Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is proud to acknowledge the invaluable service of Libba Claude, an extraordinary woman who donates her time and resources to the hundreds of families from The Children’s Center at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York.
Operated by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, The Children’s Center is a unique model program that unites children and their incarcerated mothers. A special ceremony honoring Libba Claude as Catholic Charities’ 2010 Volunteer of the Year took place on January 20, 2011 at The Children’s Center.
Mrs. Claude’s service to The Children’s Center began more than fifteen years ago, when she first volunteered as a driver for the Center’s visitation programs. Traveling across the state, she brought children back and forth to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility so that they could enjoy visits with their mothers, who were often serving long sentences.
Soon after she became a Children’s Advocate, acting as a liaison between an incarcerated mother and the various entities that impact her child , such as guardians, schools, hospitals, social workers, social service agencies and the family court system. Through the years Mrs. Claude has kept children and their incarcerated mothers closely connected, despite the physical separation imposed by their circumstance.
In 2005, hoping to create a more normal environment for children to visit with their incarcerated mothers, Mrs. Claude tirelessly raised funds for a playground and garden to be constructed adjacent to the Facility’s Visiting Room.
Thanks to Mrs. Claude’s dedication The Children’s Center “Patio” is a beautiful and welcoming site that hosts joyful reunions and sun-filled visits for mothers and their families. The Patio includes a basketball court, jungle gym, bench swings and picnic tables. On many occasions, you can see Mrs. Claude, tending lovingly to the patio garden that bring so much beauty to the area.
“What a joyful, beautiful place we have created for our visiting children,” says Mrs. Claude. “There is no greater thrill for me than to hear the peals of laughter and squeals of delight coming from the children as I work in the garden that surrounds the area.”
An effective fundraiser, Mrs. Claude gives generously of her time to support many of The Children’s Center’s other initiatives, including the annual Holiday Program, where incarcerated mothers are able to select new toys donated by the community, and present it to their children on Christmas day.
Most recently, Mrs. Claude arranged for The Children’s Center to be the beneficiary of a new 15-seater passenger van to bring children back and forth from the Facility for visits.
Mrs. Claude believes her motivation to give to those in need was inherent. Born and raised in North Carolina, she remembers the dedicated commitment of her parents to their own local community. Her father, a practicing lawyer and judge, accepted country ham and fresh vegetables from clients in lieu of payment and her mother supported the war effort by helping to roll bandages. Mrs. Claude notes, “My parents continued in their charitable endeavors until old age stopped them. When I was still quite young, I spent my meager Christmas savings making a basket for a needy family. Outreach has always been a priority in my life.”
Mrs. Claude has accomplished a lifetime of good work by selflessly giving her time, talent and resources to a host of not-for-profits and boards throughout the area, including Northern Westchester Hospital, St. Matthew’s Church in Bedford, The East Side House Settlement and Henry Street Settlement. In 2006, Mrs. Claude received the Sarah Powell Huntington Leadership Award from the Women’s Prison Association.
As evidenced by her ongoing and wholehearted commitment, Mrs. Claude’s heart, though, resides with the women incarcerated at Bedford Hills and their families. “I know that I have found my ministry in my prison work,” says Libba. “Being ‘in the trenches’ with these women and their families has brought me enormous gratification and pleasure. For that, I am thankful every day!”
Catholic Charities proudly honors Libba Claude for her selfless service to all aspects of The Children’s Center and to the mothers incarcerated at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and their children and families.