The Coastal Star

Women’s Circle works on literacy with Boynton library help

By C.B. Hanif

Some are shy and simply seeking a better life. Others seek no attention unless it helps them to better help. They are flip sides of the same coin: the served and the servants who can be found most days at The Women’s Circle of Boynton Beach.

“Anywhere in our world where there is poverty, women tend to be impacted even more than men,” said the circle’s coordinator, Sister Lorraine Ryan.
“We can’t do everything, so we focus on the women.”
The Women’s Circle shares a small house on a barely paved Fourth Avenue with the Community Caring Center.
That’s one reason why high on the circle’s wish list is a facility with greater space for classrooms, job searching, coaching and offices.
To walk through the cramped quarters is to meet a young woman who is studying to become a pediatrician to serve the area. Or see close to a dozen women squeezed into a small former bedroom for a morning ESOL class that converts to a sewing class in the afternoon.
Who are the women?
One-third are Creole-speaking, said Sister Lorraine. One-third are African-American. A sixth are Hispanic, another sixth low-income Caucasian.

And the servants?
Sister Lorraine is typical. At 19 she joined Medical Mission Sisters, an international religious community focused on medicine.
“Healing is our charism,” she said. “Right now the largest membership is from India.” She went there in 1969 and left in 1985. In between she earned a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University. Back here, she recruited other Medical Mission Sisters. “The perks are mostly in heaven,” she said with a smile. “I did this for five years out of St. Louis, Mo. Covered 185,000 miles in a little red Ford Escort. Even got myself up to Alaska; that was great.”
Upon coming to Boynton in 1990 to care for her ailing parents, she got involved in various nonprofit organizations. That helped her even better learn the needs of women who are single parents. She also is a qualified chemical dependency counselor, and did a stint as a schoolhouse nurse. “That taught me a lot, unfortunately, about the violence that still exists in our schools.”
Aside from shared space and programs with the Community Caring Center, there are myriad other examples of partnering, such as with Boynton’s library.
For example, Sister Lorraine said that more than a year ago, Anne Watts, Boynton’s assistant library director, got a grant related to literacy with which many of the circle’s books were purchased. Watts would meet with the students, take them to the library, give them a tour, get them library cards, let them choose one book they would like purchased to keep, as well as a magazine to receive regularly — and also bring their children with them to get a card, depending on their age, and a book.
Such service helps explain why the circle is seeking $100,000 from the Community Redevelopment Authority, with which to purchase and move to a property at 912-914 SE Fourth Street.
“It’s comparable to this,” Sister Lorraine said, “but we’d have the whole thing” — 1,200 square feet, rather than the current 620-square-foot portion. “That’s the advantage.”
The service advantage is Boynton’s, whose citizens hardly can find a better investment.

C.B. Hanif is a freelance writer, editor and media and interreligious affairs consultant. He visits or speaks at synagogues, churches and mosques, seeking folks who are making the Golden Rule real, not just an ideal. Reach him at or

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