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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Judy Roberts | author
Oct 01, 2010
Filed under Featured

The heart of a brother

Br. Boylan is at the heart of the Holy Cross Brothers’ grace-filled mission . . .

Br. Francis Boylan, CSC

Br. Francis Boylan, CSC

Buddie Hadley’s job loading and driving a truck kept him on his toes, but it also gave him a pair of aching feet. And without health insurance, he had nowhere to turn for relief.

So when a co-worker told him about a clinic at Detroit’s Samaritan Center that could help him, Hadley paid a visit to the Center’s Dr. Margaret Ann Meyers. She diagnosed his problem as “arch drop,” asked for his shoe size and gave him some supports for his feet.

“She knows what she’s doing,” Hadley said. His feet no longer hurt.

Beacon of hope

Hadley is just one of 1,200 Detroit area residents helped every day through the multitude of community resources housed in the Samaritan Center, a former hospital located in what is known as the poorest zip code in the country. Eighty percent of young people in 48213 never graduate from high school — and 85% of the children are born to single mothers.

When Mercy Hospital closed in 2000, the owners began looking for a group to use the facility, but still provide some health care. Holy Cross Children’s Services, a nonprofit childcare and family preservation agency operated by the Holy Cross Brothers, stepped in. Together with SER Metro of Detroit, Holy Cross founded Samaritan Center, transforming the 27-acre campus into a center that houses a panoply of services, ranging from a primary care center to a 180-student charter high school.

Samaritan Center is also home to incubator businesses, a Head Start program, an after-school and summer tutoring program, an alternative college for adults over 18, a center that collects and distributes job-interview clothing for clients, employment and job-training services, and an assisted-living center for the elderly.

When Samaritan Center celebrates its 10th anniversary later this year, it will be in conjunction with the dedication of the new Ford Wellness Center — which will house a gymnasium, senior center and dental clinic staffed with dentists and hygienists from the University of Detroit School of Dentistry.

In its relatively short life, Samaritan Center has become a beacon of hope, creating almost 800 jobs. It’s spawned local redevelopment as well. New construction has replaced decaying buildings, a new grocery store opened and a vacant mall reopened.

“You can’t be in that building without feeling the energy,” said Scott Keller, president and CEO of Dynamis Advisors, which worked with the former hospital’s owners to find a new use for the facility. “It’s contagious and it’s bursting out to other parts of the community and neighborhood.”

Legatus connection

Before Holy Cross Children’s Services (HCCS) even acquired the building, its president, Br. Francis Boylan, CSC, brought together 20 fellow Legates to call on their expertise.

“If it wasn’t for Legatus members’ business skills in banking, business development and construction, we wouldn’t have been successful,” said Boylan, a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter. “I wanted to do it, but I’m a social worker and I needed the business and construction skills, the real estate folks, all those different talents, to help make this project work.”

Keller said his firm has worked with other hospitals to find effective re-uses for their buildings, but Samaritan Center is the best example of a dramatic “before and after” transformation. “There probably hasn’t been a new grocery store in that neighborhood for 30 years,” he said. “There is story after story about little things that all add up. The neighborhood is definitely coming back.”

When Samaritan Center was a hospital, Keller added, the neighborhood had continued to deteriorate. “Hospitals are great from the standpoint that they employ a lot of people,” he said. “They generate payroll tax, which helps hire police and firefighters, but as generators of local economic development, they’re just not great. People come to work and leave; they don’t spur a lot of different things that occur from an economic development standpoint.”

Keller said he’s taken other clients to see Samaritan Center.

“People have come through that facility and have left with a lot of hope,” he said. “You don’t have to close a hospital and have it be just another indicator that the neighborhood is going the wrong way.”

History of helping

brothermugRay Weingartz, a member of Legatus’ Detroit Northeast Chapter, has been on the HCCS board for 10 years. In addition to everything the center does for its clients, Weingartz says he appreciates the facility’s spiritual aspect. The center provides Mass on Sundays in addition to a nondenominational chapel. Nearly 10 different church pastors maintain offices in the building.

Although Weingartz considers Samaritan Center to be the most important thing HCCS does, he said the organization continues to do significant work for young people through a network of homes and schools providing services daily to 1,000 children and families throughout Michigan. Founded in 1948 as Boysville of Michigan, a boarding school for Catholic boys who had serious home problems, the organization expanded to other sites in the 1970s. It became Holy Cross Children’s Services in 1998.

Keller said Boylan is to be commended for his willingness to take on the Samaritan Center project. “He had the vision and the faith — probably driven by the fact that a high percentage of the people that Holy Cross historically works with come from the neighborhoods around that hospital.”

Meyers, the physician who helped Buddie Hadley, said that when Boylan first proposed Samaritan Center as a one-stop facility, many said it couldn’t be done.

“From my perspective, Samaritan Center is really a miracle,” she said. “They’ve really hit all of the greatest needs of the community and looked at ways to provide resources. It’s an incredible thing.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.


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