Meet Some of the Keeler Women, Volunteers and Community Partners
Rachel Pollock serves as Director of Refugee Services for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, one of the center’s partners. Her office is located next to the Keeler director’s office. It was in her early work with the refugees that she discovered the many resources that Keeler Women’s Center has to offer women from all walks of life. Her initial interaction with the Center was to refer clients for massages and haircuts, and very soon thereafter she was referring refugees to S. Esther for counseling, to the domestic violence classes, to Easy English classes and even to the knitting group. She immediately felt the calm atmosphere of the Center and recognized that the serenity that pervades Keeler would help her clients in their search for peace and tranquility in what is often a chaotic world and life situation. Rachel noted that the atmosphere of the center, characterized by fresh flowers, soft music and warm hospitality, are a reflection of the sisters’ generosity and their dedication to service. She commented, "The sisters see Jesus in the faces of the women who are served here." She feels that the variety of services offered at Keeler are making a very positive impact in the central city of Kansas City and that the peace, beauty and serenity that permeate the center touch the hearts of all who come--staff, volunteers and clients alike.
Lisa Jacobson lives in Overland Park and volunteers at Sanctuary of Hope in Kansas City, KS. It was there that Father Dennis Wait introduced her to Keeler Women’s Center. She came to Keeler seeking help with relationship issues and joblessness. She has found great peace through the counseling available here. Lisa has participated in the Relationships Class that she describes as excellent, encouraging women to talk about their issues in an atmosphere of support and encouragement. She also praised the Empowering Ourselves series where Roxanne encouraged the women to exchange opinions and ideas in a supportive environment. She described her coming to Keeler as being led by the Holy Spirit through prayer at a particularly important time in her life. Lisa concluded her comments by saying that being at Keeler is, "like being in someone’s home" with warmth, hospitality and peace, loving kindness shared among all.
Eartha Fields' first encounter with Keeler Women’s Center was several years ago. She came to the Center in need of bus passes to get to work. She met with one of the Sisters who said, “God must have known you were coming. I have extra bus passes today.” Eartha has been a regular at Keeler ever since.
She describes that time in her life as "spinning out of control," and the kindness she experienced at Keeler gave her encouragement, peace and a feeling of being safe. Through classes ranging from Spiritual Direction to Life Skills to All Addictions, Eartha has found inner peace and improved self-esteem. The people at the Center have helped her to recognize her worth as a person and given her confidence in herself to open up to others. "At Keeler no one judges you," Eartha said. “You are treated with respect, kindness, and encouragement. It is a place where women help women, regardless of their appearances or life situation. It is a place of no judgments.” Eartha concluded by saying, "When women need support-spiritually or emotionally-Keeler is the answer! It’s all good!"
Although Alicia first started volunteering with Keeler Women’s Center to fulfill mandatory volunteer hours for school, she fell in love with the work she does here, and is now a regular volunteer. Born in Mexico, Alicia moved to Kansas City in 2006. She now uses her bilingual status to play a crucial role as a translator at Keeler. An education major at Donnelly College, she hopes to use her English and Spanish skills to become an ESL teacher in the future. “I just want to make a difference in my community. I want to be an ESL teacher to help the people who are in the same situation as I was.”
“It feels good to see people who come here with smiles on their faces. It doesn’t matter who you are, the sisters treat everyone equally. I just think they are really good people. It’s a great place to be. I feel proud to be part of it.”
Marla Looper found the Keeler Women’s Center in 2008, through a friend. Today, she is a family interventionist serving individuals, couples and families impacted by addiction. Marla’s commitment to those at the Keeler Center is professional and personal. She began teaching Keeler classes when she was 16 years in recovery from alcoholism. “I’m not just growing myself, but seeing others grow too,” Marla says. “That enhances my own spirituality and recovery.”
The reentry group, Living Free, is designed for women who have recently been released from jail, guiding them through addiction, domestic violence and relationships. “We’re getting them to where they need to be to start over,” Marla says. Marla also leads Group Affirmations, the next step after Living Free. Participants gain abilities to change their thinking and their lives. Through group cognitive therapy, these women apply skills for independent, healthy lives.
“I didn’t ever think I’d do what I’m doing today. It’s been the best journey, beyond my wildest dreams,” she says. “Without the Keeler Center, I can’t imagine where I’d be.”
Jane found out about Keeler Women’s Center when she volunteered with Catholic Charities, but it wasn’t until she met Sister Bridget at a retreat that she made a personal connection to the center. At the retreat, Jane was inspired by a talk Sister Bridget gave on spiritual direction, and she later asked Sister Bridget to be her own spiritual director. Jane now visits Keeler every month for spiritual direction. “I really appreciate Sister Bridget as a spiritual director. It’s nice to get perspective from her on things that may be different from my own in my lay life.”
From Jane Walton: “Everyone here is very open and welcoming. It has a really nice environment.”
Deb Campbell & Connie Bohannon-Roberts
A graduate of Benedictine College and a specialist in drama therapy, Deb founded A Couple of Characters Senior Puppeteers and is executive director of TEN Senior Theatre in KC. She came to The Keeler Women’s Center last spring with the idea to begin a theater program.
After meeting Connie, founding artistic director of Prairie Mamma Productions and Co-founder of Creede Repertory Theatre in Creede, Colorado through a mutual friend, Deb asked her to help lead the workshop. Together, they ran a six-week theater workshop last spring, and an intensive 2-day theater workshop last month.
The two have also worked with sisters at the Dooley Center in Atchison, and plan to continue teaching theater workshops at Keeler. Their classes are open to women of all adult ages and ethnicities.
“We love the sisters. They are just so much fun. They've given us so much support.” – Connie Bohannon-Roberts, volunteer.
“We want to take the stories of Keeler women being resilient and communicate their stories through theatre.” Deb Campbell, volunteer.
Ruth has been volunteering at The Keeler Women’s Center since the summer of 2011. She enjoys her position as the office’s Monday afternoon receptionist, where she greets Keeler’s guests, clients and volunteers, answers the phone, and takes messages. Ruth volunteered her services after seeing a call for volunteers in the Leaven. The sisters customized Ruth’s volunteer hours to meet her schedule, and Ruth hasn’t missed a day of work.
When asked about her work at Keeler, Ruth said, "It's just a nice place to be. I feel like it's a good match for me."
Jeanne started visiting Keeler "once or twice a week." Jeanne's interests were broad. She participated in programs on home organization, communication skills, and a monthly Holy Women series. Jeanne learned practical skills in preparing for job interviews, such as what to wear and how to present herself. Jeanne also discovered her craft skills.
Week by week, Jeanne found that she "liked the fellowship" as well as learning and began recommending Keeler to others. Jeanne finds the Sisters and volunteers at Keeler to be always welcoming.
A free haircut brought Mary Ann to Keeler Women's Center. Her trip began at 7:00 a.m., walking more than a mile to board the first of three buses. After her haircut, Mary Ann joined the Affirmations Group. She often attends more than one program when she makes the long trip to Keeler. The full range of Keeler offerings are helping her get beyond what Mary Ann simply calls, "a rough patch."
Maya (not her real name)
Maya saw a sign for Keeler Women's Center in the unemployment office. An upcoming class on starting a home-based business caught her eye, as well as a class in theater.
Maya says, "The women here stand out as individuals but they share lots of things in common. The staff and the volunteers have beautiful smiles, and they listen. The energy at Keeler is positive. Nobody makes you feel bad about yourself. In fact, they let you know that you are important to them. So many other women could use that positive energy."
Martha LaVan is the earliest office volunteer at Keeler Women's Center, serving as the Monday morning receptionist for almost a decade. Martha also tutors in the basic literacy program twice a week, and her work at Keeler led her to be a literacy volunteer at Lansing Prison.
Martha sees the spirit of Keeler as, "we never say no." Tell us what you need, and we will either provide it or connect you with that service. Tell us what service you can offer, and we will connect you with women who can benefit.
Read some quotes from Keeler women and clients