When the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald announced its 2009 First Citizen Award, the recipient came as no surprise-except, perhaps, to the recipient herself. Before retiring 12 years ago, Franciscan Sister Helen Huewe '61 had culminated a long career in health care as president and chief executive officer of Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque, Iowa. Yet it is her work in "retirement" that earned her this recognition.
Huewe's compassion for the less fortunate, whom she knew existed in the Dubuque area, drove her to coalesce community resources and establish Opening Doors in 1999 and Crescent Community Health Center in 2006. Inspired by the phrase "batteries not included," Huewe believes that, unlike most new toys, God provides everyone with a "battery" of His love with a lifetime guarantee. Using their battery in their lives is up to the individual.
Opening Doors provides transitional housing to homeless women at two facilities, Maria House and Theresa Shelter. Crescent Community Health Center, which is a Federally Qualified Health Care center, offers medical and dental services on a sliding fee scale. The center saw more than 5,000 patients in 2009.
According to Huewe, such efforts all go toward helping to address what she sees as the greatest public need: creating educational opportunities and jobs for the underprivileged that will enable them to better themselves. "People in poverty have a different outlook on life," she says. "We are all one with the same DNA that makes us human- we just have different levels of privilege."
And ultimately, accolades such as the one she received from the Telegraph-Herald honor all "women religious" who have dedicated their daily lives to making the world a better place. Because seeing what God's "batteries" of love can inspire others to achieve, Huewe says, is their reward–as is it hers.