Mother's legacy carries on through daughters

March 17, 2011 3:27:59 PM PDT
Children often follow in their parents' footsteps, but two siblings not only took on their mother's job, but also her spirit.

Project Hope teaches teenage mothers parenting skills and offers social support.

"Project Hope was started by my mom. She came here as a volunteer," said Deanna Hallagan, director, youth programs, Marillac Social Center. "One of the areas of need she saw was the teen moms needed their own program."

"My mother and I went to Jane Adams Graduate School together to get our Master's. I went right out of college and she was returning when my youngest sister started school," said Maureen Hallagan, executive director, Marillac Social Center.

Deanna and Maureen are the youngest and eldest of 12 siblings. They took over where their mother, Kay Hallagan, left off. Maureen came aboard at the Marillac Social Center on the city's West Side 25 years ago as her mother was retiring. Deanna signed on five years later.

Marillac is a community agency that offers services to the poor from birth through senior citizens. Programs include a kids cafe that offers hot meals to students after school, plus tutoring and mentoring. Jalesa Haggard started coming here in the third grade and is now an employee.

"In this neighborhood, there's a lot of violence, drug activity a lot of stuff that goes on. By me having this place to come after school to spend time in a positive environment," Haggard said. "It was like a home away from home."

That sentiment is echoed by a long-time employee who has seen generations served by the center.

"Without the community base of Marrillac House, a lot of the kids in the community, they wouldn't have anything to do and we thank God for Deanna who I work with and Maureen Hallagan for being able to keep the doors open," Cindia Grant, group aid coordinator, said.

For the Hallagan sisters, the work is not labor but legacy.

"I didn't expect to come here for twenty years. I expected to come for a little while. One of the biggest influences in my life is my mom and for Maureen and I to be able to kind of walk in her shoes a little bit is really an honor," Deanna said.

One of the programs that has grown from their mother's Project Hope is Hope Junior. It aims to keep younger children away from the pitfalls that can derail them from college and success.

"Every child has potential and some of the children in Hope Jr. don't hear that enough and I think that's one thing we can give them... that they can do what they want to do and we're there to support them," Maureen said.

A fundraiser for the Marillac Social Center will honor Kay Hallagan on April 29th. Find out more at