Heroes Among Us: Sister Theresa Sullivan, director of Daybreak Day Resource Center
Photography by Matt Odom
Why are you driven to your work?
In high school, the sisters who taught me brought me down to Chicago’s inner city. That is when I first learned about people who are homeless or who have nowhere to lean for help. Being from a family of 12, I couldn’t imagine ever not having somewhere to turn. At that time, I heard God call me to share the love he had given me with those who are poor. In my family house, everyone had a place at the table. In our community, neighbors came together to support one another. I witnessed firsthand how simple miracles happen when a community comes together to address issues. As a Daughter of Charity, I feel called to help others experience God’s love, to make sure everyone has a place at the table, and network with others to help our community and each member be their best self.
What is the legacy you hope to leave?
Depaul USA Daybreak’s motto is “Homelessness has no place.” I’d love to see the day when everyone has a safe, nurturing place to lay their head and that they feel they belong. I hope that I am part of creating a network of agencies, congregations, businesses, and people that are there to support our brothers and sisters who are in need as they find a way to being housing-secure and to share their gifts with our community.
What makes you feel appreciated?
When a participant tells me they have reached one of their goals, little or great, i.e., getting housed, starting a job, accessing healthcare, connecting with their family, helping another person in need. When a donor, volunteer, or staff step in to help, and I witness their compassion and love of our mission. At the end of the day, when I quietly sit in the chapel and place all in God’s hands.
What do you want more people to know about your work?
The work of Daybreak is the work of the community. If each person does their part, we can end homelessness. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It is only with help of people across Macon that Daybreak can help others. We need you! Volunteer, donate, offer your services, network with us, pray, join our Macon Sleepout on Feb. 23.
What best practices have been a takeaway from working through the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are a resilient community who care about those in need. The only way Daybreak was able to stay open throughout COVID-19 was through the support of the community. Macon is amazing in how it comes together to address issues. Unlike many homeless communities, Daybreak had no serious cases of COVID-19. I attribute this to masking, vaccinations, distancing, cleaning, and getting people the help they needed. We can decrease the spread of infection by using the right tools at the right time. In times of crisis, when people hunker down, we can’t forget the most fragile. Thank you, Macon, for being there for Daybreak and our participants.
When you wake up at night, what do you think about?
Some nights I just thank God for calling me to this wonderful mission and being with me on the journey. Other nights my mind runs through what needs to be done. This weekend as I write this, we are preparing for freezing temperatures, so I worry about helping people to be safe and what needs to be done to temporarily turn Daybreak into a night shelter. Then I try to hear God say – I got this, go back to sleep. I trust Him, and somehow, the next day things work out.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
My alarm clock, the sisters waiting in the chapel to pray with me, the joy of being able to share God’s love with others and bring them hope and possibilities. I love my life.
What makes a “hero”?
I don’t consider myself a hero. I see those who assist me each day as heroes. Daybreak has amazing staff, volunteers, donors, board members, partner agencies, and participants. I see myself more as a conductor that allows each musician to add their notes to make a symphony of healing. My ability to see the gifts others have and to invite others into the song is one of my secret ingredients. Furthermore, the participants I serve are my heroes. I’m inspired by how they assist each other, how they have the courage to take the next step, how they persevere in the dark days. I’m a hero because I’m surrounded by heroes and I help unite our strength to make the impossible possible.
If I had more time, I would:
I end each day thinking of all the things I could do if I had more time. I wish I had more time to just journey with people. People think that the hard part of getting off the street is getting a job or getting housed. Really the hard part is keeping that job, staying housed, creating a life where you can use the gifts God has given you. Throughout my life I have been blessed by amazing people that journey with me, that help me be my best self. I have so many amazing people on speed dial. No matter how many times I call them, they are there for me. If I had more time, I’d like to be able to spend more time just being with people, journeying with them so they can be their best self.
How can Macon be a part of the Daybreak mission?
To learn more about Daybreak go to our Facebook or website. Volunteer, donate, or participate in the Macon Sleepout on Feb. 23.