35 Years of Hope: Mary Whalen

Mary Whalen

Mary Whalen was working with the United Way when she came across an application for financial assistance from a shelter on the South Side of Chicago. “It was around 1990, and St. Martin’s was still in the little store down the street. I had to go out to see if they were legit.”

Mary completed her investigation, concluded that St. Martin’s was indeed legit, and began a relationship with the organization that continues to this day.

A long-time Board member and consultant, Mary describes St. Martin’s evolution over the years. “Sister Connie was the fundraising person. She was the one out front, making the connections. Sister Therese was the program person. Sr. Connie gave the organization leadership. Sr. Therese gave it love.

“We started off with a broad spectrum, helping anyone who was homeless. Then we realized we needed to focus on women with addiction problems, who had different needs than women without addictions.  Later, when we saw that the women were suffering not only from addiction, but also from mental health issues, we had to acquire skills in the counseling services.

“It was a challenge to set up skilled counseling services and learn how to staff this new program with structure and consistency,” Mary recalls. “We had people who really wanted to help, and we collaborated with other agencies. I worked with the staff trying to get them to work within a framework so we could see progress, moving ladies from Point A to Point B.  With our wonderful counselors, the ladies really started taking hold of their lives. Their progress was phenomenal.

“We’ve had such success with our ladies. We’ve had our ups and downs, and a lot of women got clean and sober and stayed that way. Working with St. Martin’s has been a wonderful ride. I have loved it. It’s very meaningful for me.”