Oblate order dedicates center to aid abused, neglected girls Building can accommodate 24 clients ages 7 to 17

July 03, 1998|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The Oblate Sisters of Providence celebrated the 169th anniversary of its founding yesterday by dedicating a new building in East Baltimore that will serve as a shelter for young girls who have been abused, abandoned or neglected.

The Mary Elizabeth Lange Center is named after the woman who established the first order of women religious of African descent July 2, 1829. The center is in a three-story cinder block and brick building next to St. Frances Academy, the order's high school on East Chase Street. The center will begin taking its first clients next month.

"Our charism is education, but education doesn't only take place in the classroom," said Sister Claudia Sanz, superior general of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and executive director of the center. "The need for something like this is tantamount. So many times we take for granted that children are loved, cared for, that there is someone at home to listen to them."

The Lange Center can accommodate 24 girls between the ages of 7 and 17. At least some of the girls will be referred by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

"The more variety of resources we have for young people, the better, because we try to match the resources that are available to the needs of each child," said Sue Fitzsimmons, a DSS spokeswoman.

The center was funded with grants from Community Development Financing Corp., the city Department of Housing and Community Development and several private groups. It will be run by a staff with backgrounds in social work or psychology. Two sisters will live with the girls at the Lange Center. One will be involved directly with the youths, and a second will coordinate food service, said Maryanne Joynes-Ryan, the assistant director.

Joynes-Ryan, who is a licensed social worker and is not affiliated with the Oblate sisters, said she likes the mix of religious sisters and lay professionals.

The living quarters were designed to allow for close supervision that is standard with such residential programs, but with homey touches: lacey curtains, colorful bedspreads and small living rooms with overstuffed furniture.

"Of course, it's an institution, but we don't want this to have an institutional feel," Joynes-Ryan said.

Girls will live at the center for several days up to a maximum of a year, with two or three months being typical. In addition to serving abused and neglected girls referred by social services, the center has set aside four beds to accommodate runaways, "girls who might need a refuge for a few days or a weekend until the social worker can get them back to their families," Sister Claudia said.

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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