Beating the Odds

The biblical axiom is taken to a whole larger level by Sister Marietta Fritz in her service as co-founding director of Saginaw’s 28-year-old Emmaus House outreach for women who face challenges in their lives.

“Ask and ye shall receive.”

The biblical axiom is taken to a whole larger level by Sister Marietta Fritz in her service as co-founding director of Saginaw’s 28-year-old Emmaus House outreach for women who face challenges in their lives.

Fritz, of course, places religious faith and a never-give-up outlook as the top prongs in her approach.

Next comes the ask and receive part.

“One kind of knowledge is to know something,” she explains, “and another kind of knowledge is to know somebody who does.”

Lessons from successful programs such as Emmaus House are vital because the National Center for Charitable Statistics reports that among 1.4 million nonprofits at any given time, 20 percent fail within the first five years.

In 1987, when Fritz saw the need for a shelter for women departing from prison, jail, or drug treatment centers, she did not know how to find a building, so she asked. The Catholic Diocese knew how to help, and soon the vacant Holy Rosary Convent on Saginaw’s outer East Side was made available.

At the time, Fritz didn’t know how to make building code repairs for what has become a group of 15 properties, so she asked and volunteers helped. She didn’t know how to compile non-profit “501(c)3” papers, but an attorney stepped forward.

Prayer remains vital, Fritz insists. She recalls co-founder Sister Shirley Orand, who, prior to passing away in 1993, successfully prayed for everything from building repair funds to a simple kitchen pancake turner.

Success stories for more than 1,000 women have ranged from finding a job to re-enrolling in school to celebrating drug-free birthdays. Emmaus House provides major rewards, too. In 20 cases, the rewards included donated homes for “graduates” whose names were entered in to drawings.

“We sort of learned as we went,” Fritz says. “People said we couldn’t do it, but it is amazing how many volunteers have helped us.”

The key to finding volunteers and donors is to establish credibility, she says, noting that she was the Saginaw County Jail chaplain for three years before Emmaus House took root.

“If you raise your hand and say you want to help,” she says, “we will find a role for you.”

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