Sister Margaret's Legacy

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Almost 35 years ago, a new force invaded the Shreveport community; a force with guts and determination, ready to help those in need. Her name was Sister Margaret McCaffrey and she was a Roman Catholic nun on a mission to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless.

[Photo 1: Dinner at Hospitality House]

The organization Sister Margaret founded came to be called Christian Services, a name that fit her approach to living and working among the poor. She engaged all economic and social classes in her quest to expand the few services available at that time.

Sister Margaret's organization donated houses and hot meals in Ledbetter Heights, a poverty-stricken area at the edge of downtown Shreveport. Her organization saw Ledbetter Heights as an opportunity to provide for the poor and homeless in that community.

In what became known as the Brook Street Feeding program, she began feeding the community's hungry children who were not able to get breakfast before going to school. In 1983, it began operating as Hospitality House, a soup kitchen for the entire Ledbetter Heights community. Although the house was designed to seat 60, more than 200 people showed up each day. As with everything else, Sister Margaret figured out a way to help out everyone.

Sister Margaret's Turkey Heist

Stories abound about Sister Margaret's ability to schmooze the community for donations. One such story relays the events of a Thanksgiving when the twelve turkeys that were supposed to be used were stolen. As Mary Blalock, a long-time Christian Services employee, reports, "it wasn't thirty minutes before all the local TV, radio, and print media showed up and we ended up with enough turkeys for the next year and a half." To this day, local advocates and local historians refer to this as "Sister Margaret's Turkey Heist."

Although Sister Margaret passed away a long time ago, her legacy lives on. Franciscan Brother Giovanni Reid leads the efforts of what has become a multi-faceted organization of housing and services, but with the same mission of helping the poor. Christian Services is an integral part of the local continuum of care, countering homelessness with monthly assistance with utilities and rents, transitional housing, and permanent supportive units throughout Ledbetter Heights.

[Photo 2: Ribbon-cutting at Hospitality House]
On a recent Friday, Brother Gio's heart became full of joy when he welcomed the community to the dedication ceremony for the new Hospitality House. The dedication was held in a restaurant facility donated by a prominent family of restaurateurs, the Pete Harris family. The new facility comfortably seats 150; but we know twice that number will come through the doors each day.

And in the spirit of Sister Margaret, we will continue to ensure that Christian Services provides the food, clothes, jobs, and housing to the people that need it the most. Those that follow in her footsteps keep hearing her voice in their heads: Love your neighbor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless.

Content Archived: September 09, 2009