On a recent afternoon, volunteers helped the Little Sisters of the Poor clean and remove items from the chapel of an independent living center that has been in Albany for 143 years.
Little Sisters of the Poor, located in Latham, is closing its doors because of a dwindling workforce.
Although emotional, the move did not come as a surprise. In October 2013, Little Sisters announced it would be withdrawing from Our Lady of Hope and the Albany Diocese in the coming year. After months of cleaning, packing and sorting through things accumulated over its past 37 years in Latham, a final mass was held Tuesday, Aug. 19.
The property has been purchased by Liberty Affordable Housing, Inc., a senior living business that acquires housing and rehabilitates it so seniors can afford it. Liberty has numerous properties across the state, with the closest being in Amsterdam.
The nuns, who are being relocated to other homes in the Northeast, said their faith has helped them remain optimistic.
“We know it’s the Lord’s will; it’s God’s will,” said Sister Joan Ross, an administrator at Little Sisters of the Poor. “It’s sad. We’re happy we sold it to Liberty because they’re mission-based and will be taking care of the affordable housing people.”
Over the years, many people have come to Little Sisters to volunteer and have remained for years building relationships and helping people. Hellen Gallagher, from Clifton Park, has been a volunteer for 13 years, coming on most days of the week.
“I heard about the Little Sisters, and I wanted to do something because I knew something was lacking in my life,” said Gallagher. “I knew I needed to be out helping and doing something … so I came in here, and the minute I walked in, I knew I belonged here.”
Gallagher has worked all over the home and spent many years on the second floor in the infirmary.
“I did everything and anything, I guess. From taking residents to the doctors, to serving dinners, taking them down to the chapel to reading to them, accompanying them on trips — just a little bit of everything, I guess. Wherever I was needed,” she said.
Gallagher also takes care of her husband, Robert, who has Alzheimer’s, and he stayed active by coming with her to volunteer. She and her husband are now looking for another place to volunteer, but she said it is doubtful there is another place in the area that could match the Little Sisters.
“They took such wonderful care of these people,” she said. “It was loving and it was family, you know? I don’t think there’s anyplace they could get the care that they got here.”
As some of the last items were removed from the facility, people were hugging and saying goodbye. There was noticeable sadness in the air, tempered by a spark of anticipation about what lies ahead.
“I’m very excited. Wherever we go, we feel at home. It’s awesome,” said Ross.