Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Serving the Poor Is Nun's Mission

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Serving the Poor Is Nun's Mission

Article excerpt

Some families arrive at 5:30 a.m. walking miles, unable to afford bus fare; they stand in the parking lot of Stillpoint House of Prayer on Tamiami Trail in Bradenton, waiting for distribution of food and other life necessities.

The large sign on the window reads "Be Still and Know that I am God." With small children in tow, quiet and still, waiting for the doors to open, families are greeted by Sister Noelle Hart.

"I am amazed at the number that walk here," Hart said.

The Franciscan nun, explaining that the charity's name is a Biblical reference, said, "They can experience what they need to value at the core of our being, at the 'still point.'"

Arriving in Bradenton a little more than a year ago, Hart dedicated herself to the ministry with the goal to meet the material and spiritual needs of the community.

"Our ministry is here to treat people with respect," she said. "We treat them as if they were Christ themselves."

Hart began her career in Lawrence, Mass., working with people from the Dominican Republic. She most recently worked in Albany, Ga., tending a soup kitchen and thrift shop.

Tied in with the migrant community, Stillpoint and its all- volunteer staff is busy year-round.

"We don't ask for documentation," Hart said. "Their documentation is that they're alive."

Receiving no government assistance, Stillpoint depends upon donations. Hart said Stillpoint leaders try to work with other area ministries to serve the needs of the community.

Not limited to handing out free food, Stillpoint provides a myriad of other services and is not limited to serving migrants; with the ranks of the poor burgeoning, people turn to Stillpoint for assistance.

As the only place to distribute diapers, so far this year, Stillpoint has given out more than 30,000 diapers in all sizes as well as free wet wipes.

As Kenny Mays arrived with a baby in a stroller, volunteers fussed over 10-month-old Kentron. Basking in the attention, the baby smiled and cooed.

"I try to bring him in so they can see him," Mays said. "They do a great job; they help me with food and clothing and all the kinds of baby necessities, stroller, crib. It's a blessing."

If Stillpoint has the money, they write up to 25 checks a day for sums of $20 to $40 to help someone keep their lights on or water running, and sometimes to a landlord to keep a roof over a family's heads. …

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