Makers.com is a joint project of PBS and AOL showcasing hundreds of compelling stories from trailblazing women. The documentary "Makers: Women Who Make America," premiering on PBS on Feb. 26 (check local listings), tells the story of the women's movement through first-hand accounts of its leaders, opponents and trailblazers.

This is one of a separate series of articles about notable women in the Philadelphia region.

Mention the name Sister Mary to folks working at the HOME Page Cafe at the Parkway branch of the Free Library, and faces light up. People smile and tell you a story about how they know Sister Mary, or tell you how much she has done for so many people through her work at Project HOME. 

The HOME Page Cafe is one part of the network of social services, housing, employment opportunities and health care that make up Project HOME. The organization was founded by Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon in 1989. Their mission is to provide the kind of community-based services and housing that can lift people out of homelessness and poverty, and keep them on the path to achieving success.

A nun with The Sisters of Mercy, Scullion began developing relationships with the men and women she saw on the street while she was a student at St. Joseph's University. She and friend Dawson McConnon were moved by their plight and were determined to do something to create permanent change for the city's homeless population. 

"Meeting those men and women was so compelling and so life changing, we just gave our lives to it, both Joan and I," said Scullion. "And we're both still at it after 25 years."

Project HOME's motto — "None of us are home until all of us are home" — comes out of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings on the interconnectedness of all humans. "So that when I walk past someone on the street, it's not 'There but for the grace of God go I,' but 'There go I'," she said.

Project HOME continues to grow. The 1400 block of Fairmount Avenue is currently under construction. When completed, the site will hold 55 housing units and retail space, bringing the number of affordable housing units across the city to nearly 600.

"The solution for homelessness really lies within all of us," said Scullion. "We have to get involved in making our city, our community, our family, our neighborhoods safer, more alive and more dignified."

 


Video by Kimberly Paynter