A St. Louis project named the Franciscan Connection opened in 1991 when friars, Frs. Gratian Nosal and Tom Shaughnessy with the support of Bro. Bill Schulte, rented a storefront in a poor neighborhood several blocks north of St. Anthony Church and began to provide emergency help to single mothers and the frail elderly of the community. Their services included financial assistance to cover utility bills and help in accessing other support services. For several years, 1999 to 2010, Br. Donald Lachowicz coordinated minor home repair work for people in the neighborhood unable to afford such service, naming his work the “Stone-by-Stone Project.”
Again, as in the case of Chicago’s Outreach Program, volunteer schools, churches and organizations (e.g., Quincy University, Secular Franciscans, local Franciscan parishes and our own Franciscan Volunteer Program) lent support.
Over the years, other friars became involved, including Bro. Leo Geurts, Fr. Pio Jackson, Bro. Greg Bumm, and Bro. Doug Collins. The work continued with Fr. Larry Nickels, a licensed social worker, staffing the office, until Fr. Larry died suddenly in 2018.
In November, 2018, the Province assigned two friars, Frs. Bob Sieg and Paul Gallagher, to take over the project. A recent ATP notice describes Fr. Larry’s work with utility assistance, and says that the two new friars on the job have already helped over 200 families with similar needs.