INDIANTOWN | Two religious sisters here with “can-do spirits” and trust in the Lord say they see the people they minister to completely transformed through their programs. But could it actually be the sisters’ witness of love and dedication and their own ambitious and positive spirit that are changing hearts of the people who walk through the doors of their KinDoo Family Center?
“We tell our students that you can do anything you put your mind to,” said Sister Mary Dooley of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. “I see self-esteem and joy in our students. I see lives being transformed.”
Sister Dooley along with her longtime best friend, Sister Katherine Kinnally also of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, operate the nonprofit that they founded two and a half years ago in Indiantown. Since the doors opened, the religious women have touched the lives not only of those who come to learn skills to help them in life, but also the volunteers who come to the center to work side-by-side with the religious women so dedicated to what they are doing and to God.
People are taking notice of their positive work and impact on families in the western part of the diocese. The two sisters received the “Pope Francis Encounter Award” April 20, presented by Catholic Charities Interfaith Health and Wellness Program. The leadership award recognizes those whose efforts enhance the quality of life of people in need.
“We feel humbled and honored,” said Sister Dooley. “It is such an inspiration for us to be noticed and to receive an award named after Pope Francis. He is such a good man.”
Looking back, Sister Dooley and Sister Kinnally, educators all of their adult life, are formerly of Hope Rural School in Indiantown. Sister Dooley came to Indiantown in 2004 to serve as director of the school. Sister Kinnally joined her a year later to serve as principal.
“Sister Dooley and I felt a strong call to do something for families,” said Sister Kinnally. “There was nothing in Indiantown for adults. We wanted to help both the women and the men.”
Once hearing the strong call, Sister Dooley and Sister Kinnally prayed, contemplated, spoke to their superior and literally on a wing and a prayer, took a leap of faith with no money, building, furniture or supplies, but with a strong “can-do spirit” and trust in God.
They believed passionately that they could make it happen and they did. Indiantown Nonprofit let them use a building in a quiet residential center of town. The organization even offered to renovate the building, making it ready for the sister’s ministry work and outreach in the community.
“Nearly everything here was donated,” said Sister Dooley about word spreading and people coming forth with support and furniture and items. Computers were donated. The center’s sewing machines were a gift from a donor. The sisters found wall hangings and furnishings in thrift stores and Sister Kinnally made curtains. A business in town offered free internet service and a phone. Florida Power and Light came out and made a free energy audit and stepped up with an energy makeover for the building. As part of the company’s charitable program, Florida Power and Light installed new air-conditioning equipment and new lighting free of charge. “It was heaven sent,” said Sister Dooley.
The nonprofit KinDoo Family Center features free English lessons, and adult and teen sewing instructions. Programs include quilting, knitting and crocheting classes, nutritional and cooking programs, computer courses and arts and crafts. The center helps those seeking employment with job-interview skills. There are workshops for parents and even financial management programs for families struggling to make ends meet. In September 2016, the sisters expanded efforts with a child care center especially for mothers seeking to attend classes.
Estella Rodriquez is happy about the childcare. “I like the classes,” said Rodriquez, enrolled in sewing instructions. “I am learning to make clothes for my family. I hope to get a job.”
Programs are all free and made possible through the generous support of individuals, businesses, churches, civic organizations, grants and foundations. Dedicated volunteers also help lead classes. “I love KinDoo,” said volunteer Jane Ditmars of Stuart. “Everyone here has Jesus in their heart.”
Sister Jo Ann Villademors of the School Sisters of Notre Dame came to live in the area and joined the team of volunteers at the center shortly after the facility opened. “I was meant to be here,” she said. “I get such joy doing this. KinDoo gives the people the opportunity to learn. I love it and I look forward to coming here to help the people.”
Sister Dooley celebrates 50 years of religious life next year. Sister Kinnally professed vows 56 years ago after graduating from high school. “We tell people that we were baby sisters together,” said Sister Dooley. “We kept saying, ‘We can do this. We can do this,’ and we did.” They moved ahead and by the grace of God have been a great success.
Nothing could have prepared them for the twist and turns they faced last summer. God once again was there with them hand in hand.
Last June, Sister Kinnally found out that a spot underneath her tongue was cancer. She had battled cancer four years earlier and beat it. The deadly disease was back.
“It was very serious,” said Sister Dooley. “We left it in God’s hands. The parish here was praying. Our religious sisters were praying.”
During surgery in New York, a team of doctors removed Sister Kinnally’s tongue due to the extent of the tumor. The surgeons saved her life, and the way they rebuilt her tongue from tissue allowed her to recover from the drastic surgery as best as possible. “I am cancer free,” said a positive Sister Kinnally, who explained that she knew she could win her battle and get back on her feet and back to her ministry work at KinDoo.
She is able to speak understandably, and she is back doing her ministry of serving adults, families and children, which has been “the love of my life,” she said.
KinDoo Family Center is located at 14557 S.W. 174th Court, Indiantown. For information about volunteer and donation opportunities, call 772-597-5551 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All are asked to keep Sister Kinnally and Sister Dooley and their ministry work in their prayers.