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Over two decades, Sister Clara's program eventually took on more than 400 children of all ages. As Gingerbread House grew into Gingerbread Land, she would obtain house after house on that block of N. 1st Street, sprucing up the exteriors with a colorful paint scheme and ornamentation.
Sister Clara earned the respect of neighbors, and her presence ensures that negative activity is not welcome on her block. Working with Milwaukee's most vulnerable young children, she has set an example for helping to build up the community, one person at a time.
Gingerbread Land is a "safe haven" for many of the city's most poor and depressed citizens. Since 1989, the organization had provided food, temporary shelter, and clothing to hundreds of Milwaukee families.
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To be a beacon of love and hope to all
Sister Clara is described as a "living saint" in the community. As founder of the non-profit Gingerbread Land Inc. on the north side of Milwaukee, she has stood strong in the face of some of society's most destructive elements, such as drugs, poverty, and apathy.
In a neighborhood that has long struggled with crime, she has taken in babies that were born to drug addicted mothers. For these children, she essentially became their stand-in mother, not only by providing the basics to counter the physical trauma of being born into addiction, but also providing for their emotional and spiritual development.
Sister Clara dream is to expand and renovate part of the structure at 2640 N. 1st St. to add a community center where people can come and enjoy a safe place and learn valuable life skills. By 1994 Sister Clara had become a fixture in the neighborhood.
She helped reclaim the block from troublemakers and got youngsters picking up trash in the neighborhood which also encouraged some adults to pitch in. There are now seven houses that shelter the children of many races.