“…the very coolest people in the world today may be nuns.”

Well, if Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times believes it, who am I to argue? Plus, I’ve got the incredible example of Sister Marie Sullivan to further convince me.

Sister Marie attends my church, Our Lady of Lourdes, but all week long, she’s out doing her thing in the ‘hoods of Hotlanta. That involves running the Sullivan Center for the homeless (named after her), where she has toiled for 25 years to improve the lives of those in crisis. And starting Ecopaat – a 7-year old community garden initiative that’s dedicated to providing every inner city neighborhood with access to fresh vegetables by creating small local gardens, one plot at a time (it’s already planted 70). And of course, she is still doing water aerobics a few times a week to keep her body as fit as her mind and spirit – if that would be possible.

Sister Marie and Friends.

Sister Marie joined the Dominican order when she was 17, after growing up in an Irish household in Chicago and finding her calling. She spent two years as a novitiate at The Mound in Wisconsin, then was sent to teach elementary school in the inner city neighborhoods of New York for 20 years, before being sent back to the Midwest. Sister Marie was obedient to her order but she was also intellectually curious and wanted to learn how to work the system for good. So she got her Masters in Social Work from St. Louis University and began to work in homelessness prevention in Kansas City.

Garden plots at DeFoor Ferry

In 1983, Bill Bolling of the Atlanta Community Food Bank persuaded Sister Marie, sight unseen, to come and work with her southern sisters to help the poor. And she’s been going at it ever since. Her radical idea was to get completely involved in the life of the community –and enable churches to work their outreach programs systematically, cooperatively, and relentlessly on behalf of people in need.

Sisterhood is powerful.

She wrote government grants, pulled together seniors and school kids, worked with the Model Cities program, and educated the poor in money management, nutrition and legal aid. She also helped to found Pathways, an innovative computer system used by nonprofits to track where people had been helped before and how successfully, to prevent organizations from duplicating services.

Sister Marie and master gardener Veronia inspecting the garden.

I can’t tell you how much I love that Sister Marie, at the age of 79, is turning blighted urban spaces into green organic gardens to fuel the souls and bodies of people in great need – and still working every day at her Sullivan Center in prevention, education and inspiration.

Kristof was right: Sister Marie is one of the coolest people I know – and my $100 today goes to fund her latest, greatest venture, Ecopaat. To join me, click here!


What Gives News Flash!

I’m going to be on Martha Stewart tomorrow, Wednesday December 22, talking about Giving and probably giving Martha a few cooking tips. Don’t miss it!