Sister Pat Michalek, executive director at St. Francis House, is carrying on her family’s legacy of service to the community.
Michalek’s parents, Stan and Doris, opened the first St. Francis in Tacoma in the early 1970s before relocating the service agency to the Puyallup Valley. Modeling serving their community for their own daughter, Michalek remembers having a heart for service at an early age.
“(Serving has) been something that was in me since high school,” the 72-year-old Michalek said. “I just have this energy inside me. Here, work isn’t just work for me.”
St. Francis House, located at 322 7th St. SE, provides clothing, furniture and meals to those living below the poverty line. For each new client, St. Francis House assesses their level of need and how much clothing, furniture and food it will take to improve their standard of living.
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“Our typical client is a single mom with two kids,” Michalek said. “Our mission is to keep their kids clothed and supply household items to make their lives a little bit better.”
Typically, a family will visit St. Francis House once a month for their first year, every two months their second year, and every three months their third year until they no longer come to rely on the services.
“Usually by their sixth year, they’re only coming twice a year and forget they even had an appointment,” she said.
Michalek’s heart for service recently gained recognition from the Puyallup Lions Club, which honored her with the organization’s highest award, the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, at its April 27 meeting. The award is named after the founder of the Lions Club, Melvin Jones, and is presented to Lions or community members for humanitarian service. Michalek is one of two people who aren’t Puyallup Lions members who have received the award.
“Sister Pat is an inspiration,” Lions secretary John Budzak Jr said. “She works hard for the underprivileged, and does it so quietly nobody knows about it or who she is. She keeps the volunteers at St. Francis House on mission, and is the fixer. She seems to be a saint in modern society. She never asks for herself, and helps others less fortunate.”
Michalek says the award wouldn’t have been possible without her staff.
“It’s a privilege to serve the community,” she said. “It’s a joy to bring something good into the lives of those we serve. This is a place of miracles ... it’s really spooky sometimes. It makes us realize we’re not in charge.”