Wed, 6 July 2011
Welcome to another edition of Re:New Michigan from Eiler Communications. This week's conversation with Brother Francis of the Catholic-oriented, nonprofit child care and family preservation agency, Holy Cross Children's Services has been transcribed due to some recording issues. We invite you to listen along while reading the transcription. For more information on Brother Francis and Holy Cross Children's Services, please visit the company's website: Hccsnet.org.
Larry: This is Larry Eiler with another edition of Re:New Michigan. And today I have Brother Francis Boylan who’s the head of Holy Cross Children's Services, which is an organization across Michigan that takes care of Children that are at risk. And we’re going to talk about what “at-risk” is. But we’re doing this right now because Brother Boylan and his colleagues at the Holy Cross at the Samaritan Center in Detroit have dedicated the new Ford Dental Clinic at 555 Connor.
We’ll talk a little bit about that and see how that fits into the overall offering of services of Holy Cross and Samaritan Center. So Brother Francis, good to welcome you. So tell us about Holy Cross and what it is and what it does, because it’s a state-wise organization that helps boys, girls and families.
Brother Francis: Thanks Larry. A brief history: In the 40’s and 50’s, we primarily housed and educated young men and women. The 60’s and 70’s we recognized we really have to find the family and support the family. In the 80’s and 90’s, the families taught us, if the communities don’t change, we can probably predict, our children won’t finish high school, etc.
So today, we moved up to our community centers, that we call Samaritan, who is my neighbor, located east side Detroit. The real concept of Samaritan is what we might think is prevention; helping moms with their young children now, so their kids stay in school and live productive lives. So that’s how we get involved in programs like head-start. Because, everyone of those, the early years are very important.
Larry: Those are national programs that have been around at the national level since my kids were very little.
Brother Francis: And it’s a program that has proven to be very successful. On the other end, we try to find our young people’s’ moms. And we try to help them find a job and a home. And today it gets somewhat complex, because if you don’t have resources, how do you get a job? It’s crucial to a job today.
Larry: And you need the proper clothing, you need training in how to behave in an interview, and you offer all of that?
Brother Francis: And that’s what we do. So, we’re going to have training services. For those who can’t afford the physicals, we have doctors to administer physicals. As you mentioned in those articles, we were the first monks to open a beauty salon.
Of course, the most important part is how we prepare people for the interview, so they have the self-confidence to go. So, it’s been a wonderful experience of providing diverse services that we believe bring love and hope and the education to folks that perhaps haven’t been loved and aren’t sure what they can truly believe in.
Larry: And to those in broken families and broken lives?
Brother Francis: Yes, indeed.
Larry: And you do this with a lot of young men, a lot of young women and with families and you do it through an organization called Holy Cross Children's Services which in fact has different outlets to perform these services all across Michigan.
Brother Francis: Yes, and for some, Holy Cross Children's Services is the organizational name. In each community we chose to have their name, so the community can get involved. And our goal is, do we support the community in caring for kids? We don’t want to be the group that says, “We’ll only do it when they’re dependent.” So yes, every center does have its own name.
We’re probably most recognized for the Boysville Campus. Secondly, St. Francis Saginaw because they’re now celebrating their 135 years of existence. So different communities have been very supportive and we hope to support them and care for the kids.
Larry: So you now have the Holy Cross Children's Services center is down Clinton, Michigan. And you have property that was given to you by the Ford family half a century ago. How much property is down there and what is that campus like?
Brother Francis: Henry Ford I in Macon, Michigan had set up a network of 6 country single-room schools and then had set up a campus to teach the high school kids agriculture and domestic work. That for a variety of reasons closed in about 1948 when we were trying to figure out how we can support young people with educational services.
So that’s where we are: Macon, MI. Today we still farm about 300 acres and the school is on 300 acres. The kids that live there came from almost 83 of the 85 counties in Michigan.
Larry: Yea, they’re from all over the state. They’re referred to the program through certain clerk systems and the kids have been involved in different things that have put them in the certain at-risk situations they’ve been in.
Brother Francis: Yes, yes.
Larry: so how many total acres are there on the campus down there?
Brother Francis: About 600.
Larry: About 600. So, 300 of the farming and 300 of the school yard. So what do they do with the farming? Do they have crops they farm?
Brother Francis: The students aren’t really involved in the farming today. The students stay with us probably less than a year now. So the major goal is reading, writing arithmetic, if you will. The farms really just help us bring some income to help us support the young people but basically, it’s just using the land productively.
Larry: So what kinds of crops are farmed?
Brother Francis: We still do soybean and corn. The gentleman that does our farming, Mr. Rule actually graduated from the Henry Ford Agricultural school and really done our farming for all of the 50 years. And I believe it’s all through the same Ford Tractor; a fairly simple operation.
Larry Eiler: Tell me about the Samaritan Center. That’s a partner organization of Holy Cross Children’s Services – it’s down in Southeast Detroit. And tell me what goes on down there.
Brother Francis: Several years ago, Ford Motor company a strategic plan. And the concept there was “how can the children that come to us, make it to college?” Because if we can prepare our young folks for college, they may be the first one in their family to finish high school and even think about college. There are many opportunities for our young people to go to college.
The Samaritan project really came into existence to find all the services that might be needed to support a child and a family so the child gets to this point in life. So the Samaritan project came into existence to really help the moms and dads.
So we brought together now, about 80 organizations that are committed to the east side of Detroit. And they are also committed to the beautification of Detroit. So, they’re going to do things like help providing doctors if you have no insurance, providing a physical if you need one. Resume writing, beauty salons, clothing stores, barber shops.
Larry: Ah yes, like barber shops and the like. You talked about someone who started a janitorial service for all the companies.
Brother Francis: That’s right, and at the same time, how do we really support the mom’s needs. Maybe she has special mental health needs or substance abuse needs. So how do we help mom? And how do we help mom take care of the kids? And how do we help mom take care of the kids…for example, our high school starts at noon and goes until 9pm.
So if the young person does have a job that is providing income for the family, it doesn’t mean he or she can’t go to school. So we’re very flexible, building a system around the needs of the kids. Of course, some organizations have wonderful programs, except there’s a number of problems like no transportation or the times are wrong, etc. etc.
Larry: You also have a charter school down there, and that’s for boys and girls. About 100 students too.
Brother Francis: Yes, boys and girls. We are expanding that school to the Westside. It’s designed for at-risk. Mr. Evans is an MIT grad. We have a robotics program, which is fairly unique for at-risk kids and provided an opportunity for our at-risk kids last summer actually to go to Africa to set up a solar network at a village. Besides our kids, there’s been an ongoing relief relationship with the kids in that community and through skype.
Larry: Skype’s a wonderful way to communicate.
Brother Francis: We’re just learning about this. The kids are teaching me.
Larry: That’s a good tool to learn. Skype’s free!
Brother Francis: It’s a wonderful opportunity.
Larry Eiler: One of the people that’s down working at the shop that you’re talking about, I’ve talked to him last week. He’s a product of Holy Cross. He graduated from Holy Cross and then he got involved in working there. And now he runs the model shop down there.
Brother Francis: Oh you’re talking about Sal, he started with us forty five years ago and had early businesses – he’s theoretically retired. He wanted to teach kids and come back to work with us. Much like himself, so that’s a nice coincidence.
Larry: That’s a great story. And now we have the Ford Ross Dental Clinic official dedicated on May 22. That’s the fourth building on that campus I believe.
Brother Francis: Cardinal Mathis will have a prayer service for all those we serve in that community because we’re really trying to follow the message of god to care for the least of our brothers and sisters. So it’s a time to thank and celebrate the people we love.
Larry: Well this is a fascinating story Brother Francis, and I’m glad you could take the time to talk with us and the Re:New Michigan audience because it’s very important that we pay a lot of attention to people who are at risk as well as others. So thanks for coming on here and we’ll talk more as this program develops and the new structures that we’re all having to face in terms of hardships in the state.
Brother Francis: Thank you. People are welcome to come by! We’ll be happy to share with you our services that are provided.
Larry: There’s always people in the front lobby and there’s parking over there, although it is pretty full from time to time with all the employees and business visiting. But there’s always someone in the lobby there willing to visit and talk about their service offering and what they can do.
This is Larry Eiler with edition of Re:New Michigan, signing off for today. Thank you very much for stopping by today Brother Francis.
Brother Francis: You’re welcome.