When a group of Poor Clares came to Evansville in 1897, cornfields and farmland surrounded what would become the Monastery of St. Clare at 509 S. Kentucky Ave. Today, the Evansville Christian Life Center continues the work of the Poor Clares in the very same building.
“Anyone who grew up in this neighborhood as a kid didn’t know what went on be- hind that wall, so the building could appear to be a little scary,” says Gina Gibson, CEO of Evansville Christian Life Center.
Most Poor Clares practiced silence, aside from 10 or 12 who interacted with the public, and their jobs were to pray all day and bake communion bread. After the Clares moved to Evansville’s West Side in 1984, a group of business owners bought the building and donated it to Bethel Church.
When the church later turned it over to a board of directors, the historic site became the Evansville Christian Life Center.
“We try to maintain the integrity of the building when we do any renovations,” Gibson says.
The organization has continued the work of the Clares, giving people a hand up out of poverty, teaching parenting and life skills, and providing free or low-cost pregnancy services, health care, dental care, and addiction recovery services.
The organization has eight programs serving Vanderburgh, Warrick, Gibson, and Posey counties in Indiana and Henderson County in Kentucky. The food co-op and career clothing center accept donations.
“We’re still doing what the sisters started,” Gibson says. “People in this neighborhood respect who we and how we can help.”