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Woodlawn Heroes:
Sister Therese O’Sullivan, Project Brotherhood

What a neighborhood can be is largely a function of what its residents and the people who work there do. On a day-to-day basis, their actions – organizing block clubs, mentoring the children of incarcerated parents, providing shelter to homeless people, tending a neighbor’s garden – may not be heroic in the popular sense.

But those actions, and countless others like them, are what make a place what it is. And the people – the community heroes – saluted by the New Communities Program lead agencies and their partners are the ones doing the heavy lifting, often with little acknowledgement or reward.

The community heroes for Woodlawn are Sister Therese O’Sullivan and Project Brotherhood. Congratulations to them and all of the other community heroes for their commitment to improving Chicago neighborhoods.

Sister Therese O’Sullivan

Photo: Courtesy NCP/Woodlawn

Sister Therese O'Sullivan

Sister Therese O’Sullivan, the co-founder and current president of the St. Martin de Porres House of Hope in Woodlawn, has South Side roots that run long and deep.

She grew up in the neighboring community of Grand Crossing, graduated from Loretto Academy at 65th and Blackstone and joined the St. Cyril Parish, just up the street, where she taught 1st grade until 1983.

It was then that she and Sister Connie Driscoll established the House of Hope as a shelter for homeless women. Since then it has evolved into a facility equipped with a full recovery program, as they realized the leading cause of homelessness among women was addiction to alcohol and drugs. It is now a safe and secure recovery home where women work on their sobriety while caring for their children.

Over the years, Sister O’Sullivan and St. Martin de Porres House of Hope have received numerous awards, including a presidential commendation from George W. Bush, the Illinois Model Family Program Award and Woman of the Year from Chicago Catholic Women. “Sister Therese’s untiring dedication and service to Woodlawn is an inspiration to all of us,” said Arvin Strange, program director of NCP Woodlawn.

Project Brotherhood

Photo: Courtesy of Project Brotherhood

Project Broterhood's (from left) Dr. Bonnie Thomas; Michael B. Woods, director of outreach; Craig Spivey, director of socvial services; and Marcus Murray, executive director.

Is there a connection between good health and a good haircut? The dedicated physicians who established Project Brotherhood at the Woodlawn Health Center think so.

Alarmed by high rates of colon-rectal cancer (curable if diagnosed early) among African-American men, the doctors understood the urgency of getting men promptly screened for the illness.

But how to get them in the door? Through barbershop outreach and free trims at the health center. Project Brotherhood developed a 12-hour, culturally specific curriculum to train 11 barbers at five local barbershops on how to educate their clientele about colon cancer while they cut hair. Meanwhile, free haircuts are available every Thursday at Project Brotherhood support group sessions at the health center.

The barber serves as the point of contact for many of Project Brotherhood’s services. If while cutting hair the barber uncovers a social or medical issue that needs to be addressed, he guides the client to a doctor or social worker for assessment and intervention.

“It’s a simple but effective way to get men screened for serious health conditions,” said Arvin Strange, program director of  NCP Woodlawn. “Barbershops, and barbers, are providing an invaluable service.”

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