Women of Strength 2015

Helen Husser Ballek

Nominated by Debbie Stevenson

St. Francis Academy, Class of 1965

A graduate of St. Luke’s School of Nursing, Helen began her career as an RN at St Luke’s Hospital in 1968, where she served the hospital and her community for 46 years. Starting as an RN, she gradually became Nurse Manager and then finally Nursing Supervisor. Having retired in 2014, Helen continues to work for the hospital in a reserve capacity.

Known as a very competent and knowledgeable supervisor, Helen possesses the rare ability to listen and guide without judging or criticizing. Under her leadership, complicated situations are put into perspective, and the stress levels decreased. She enables others to discover their strengths. Through her understanding and compassionate nature, she is able to bring out the best in people. In her life, she exemplifies the Christian values of kindness, humility and service.

There are two well known awards at St. Luke’s – one is for Nursing Excellence and the other, known as PCRAFT, is given to those who demonstrate the spirit and values of St. Luke’s Hospital. Helen has been awarded both! To quote a colleague Nurse Manager, “Helen is one of the few people I would put into the ‘salt of the earth’ category – someone who is genuine, honest, caring and hardworking.”

In her personal life, Helen is married, the mother of two children and grandmother. Struggling bravely with health issues, she quietly continued to work through treaments with optimistic determination.

In the yearbook from 1965, under Helen’s picture is the quote: “It is when we forget ourselves that we do things that are remembered.” That quote has followed her throughout her life and more than anything else, defines her as a “Woman of Strength.”

Sister Bonnie Marie Kleinschuster

Nominated by Christine Chew & Sr. Marguerite Stewart, OSF

St. Francis Academy, Class of 1974!
Spirit dedication and service are but a few of the gifts we recognize in Sister Bonnie Marie Kleinschuster. These gifts were evident early on, only becoming more visible over the years. Sister Bonnie attended St. Francis Academy, graduating in 1974. She was an honors student all four years and very involved in school activities ~ glee club, orchestra, stage crew, among others. What seemed to bring out the best in Sister Bonnie was her love and involvement in sports. She was an outstanding member of the basketball team and her love of sport continued during her college years. Sister Bonnie attended St. Francis College in Loretto, PA. Among other successes she was named assistant coach of the women’s basketball team.

Sister Bonnie remained connected to the sisters during her college years. She grew in her love for the Franciscan way and the charism of the School Sisters of St. Francis. After completing

her college years she decided to join the community. She felt the call to teaching and, after completing her formation, entered into the ministry of teaching. Sister Bonnie loved her students, especially the poor. This was evident in the many extra hours she gave to mentoring students and seeking ways to help them. Currently, as Technology Coordinator at Holy Infancy School on the South side of Bethlehem, she manages the technology needs of the school. Holy Infancy is a small, less-affluent school; one of the Hispanic Apostolate schools of the Diocese of Allentown. Because of Sister Bonnie’s hard work, persistence and dedication to Holy Infancy students and faculty, it has all the technological advantages of other schools. In 2006, Sister transformed the school’s library into a media center by securing grants and developing other funding sources. The school was one of the first Catholic schools to fully integrate technology in each classroom through ceiling mounted projectors connected to classroom computers. Because of Sister Bonnie’s efforts, the students of Holy Infancy have the advantage of technology in every classroom.

Tenacity, ingenuity and optimism are words to describe Sister Bonnie. She has a million ideas and implements the best of them. The Monocacy Farm Project is a prime example. Three years ago, Sister Bonnie envisioned turning 13 acres of Monocacy Manor land into Community Sustainable Agriculture. The first undertaking was to turn the land from chemical-laden to healthy soil, while adding walking paths through the property for retreatants at St. Francis Center for Renewal, with gardens for meditation and enjoyment. Then came an organic farm where vegetables are grown for local consumption and are available at a reduced cost to low-income families. The local community can also lease a plot for growing and harvesting their own organic produce. Lessons on organic vegetable horticulture for adults and children are available as well as a series of classes on health, wellness and spirituality at the Renewal Center. Sister Bonnie was honored at the Franciscan Federation 2013 Annual Conference Banquet for her dedication and work on the Monocacy Farm Project.

Sister Bonnie Marie’s spirit and dedication are visible in other important areas as well. Presently Sister is Treasurer and Provincial Council Member of the School Sisters of St. Francis and actively involved in the various undertakings of the. Additionally, Sister Bonnie is a member of the board of Directors of St. Francis Center for Renewal.

Observing Sister Bonnie in the every day, we see a woman who cares ~ cares about God, about His people; cares about her Sisters and cares about Creation. She loves life and lives it to the fullest!

Bridget Farley Muehlenkamp

Nominated by Mary Gonzales

A graduate of St. Francis Academy, class of 1971, Bridget was known during her student years for her vibrant personality. She held many class and organizational offices in her Academy years and was a star on and off the basketball court. Bridget completed a Bachelor of Science in Education, from Misericordia University, Master Degree from Wilkes University and successfully completed her Principal Certification later in her career.

After college, Bridget started her teaching career at Mercy Special Learning Center, dedicating her life to this superb school for children with special needs. According to her staff, Bridget lives the characteristics of a “Woman of Strength” every day of her career and life. Due to her dedication and love for her students and staff, Bridget was chosen to be principal at Mercy Special Learning Center in 2002. As such, she inspires children and staff alike to work together, focusing on what they can accomplish. She ensures that the edifice and surroundings are appropriate to the students’ needs. With religious instruction a part of the curriculum at Mercy, Bridget insures that activities and curriculum are Christian influenced. She incorporates community service into the activities of the school, with monthly activities at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Center. Students also take part in the Special Olympics. Through her assistance as teacher and principal, many of her students have gone on to attain their life goals ~ to become employed and successful citizens in the face of many challenges.

Recently, Bridget’s persistence led her school through a very successful building renovation. Dealing with a very tight budget, she was instrumental in leading several creative campaigns to make the renovation possible. Her staff, recognizing in her a leader who would never ask them to perform a task that she herself has not taken on, reports that with every appeal, Bridget led them with care and fun – her sense of humor infectious in dealing with the ordeals inherent to fundraising.

Mercy’s staff maintains that Bridget manages and leads Mercy Learning Center with optimism, integrity and the highest standards. Her motto is “For the Students,” reflecting a sentiment for all staff. While Bridget was still a teacher, Mercy was the first private school for children with special needs to achieve the arduous Middle States’ Certification. Under her leadership as Principal, the school continues to improve and has received the Middle States’ Certification each time it is reviewed.

Bridget’s life choices in her career exemplify her Christian values, generosity, and optimism. Her inspirational dedication to children with special needs for over thirty-nine years is stunning. As her early career advanced, she and her husband also raised two wonderful sons. Additionally, she relocated her home to accommodate and to compassionately care for her parents. Community service is a value that is inherent to Bridget’s life. Herself a member of St. Joseph’s Church in Limeport, she has coached boy’s and girl’s CYO basketball teams at St. Paul’s Parish in Allentown.

Bridget Muelenkamp lives the values and traits of the Woman of Strength Award. Her career, dedication and service are inspirational and help an underserved population to flourish. Her sense of humor, a hallmark to her success, allows her to create structure out of chaos on a daily basis, all with a smile. Her professionalism allows her school to be a leading school that serves as a model for all institutions servicing children with special needs. Her personal life reflects the love and faithful caring of wife, mother and daughter. Bridget Farley Muehlenkamp is truly a Woman of Strength.

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