Daybreak concept moves west, taking away Sister Elizabeth

The success of Macon’s Daybreak center for the homeless has spread to Little Rock, Arkansas, but will mean the departure of Sister Elizabeth Greim.

The Catholic Daughter of Charity announced her plans to move from Macon shortly after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday while folks were eating breakfast at the day center on Walnut Street.

“Don’t do it,” one person yelled out.

As Greim asked for prayers in her new mission, another person said: “We’ll pray for you, but Daybreak is going to be messed up, sure enough.”

“No, Daybreak is going to be fine, because Daybreak is all of you,” Greim reassured them. “It’s not just about one person. It’s about all of us together, and that’s what we bring to Little Rock.”

Greim likely will be leaving Macon in July after a period of traveling every two weeks between the two cities as executive director of both centers.

“This was a nice deal for me,” said Greim, who plans to keep ties she developed in Macon. “I won’t live (in Macon), but will still have the connection to the work because we designed it.”

Greim could have been sent farther away to assist in a different ministry that would not have facilitated trips back to Macon, she said.

Still, the news hit hard for some of the men and women whose lives she changed.

“She has brought love and nurturing and kindness and gentleness and a fierce spirit about her that brings us all together and brings this place together, in which we call Daybreak,” Scotty Nelson said. “It’s a fabulous place, and it’s worked out very well for everyone here.”

Daybreak sees nearly 1,500 clients annually and has helped move 50 people to permanent housing each year.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but we helped facilitate a very long process,” Greim said.

Looking around at the renovated warehouse near the entrance to Central City Park, it is hard for her to remember sweeping the dusty floors before it opened in fall 2012.

The homeless now have access to showers, laundry, telephones and medical care in the building.

Greim, The Telegraph’s 2013 Person of the Year, spent the past decade championing the poor, disadvantaged and exploited.

She ran Family Advancement Ministries, helped organize the ecumenical “Bless These Hands” to boost the lives of women across the world, led an effort against sex trafficking that became Middle Georgia Alliance to End Regional Trafficking, helped with the food pantry at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church and developed Daybreak.

The city of Little Rock had been operating a day center for the homeless since 2013, but relinquished control Monday to DePaul U.S.A., the same Catholic service organization that oversees Macon’s center.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola traveled to Macon more than a year ago and spent an hour talking to clients at Daybreak.

Mercer professor Andrew Silver said the expansion shows Macon is doing things right.

“I guess it’s not good for the world to hoard gifts, and she’s been a great gift to Macon,” Silver said. “She’s a total inspiration.”

Greim has been traveling to Little Rock to help with the transition but only found out last week she would be moving.

“People in Macon need to understand she’ll still be connected to Macon,” said Macon’s Kay Gerhardt, chairwoman of the DePaul U.S.A. board. “She’s touched so many people in so many ways, and she just has a manner about her that she draws people in.”

Gerhardt is particularly impressed by Greim’s ability to bring people together from all walks of life -- something Greim will help foster in Little Rock.

“She just has this magic about her,” Gerhardt said. “She makes you be better than you are. She brings out the best.”

Clients Thomas Brewer and Joshua Pike feel like they are losing a member of the family.

“She’s kept me out of trouble, helped me find places to live, and get food and clothes, and she is a very loving person,” Brewer said.

“To me, she’s not a nun,” Pike said. “She’s a mom.”

“She’s a mom to all of us who come to Daybreak,” Brewer said.

“She’s a mom to the world, really,” said Pike.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.