“I’ve been able to follow what I want to do.”
Eileen Hughes’ leadership comes from the grounding she received as a child in her “very large Irish Catholic family from Chicago.” She says, “that’s where my roots are and that’s guided me for the rest of my life.” Those same roots have helped her become a consistent behind-the-scenes leader at St. Margaret’s House.
In reflecting on and talking about her life Eileen asserts, “I have no regrets.” After moving to South Bend more than 30 years ago, she started volunteering in various organizations. She did what she could to help in her kids’ schools, but wanted to look out in the community to help those organizations that didn’t have as many volunteers.
Eileen bristles when her life’s work is reduced to the phrase “just a housewife”: “I never liked the phrase ‘just a housewife,’ and I’m glad I did what I did.” Following her passions of children, food, women, and reading, Eileen found herself at St. Margaret’s House. Over the past 17 years she has volunteered in a variety of capacities and positions. Her first foray into St. Margaret’s House was in response to a call for help with cooking. Upon arriving she was told to “make whatever you want” and 17 years later continues to cook every Monday. She describes her work at St. Margaret’s House as “volunteering and doing what I like.”
Eileen observes that one of the things she most treasures about her time at St. Margaret’s House is how the volunteers have formed a bond and a multi-layer support system. She describes this as a “cultural bonding amongst women and volunteers to create a community.”
In addition to her work cooking at St. Margaret’s House, Eileen has served on the Board both as secretary and as a member of the Finance and Long Range Planning committees, and will soon begin service as vice president. She also volunteers as a tutor through the Literacy Council’s Read to Me program.
Every Monday when she walks through the doors of St. Margaret’s House, Eileen puts into practice her philosophy of, “It’ll work out.”
Information compiled from oral history collected by the Michiana Women Leaders Project
Eileen was a 2017 CMWL honoree.