Sister Helen Huewe (1935-2020) was a tireless advocate for Dubuque's Marshallese community, and before she passed away, she sought to complete fundraising for the community's Paradise Church Improvement Project . Her family of 65 years, the Sisters of St. Francis, requested the Community Foundation assist in her dream of raising the remaining $100,000 toward the project goal of $250,000.
“They thought it was snow so they played in it.”
It was not snow that the children were playing in. It was the fallout from the atomic bombs the United States dropped on the homeland of the Marshallese people in 1954.
Stan Sampson is a pastor of Dubuque Paradise Church and grew up hearing this story from his mother, who now lives in Dubuque and was one of the children playing in the "snow."
Pacific Islanders are a growing population in Dubuque. Most of them emigrated from the Marshall Islands and have traveled to the area because of economic conditions, need of education, and chronic health challenges. Their homeland was the site of atomic bomb testing during World War II, which lead to dangerous living conditions and no economic future. Since 1982, Marshallese can legally live and work in the United States while retaining their citizenship in the Marshall Islands. Despite being able to live and work here, they do not have access to health insurance and are not technically citizens.
Dubuque Paradise Church is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves approximately 200 people in the Marshallese community and is located in an economically challenged area of the city.
The church is utilized several days of the week for religious services. But it is more than a church. It also serves as a community center where Marshallese gather for meals, meetings, and celebrations. It is a place where their culture and lives can be shared.
A group of leading business citizens and philanthropic champions, Paradise Friends, came together to assist Paradise Church in completing rehabilitation of the building. Paradise Friends is now working to obtain additional donations, grants, and matching funds to rehabilitate the historic structure. This will strengthen the community and allow for the local Marshallese to prosper and celebrate their heritage and traditions.
Paradise Friends is working to raise $250,000 for building improvements, including accessibility, air conditioning, electrical systems, refinishing of the floors, pews, and plumbing.