Prince of Peace Center, Farrell, Executive Director Jennifer Wallace, right, and Community Supportive Service Director Natalie Higbee, left, are shown in Christmas costumes for the center's toy giveaway.

Prince of Peace Center, Farrell, Executive Director Jennifer Wallace, right, and Community Supportive Service Director Natalie Higbee, left, are shown in Christmas costumes for the center’s toy giveaway.

“I always say I’m humbled every day,” said Jennifer Wallace, the new executive director and chief executive officer of the Prince of Peace Center in Farrell.
Since taking over Sept. 30, the Brookfield native said she is humbled by the work the staff does, going above and beyond to help people in crisis and with basic everyday needs, and humbled by the clients who come in the doors and are facing eviction or struggling to buy food and pay utility bills, or who want a better life for their families.
“I believe in the Catholic mission,” Wallace said. “I do believe in serving as much as you can.”
Wallace is a trained nurse who worked in many facets of the profession, including administration, operations and quality. Working the last 15 years in hospice, she had spent a lot of time the last 18 months on the road and wanted to get back to being the “home girl” she knows she is.
“I missed my family,” said the former Jennifer Wlodarski, now living in Sharon. “I missed going to the grocery store and seeing somebody. It’s a whole ‘nother ball game when you are not at home.”
When a friend suggested she apply for the Prince of Peace job after Joe Flecher announced he would retire after 15 years at the helm, the 1985 Brookfield High School graduate said she was hesitant, because it is something “totally different from what I am doing.”
Wallace said she prayed about it, talked to her priest and her family, and her daughter, Nicole, gave her a sense of perspective.
“My middle daughter said, ‘Mom, why are you asking us what you want to do?’ She goes, ‘You’ve always been giving of yourself, and this is just a different avenue for you.’”
Wallace noted that her parents and grandparents had taught her to serve others, in whatever way was possible, and she had taken that mission into nursing.
“I’m still serving,” she said. “It’s just serving in a different capacity.”
promoThe Prince of Peace Center is a multi-faceted service organization founded 26 years ago by Sister Bonita Repasky, who was succeeded by Sister Claire Marie Beighner, and then Flecher, the first lay director. It serves the entire surrounding community, including Brookfield, Masury and Hubbard.
The center’s services include emergency services, which could include anything from food to housing to help paying bills; case management for men, women and families who have fallen on hard times and want better lives; a twice-a-week soup kitchen open to anyone; a thrift store; and life skills education.
“One of the hardest things is to change the mindset of the community of Prince of Peace and who we are,” said Natalie Higbee, a 17-year-employee who runs the center’s supportive services program. “Everyone thinks that we are a thrift store.”
The center needs to sell itself better, but also needs to do more, Wallace said. That could include getting outside its Farrell headquarters, something it already does a bit by running an afterschool program at Stey-Nevant Public Library in Farrell, and plans to start providing emergency services to Bethel Life Worship Center near Greenville.
“I want to get more of that activity out there, not just here,” said Wallace, the daughter of Jean and John Wlodarski. “There are underserved and hungry kids in Sharon and Sharpsville and Hermitage that no one really wants to talk about.”
Expanding services will take funding. While the Prince of Peace receives some public funding, such as participating in the PA Workwear program for people on cash assistance who need proper clothing for jobs or job interviews, the majority of its funding comes from donations.
Finding more volunteers, especially younger ones, also is a goal.
“I need to go knocking on more doors, because I think we can grow,” Wallace said.
Higbee said the staff is ready to follow where Wallace leads.
“She has fit in well,” Higbee said. “I know, speaking on the behalf of staff, that we believe that she’s doing a very good job thus far and we see where she’s gonna take us to another level.”
Anyone who needs the assistance of Prince of Peace or wants to volunteer can call 724-346-5777.