Sister Lucina Halbur, Former president, S.E.T. Ministry Inc.

Now that she has retired from S.E.T. Ministry in Milwaukee, Sister Lucina Halbur can look back on a lifetime of bridging the gap and providing needed services for the less fortunate.

Halbur, who retired from her post as president and chief executive officer of S.E.T. (Service to Empower and Transform) in October after 15 years, has always sought to deliver social services and meet the basic needs of battered women, persons with chronic mental illness, low-income families and senior citizens, according to Antonio Perez, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Housing Authority.

In 1996, Halbur and S.E.T. were founding partners in the Lapham Park Venture, a public-private partnership to develop continuing community care for low-income seniors. This national model has been recognized with awards from Harvard University and the Ford Foundation, the American Planning Association and the National League of Cities.

Through the Lapham Park Venture, which was done in partnership with the city housing authority and the Milwaukee County Department on Aging and Community Care Inc., seniors and others in need are able to obtain high-quality services without having to leave their homes.

“They are able to stay in their apartments and avoid nursing homes or other institutional placements,” Halbur says. “This means they are able to avoid evictions, because we broker the services and bring them in — whether that is housekeeping or meals, or providing home health care.”

In 1993, Halbur developed and implemented a case management system for low-income elderly and persons with disabilities living in public housing high-rises. This program currently serves more than 1,300 people living in 14 separate public housing developments, including the elderly, people with disabilities or those with chronic mental illness. The program provides them with needed support services.

“Through her work and career, Sister Lucina has embodied her faith and pursued her passion to serve others, always focusing on those with the greatest needs,” says Perez, who nominated her for the Health Care Hero award.

Early on, Halbur established herself as crusader for the less fortunate. In the early 1960s, while working as nurse in a mental hospital in Winnebago County, she led a campaign to shut down the worst institutions for the mentally ill.

With her master’s degree in psychiatric mental health nursing, she saw that many people with debilitating mental health were not receiving the available services they needed. So, she strove to correct that disparity, connecting available resources to those who needed it most – an achievement she would go on to repeat in her career in social services.

“I would say that whole environment of working in a Catholic order (the Sisters of St. Agnes) promoted a spirit of looking out to needs beyond what institutions could do, and coming up with ways to reach out to people who really had few resources,” Halbur says.

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