MORE began thirty years ago when Sister Kathleen Spencer, School Sisters of Notre Dame, applied for a pastoral ministry position at McDonough Homes, the largest public housing site in St. Paul. Her goal was to attend to the resettlement challenges of the growing numbers of Southeast Asian refugees living there. Distrust and prejudice was growing between all residents of McDonough homes, native-born and newly arrived Americans. Their lack of ability to communicate with one another and much misunderstanding of one another created tension between the residents and sometimes led to violence.
The St. Paul Public Housing Authority allowed Sister Kathleen to live in one of the apartments in McDonough Homes at no cost. As Sister Kathleen walked the streets of her neighborhood, getting to know the people, residents began to respond to her invitation to come together across cultural lines and work for their common good. The people of the McDonough Homes community began to express their needs and dreams to Kathleen.
In response, she recruited friends and colleagues to help her provide services out of her apartment. Volunteers began assisting with the distribution of donated food and clothing as well as teaching English, GED, and citizenship classes. Over time, empowerment support groups and one-to-one mentoring opportunities developed that addressed issues that were keeping residents in poverty including: employment, education, self-worth, health, and family/personal issues.
MORE’s name comes from one of those self-initiated women’s support groups. The women declared that they needed more money, more opportunities, more jobs, more dignity and more self-respect. In 1989, MORE was officially established as a nonprofit organization. The first Articles of Incorporation stated that the purpose of MORE was:
" To unite the residents of McDonough of all races and cultures into one community, to organize residents to look at the issues that affect them, and then to empower each other to deal with those issues."
MORE quickly outgrew Kathleen’s apartment in the public housing complex and in the early 1990s, the organization purchased and moved to a house located across the street from McDonough. In the early 2000s, a large addition was made to the building with most of the supplies and labor donated. This is the current location of the organization.
The increased space allowed MORE to formalize the English Language Learning (ELL) services and provide additional support services. Emphasis was soon put on EMPOWERMENT in the three program areas of Basic Needs, Adult Education and Social Services.
In May of 2011, MORE hired a new Executive Director, Cathy Rucci. Cathy has been employed in nonprofits her entire career and had spent the previous ten years working specifically in the hunger-relief field. Cathy’s leadership brings to MORE a healthy balance between the people-centered values of social work and the business-minded practices of management. Having served those in need directly for several years, her passion for the mission preserves Sister Kathleen's ministry with the belief that everyone involved with MORE, whether they are participants, volunteers, staff, partner organizations, or donors, be treated with the highest level of respect, care and attention.
Click on the video below to learn additional details about the history of MORE.