by months and years of difficult treatments. Her landlady supported her through this, helping her to get to her treatments and forgiving sometimes inadequate rent payments. A little over six months ago, Leslie lost her battle with the disease.
After Leslie’s death, her landlady finished taking care of her affairs. One day not long ago, she arrived in Sister Pat’s office with a check for $20,000! This was what was left of Leslie’s estate. Her often repeated wish that she could somehow repay her debt to St. Francis House was finally fulfilled!
This gift has been placed in a special emergency assistance fund. It is designated for use in helping older women living on our streets, one of the fastest growing groups in our homeless population. It will be used for something that would make a significant difference in helping these women become housed again. We have been “standing on tiptoe” waiting to see whom God will send us as a candidate for Leslie’s gift of gratitude!