History of the Merciful Love Connection

From modest beginnings in 2005, to the present, with the help of generous donors and a great deal of prayer and optimism, the Merciful Love Connection supports the Sisters of Mercy in their mission. The Sisters are dedicated to helping break the cycle of poverty and despair that affects young mothers who have been abandoned because of their pregnancy and who have little or no family support. 

Yvette and Gloria  07 Bill

Sr. Yvette and Sr. Marie Gloria

Dear Friends,


My name is Sr. Yvette Mallow. I am a Benedictine Sister from St. Martin Monastery in Rapid City, South Dakota. I am the historian for the Merciful Love Connection. The following is one story of the many ways that God works through all of us.


In 1971 the Pope asked that Catholic colleges in the U.S. sponsor Sisters from Latin America. I met Sister Maria Gloria, a Sister of the Congregation of Most Merciful Love, when she came to study that year. When she told me about the Refuge, I wanted to return to Chile with her, but. Sister Gloria replied, "Sadly, you can not, because the political situation is very dangerous for foreigners.


Eighteen years later, in 1989, a friend of mine gave an airplane ticket to me for travel to Chile. I went to Santiago for a month. I was so impressed with the Sisters and t heir work at the Refuge of Mercy that in 1990 I returned to work at the Refuge for two years. The Sisters, though not destitute, were very poor. We had a lot of good will and very little money. In 1998 I was able to return again to the Refuge for another two years to take part in the beautiful work that occurs there.


In 1999, Sister Eileen Kiley, a Columban Missionary Sister from Ireland, suggested that I apply for grants for the Refuge. Together we wrote the first grant for the purpose of supplying furniture for the young mothers' new cottage living areas that were being built. Other subsequent grants provided uniforms and school supplies for the girls, a new water heater, new propane heaters to replace the old kerosene heaters, an exercise mat for the infant development program, a refrigerator for baby food and formula, and a large-capacity washer.


The idea for the Merciful Love Connection was born in 2000 while teaching my classes in the United States. My friend, Leona Muller, asked, “Well, aren’t you going to tell the students about your work at the Refuge? They just might want to help you." Red-faced and hesitant, I described the work. They listened intently and responded generously. I learned that day that most people are grateful for the opportunity to help others.


In 2003, another friend, Christine Landerholm-Miller, asked if she could host a fundraiser for the Refuge. She raised $3000. The next year she again raised over $3000. On August 5, 2005, the Merciful Love Connection received a Certificate of Incorporation as a Non-Profit Corporation of Washington. By October we received our tax exemption status. Our volunteer financial advisor said that this was the fastest grant of a 501 (c) 3 status that he'd ever seen! Perhaps the speedy grant of status was a reminder that the young mothers’ needs were urgent and we needed to get to work-so we did.


In 2005 the Merciful Love Connection held its first annual board meeting. Sr. Yvette, Michael Roybal, Claudia Petursson and Lani McCarry were the first members. We hosted our first fundraiser as a charitable organization and as a result, were able to give our first grant of $3,000 to the Refuge, a joyful event. The grant provided for the construction of a sidewalk that conquered the sea of mud that appears every year during the rainy season. The project united us as a group and the tangible results increased confidence in our ability to support the work of the Refuge. The group expanded; Bill Lehtinen, and Coreen Heib joined the board. Michael Roybal developed a web site for the Merciful Love Connection.


First Board of directors 05

                                          The First Board of Directors, 2005

                       Top left, clockwise: Michael, Claudia, Sr. Yvette and Lani


The year 2006 saw the design of a Merciful Love Connection logo, which was sent to graphic artist, Leticia Quintana, in Chile to complete. The simple image seems more powerful to us than a thousand words, and it serves as a visible sign, not only of our identity, but also of our connection to those who wish to support the young mothers and infants at the Refuge. Ana Dvoredsky from Chile became a board member. The Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters offered a grant to remodel the Refuge laundry and to hire a computer teacher. In August we held our second fund raiser and Michael Roybal published our first website. In December brochures were completed though the donated services of graphic designer, Austin Dwyer.


In  2007, our first strategic planning meeting took place. We created a statement of our vision, mission, and goals that guide our endeavors and help us communicate with others (See About Us), and also a five-year plan. The five-year plan for the future of the Refuge includes increasing capacity, maintaining buildings, and providing for education, job training and counseling for the young mothers. In alignment with our goals, the Merciful Love connection sent $3000 to provide necessities for the young mothers when they enter the Refuge. Donald Gregory, a board member, created a new format for the treasurer’s reports that provides transparent accounting of income and expenses. Chris Gaines became our secretary.


With some of the most urgent Refuge needs in place, we began to dream! The year 2007 was a record year for individual donations. A friend of the Refuge even donated the proceeds from the sale of a mobile home! Grants were acquired from the Koch Foundation, the Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters, the Raskob Foundation, the Monroe Rotary Club, the Canadian Association in Chile, St. John the Baptist Church in Covington, St. Brendan Church in Bothell, Holy Family Church in Kirkland, and St. Jude in Redmond. Because of the grants and donations, the Merciful Love Connection was able to fund ongoing programs and also begin the biggest project of all- a five-stage major remodel of the 1927 Refuge buildings. These stages are: Stage I, bathroom renovation; Stage II, major roof repairs; Stage III, renovations to create a computer room, a library, an office for the Refuge director, a ‘boutique’, where the young mothers can choose clothing from donated items; and an apartment that will expand capacity for more young mothers; Stage IV, remodel existing spaces to create three classrooms and a recreation room; and Stage V, replace the roof of the administration building and remodel the interior to create offices for the psychologist and for the social worker as well as a meeting room and a reception room for families. With high hopes and a lot of prayer, $8000 was sent to Chile for an architect to draw plans for the first stages of the renovations. Bill Lehtinen, the current board president, and Dennis Lehtinen, the vice-president, use their skills as builders to guide the projects.


In 2008, a celebration was held to welcome the Sisters from Chile and to raise funds for construction. The Sisters inspired us with their joy in their work and their belief that love, patience, and education will enable the young mothers to build a future for themselves and their child. Sister Edith described her ongoing program to encourage strong bonds between the unmarried men and the infant they have fathered. “Give me some time with the dads and the infants, and I assure you, strong bonds will form between them.” Sister Mari described the need to be patient with the young mothers who are children themselves and who have little or no help from family. As she described the background of poverty, abuse, and violence that many of the young mothers come from, we were reminded again of the urgent need to accomplish as much as possible during each young mothers’ stay at the Refuge. As a result of the fundraiser and Sister Yvette’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, over $5,000 was raised for the Refuge. Kay Morison and Kathy Swarthout joined the Board of Directors


In 2009, Tom Fitz, a lawyer, and Mary Trykoski, an experienced accountant, joined the Board of Directors. The first four stages of the renovations were completed, much to our joy. In 2010 the recreation room and three new classrooms for job training courses and the infant development class were finished and in use.  In 2011 we were able to fund the replacement of the badly deteriorating administration roof and to remodel the interior to provide private spaces for staff, the young mothers and their families to meet, work, and play. Carole Wilson, our web site manager, became Vice President.


Already in 2012 we have purchased four new basic computers for the jobs training program and three for the staff. We are also providing a program called Buen Trato, developed by the University of Santiago that shows great promise in helping the young mothers break the cycle of anger and violence in order to build a brighter future. Thank you for supporting the courageous young women; you are making a difference.



Sr. Yvette Mallow


The Sisters of the Congregation of Merciful Love make the Refuge an oasis of hope. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of it.