Sisters of Mercy ministries merge

Mercy Residential Services, which helps pregnant and parenting teens, was looking for ways to ensure its survival long into the future.

Long-term sustainability in a difficult economic climate also was a challenge for Mercy Outreach Center, which offers free medical care to the uninsured and underinsured.

As the two Sisters of Mercy ministries in Rochester made plans for the future, they decided it would be easier if they worked together. Recently they officially announced a merger into one organization that will now be known as Mercy Community Services.

Although the conversations started with sustainability of programs and more efficient use of funds, the two ministries discovered areas where their services intersected, said Susan Aiello, who is president and CEO of Mercy Community Services.

Aiello previously was director of Mercy Residential Services and assumed the director position of Mercy Outreach Center in 2010. Under the merger, the two arms of the ministry will be known as Residential Programs, which offers transitional housing, apartment living and emergency housing, and the Outreach Center, which offers health-care and advocacy services.

"One of our key things at Residential is nutrition, health care and wellness for our moms," Aiello said, pointing out that the Outreach Center has a supply of volunteers with expertise in such areas.

Additionally, the two organizations are looking for ways to work together, such as offering staff from both locations a combined training session in first aid and CPR, Aiello said. Although the merger is expected to bring a cost savings, no staff layoffs are planned. The organizations did merge the two boards of directors into one and have begun sharing donations.

"One of the things that was really important for us is keeping our identity," said Nikisha Johnson, program coordinator for Residential Programs. "We are both proud ministries of the Sisters of Mercy."

Sister Pat Prinzing, vice president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas New York, Pennsylvania and Pacific West community, said the merger was supported by both organizations as a way to help them run as efficiently as possible.

"We knew it was the right thing to do because it could provide more coordinated services for people who are poor within the community of Rochester," Sister Prinzing said. "Our challenge was working through the legal details."

Residential Programs and the Outreach Center share values and history as ministries of the Sisters of Mercy that are supported by the sisters even though they are separately incorporated, Aiello noted.

"What we learned are the values, culture and history are just as important, if not more important, as the actual services you provide," Aiello said.

The ministries put an emphasis on compassion and healing, said Ellen Lewis, Outreach Center site manager.

"We help them in any way they need to reach their goals and to achieve wellness," she said.

For now, the merger does not include any plans for growth. Maintenance of the ministries in a difficult economic environment is the goal, Aiello said. However, she didn’t rule out possible changes in services in the future.

"One of the hallmarks of the Sisters of Mercy is to respond to community needs," she said.

To educate supporters on the merger and to engage a new generation of volunteers, Mercy Community Services worked with the Ad Council on developing its brand and logo, creating a marketing plan for the organization and launching a page on the social networking website Facebook. The new logo incorporates an "M" with a green house in the center.

"A lot of people who come here have a sense of ownership," Aiello said. "They see this as a medical home."

The Outreach Center also is now partnering with area colleges to get medical and pharmacy students to spend time volunteering alongside its other seasoned medical volunteers. However, it also has an ongoing need for dental volunteers.

Together, Mercy Community Services employs about 11 people full time, five people part time and about 20 volunteers. Some employees are participants in job-readiness programs.

In a year, the residential programs will help about 100 to 120 people, and the Outreach Center aids about 500 individuals through about 1,700 appointments annually.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For details on Mercy Community Services’ Residential programs, call 585-254-2175. Call 585-288-2634 for details on the Outreach Center.

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