Florissant, MO — FLORISSANT, Mo. – Even on a cloudless day, sunshine isn't the brightest light in Florissant, Missouri.
Not when there's someone bringing children out of the darkness.
Sister Helen Negri runs the Marygrove campus for Catholic Charities.
"Sister Helen is very loving. She's very nurturing but she's also a teacher," 22-year-old Alexandria Emery said.
Marygrove opens it's arms to at-risk kids who don't quite fit anywhere else. Providing crisis care, foster care and special education.
"We have kids that are not quite ready to make it on their own and so we teach them the fine art of living," Sister Helen said.
When she began, there were only seven residents.
Now, 35 years later, she's built a place that cares for more than 200 children every day.
"Part of treatment really is relationships. That's so simple but a lot of people don't understand that," she said.
"So my mom and dad were alcoholics and drug users," Alexandria said.
Alex came to Marygrove as a fragile, little girl.
"I was a broken child," she said. "Everybody that came near me, I wasn't trustworthy. I wasn't very open to anybody."
But Alex is now a high school graduate with a job, her own apartment and like Sister Helen, a fondness for cats. Together, they've turned her scars into success.
"She's very much a visionary," Marygrove's Chief Operating Officer Rose Crofford said. "She looks ahead, sees what the needs are. Tries to do whatever we can to meet the needs of kids who are traumatized."
Soon though, things will be different at Marygrove. Sister Helen has decided the time has come to take time for herself.
"I don't like it at all," Crofford said with a laugh.
"She's been a big part of my life and she's helped me so much with so many different things and now it's like 'Oh my god, where are you going?'" added Alexandria.
Not far, it turns out. She said though she won't be here every day, she will be available when needed. After all, to go doesn't mean to let go.
When we asked "What has brought you the most joy as you've been here for 35 years?" Sister Helen said "Oh that's easy. The kids!"
Giving children a chance.
Sister Helen Negri. A life spent showing that lost hope can be found again.
"I've never met anybody like her," said Alexandria.