Described by those who utilize its services as a “community within a community,” St. Margaret’s House in South Bend is a destination where women and children are accepted for who they are, regardless of their circumstances.
For 26 years, Kathy Schneider has committed thousands of hours to helping women struggling with poverty in her position as executive director. St. Margaret’s House serves as a day center for women and children that provides basic services such as breakfast and lunch, clothing, toiletries, laundry facilities, computers, and showers.
Through a variety of programs, St. Margaret’s House helps approximately 80 women and children each day to overcome their challenges by networking with other women and children.
“The most important thing is that we do it in a context of community, where women can see themselves for their gifts and their talents rather than their problems, and do so in a community of support,” Kathy says. “We can’t always solve every woman’s problem, but we can provide them with the tools necessary.”
Kathy oversees a staff of 10 employees and 150 volunteers per week, and helps to guide St. Margaret’s House’s mission and fundraising efforts.
“My job is to ensure we have an open door to everybody and that we serve people with what they need in a personalized way. It’s not a one-size-fits-all program at all,” Kathy says. “Sometimes we find that women come to share their successes or their joys as much as their problems. When you’re kind of struggling in life anyways, sometimes having someone to tell your good news to is what you need to get down the road you’re trying to get.”
One way the organization accomplishes that mission is by sharing regularly among the group.
“Before lunch every day everyone shares their victories, their prayer requests and then we bless their food,” Kathy says. “It’s a chance for people to say, ‘I got a job today,’ or ‘my child graduated high school.’”
St. Margaret’s House offers a day shelter and programming throughout the entire calendar year, but, following the community atmosphere that is so important to its mission, St. Margaret’s House offers a number of ways for participants to celebrate the holidays with one another.
“We have a Christmas shop where we collect new gifts and we give out new gifts to the mothers and their children. Each mom comes and shops for herself and her children,” Kathy says. “If people want to, they can donate to that. Of course we always need monetary donations.”
People can also give to St. Margaret’s House throughout the year by donating toiletries.
“We only give what we bring in,” Kathy says. “We do not go out and buy toiletries, so the donations are important.”
People can also donate food and money to help St. Margaret’s House help the organization take care of its participants.
The St. Margaret’s House website describes its mission with one Bible passage. Matthew 25: 35-36 says “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and welcomed me. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me.”
Simply put, Kathy says, “We are designed to help every woman take her next step forward. We are here to help.”
How to give:
To donate, visit stmargaretshouse.org, or mail donations to St. Margaret’s House at 117 N. Lafayette Blvd. South Bend, IN 46601
Photography by Wes Jerdon/Westley Leon Studios