As a new class of high school graduates head off to start their college careers, one of them will leave for school with the support of both Mercy and a lasting legacy of Mercy’s mission.
K.J. Rhimes earned the first Sister Roch Rocklage Sisters of Mercy Meacham Park Legacy Scholarship. The scholarship honors Sister Roch and the other Sisters of Mercy who have worked tirelessly over the decades to provide education and basic services to the Meacham Park community.
Rhimes will use the $25,000 scholarship to attend Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo., where he will be studying sports medicine. “When I found out I was chosen, I thought I was reading it wrong. I was thrilled,” Rhimes said.
Rhimes, a resident of the Meacham Park neighborhood, graduated from Kirkwood High School, where he played basketball. “I like to listen a lot to learn. I like to work with other people,” he said. “I’ve been in sports my whole life. I’ve run basketball camps for kids, but I also teach them about life. Growing up, I learned how basketball can help.”
The scholarship is funded by Mercy in collaboration with the Meacham Park Neighborhood Improvement Association (MNIA), which helped choose Rhimes as the first recipient.
Why Meacham Park?
The Sisters of Mercy have been active in Meacham Park for more than 50 years. The Sisters collaborated with local leaders on how to they could work together to meet the needs of their community and in 1967, they opened a health care clinic in the old fire house. The clinic quickly grew to expand hours and care for more patients in need.
In 1983, the Sisters, under the leadership of Sister Roch, moved the clinic to a larger building.
“The Sisters mean more to me than anyone I’ve ever worked with,” said Harriet Patton, MNIA board president. Patton’s relationship with the Sisters dates back 40 years.
Patton says prior to the Sisters opening the Meacham Park clinic, many residents relied on the county health department for services. But to reach those services, residents had to take a bus and often wait around for hours. Receiving care at the health department turned in to an all-day affair for many residents.
In 2005, the Meacham Park clinic was merged with the Mercy JFK Clinic located at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. But to this day, the Sisters, working alongside Mercy’s community health team, continue their work supporting and prioritizing the Meacham Park community. Mercy created specialized outreach to the Meacham Park community, including providing access to health care in their neighborhood, donating space in Kirkwood for MNIA to use, supporting the MNIA through a Christmas adopt-a-family program and back-to-school drive, and seeking further input through focus group sessions for the tri-annual community health needs assessment.
For decades, Sister Roch and other Sisters would collaborate with Patton and other Meacham Park leaders. Patton says she treasures this collaboration as she still regularly meets with Sisters Barbara Grant and Marilynn Wittenauer on what they can do together for Meacham Park.
“The Sisters mean a lot to us, to me as an individual, with how they always gave of themselves to us,” Patton said. “Now that continues as this scholarship in the name of Sister Roch and all the Sisters will ensure deserving Black students receive the financial support they need to go to college.”