Jennie Hagerty knows a lot of strong women. She works with them every day.
As executive director of the Mercy Center for Women, a sponsored ministry of Sisters of Mercy in Erie, Pennsylvania, Hagerty leads a social service organization that has been empowering women, many with young children, who are on a journey to overcome homelessness, and in many cases, addiction and/or abuse.
These women are committed and motivated to change their lives for the better. For them, the Mercy Center is a way to get them to become self-sufficient by providing transitional housing, training, life skills and support.
“We were all once broken,” says Hagerty. “The difference is how we collected the pieces to make us whole again. The journey is ever constant, and change is ever present.”
If Hagerty is passionate about the Center’s work, it’s because she understands the impact it has made. More than 4,000 women and children have been helped by the Center since it began operating as a 501c3 charitable organization in 1994.
Now, thanks to support of the local community, that number is expected to grow exponentially by spring of next year. According to Hagerty, the Mercy Center’s 2020 Vision Capital Campaign exceeded its $2.5 million goal and has allowed the Center to embark on its largest expansion project to date at the former Holy Rosary School. The purchase of the property from Holy Rosary Church for $300,000 has the enabled the church to pay back the
diocese for tax assessments while carrying on the mission to serve women — and children — who are in need. Expected to be completed by June 2022, the 39,000-square-foot former Catholic elementary school located behind the Center, will soon include 13 two-bedroom apartments for women and those with children to call home.
“Right now, what we are able to accomplish is maintain and excel in our current program of 18 rooms for transitional living to our women and children, and we’re expanding that vision into permanent housing for women and children into a former school building,” Hagerty says.
Presently, the Mercy Center, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1039 East 27th Street in Erie, can house between 27 to 34 women and children. The new housing at the former Holy Rosary School will not only double that capacity but transform the building into a community center — including a library, technology hub with 10 computers, and a host of educational offerings and health clinics. It also will host a day care, thrift store, food bank and the Center’s highly successful Dress for Success program.