Sister Visitor Center still serving following break-ins

Amidst the chaos caused by four break-ins within the past four weeks, Sister Visitor Center has kept serving needy individuals in the city’s West End.

“It’s difficult. One of the challenging things is that one of the strong values at Catholic Charities and the Sister Visitor Center is wanting to be a welcoming space. … With several windows and doors boarded up, our clients don’t even know if we’re open,” said Sister of Charity of Nazareth Paris Slapikas.

But the center is open and it hasn’t stopped serving, said Sister Slapikas, who took the helm as director of Sister Visitor on June 1.

The first break-in occurred around May 17 or 18 with three more following. The fourth occurred early in the morning of June 7. The windows and doors facing the front of the building, located at 2235 W. Market Street, were broken and used as entry points, said Sister Slapikas.

Other than food from the pantry, nothing was taken. There’s evidence that whoever entered the building rummaged through staff offices, but nothing was taken from there either. Sister Slapikas said she suspects whoever did this was looking for money. But no money is kept on the premises.

The center is selecting a company to replace the doors and windows with more secure ones as quickly as possible, she said. Additional lights and cameras will also be installed.

The cost to the center is estimated at about $15,000, money that could have been used to serve clients, she noted.

The center’s biggest need right now is financial, she said. She’s hoping that with support from the community, the center will be able to upgrade its security system.

Sister Slapikas said she and her staff feel supported by the community.

“The local community is just as disturbed as we are,” she said, noting that several individuals have come by to express their support.

The Louisville Metro Police Department is investigating the break-ins and officers have been driving by the center more frequently as a measure of security, she said.

Though the plywood-clad exterior doesn’t “communicate a sense of safety and security to clients,” Sister Slapikas said, the staff has been working to let clients know they are available.

For instance, one of the boarded doors leads to the new choice pantry — housed in a newly re-designed space in the building — so staff members are making sure clients know they can enter from another part of the building, she said.

“The staff is resilient. There has been no interruption in services despite the chaos. They have gotten creative in how they serve clients. It’s a challenge, but the staff is great and up for the challenge. It’s been good to see,” she said.

Donations can be sent to the Sister Visitor Center, 2235 W. Market St., Louisville, Ky., 40212.

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