Sister Karen Klimczak is still leaving peace prints on earth even though her life ended violently more than four years ago. The Bissonette House, the halfway house for former inmates that she established back in the 1980s, is now celebrating an expansion. The Bissonette House could have shut down after the woman who ran it, Sister Karen, was murdered in the house on Good Friday in 2006 by one of the former prisoners she was trying to help.
"One way to honor her would be to expand our services," says Thomas Piniewski, Program Director at Bissonette House, "Sister Karen had wonderful results with the guys she worked with and our building had some capacity on the third floor."
The third floor of the house at 335 Grider Street in Buffalo now includes several new bedrooms enabling Bissonette House to help 19 former inmates. That's up from a maximum of 12 before the expansion. There's also a new air conditioning and heating system, and an upgraded roof, all thanks to a grant from New York State's Homeless Housing and Assistance program. Bishop Edward Kmiec of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo blessed the newly remodeled facility at Friday's re-dedication ceremony.
Some former residents also came back for the re-dedication and shared their success stories. "I've been employed by the City (of Buffalo) for nine years now and I've just become a member of the community, a working member of the community just like Sister Karen," says Antwan Diggs who lived at the Bissonette House in 1999.
"If we don't find good places for them they're apt to go back to the same behavior and that's going to be a problem for us all," says Piniewski.
The man who admitted killing Sister Karen is in prison serving a 25 years to life sentence.