La PORTE — On Mother’s Day, La Porte First United Methodist Church honored the life of its trailblazing Missionary Helen Wilk and seven members who exhibited her leadership and example for young girls and women in the community.

According to a press release from La Porte United Methodist Church, last Sunday La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz presented a synopsis of Helen Wilk’s courageous service, relaying that she’d met her when she visited her family and home church in the 1930s. Helen was born in La Porte in 1901 and graduated high school here. She achieved an Arts Degree from Ohio Wesleyan University before leaving to serve in the Philippines mission field in October of 1925. 

There, she co-founded the Cosmopolitan Christian Church, affiliated with the Methodist Church. The Church then founded and was affiliated with the Emmanuel Cooperative Hospital, which she co-managed. During World War II, Helen Wilk and other missionaries were instrumental in aiding local collaborators to escape from Japanese Occupational Forces. Unfortunately, they were betrayed, tortured and executed along with other missionaries in 1944. 

On this 75th anniversary of her death as a recognized Christian Martyr, La Porte First United Methodist Church presented the following seven members with the Helen Wilk Legacy Award, honoring her tremendous courage and leadership, church officials said

As a long-time FUMC member, Beverly Barnes is known for her dedicated service in feeding others. She has been a leader in the funeral committee and in numerous other events where food is served, including regular provision of Salvation Army meals. She also assists with the successful bi-annual Treasure Sales, raising funds for FUMC special projects, and she taught Sunday and Bible school classes for many years. Beverly also sings with the Praise Choir.

Debbie Baughman transitioned careers from beautician, to house flipper, to executive director of human resources at La Porte Hospital after attending college as an adult. She achieved a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees and also began teaching at Purdue Northwest. At the hospital, she coordinated the scholarship program and volunteered for the Day of Service. In 2017, she moved to Horizon Bank, and has advanced to vice president of branch training. Other activities include chairwoman of Northwest Indiana Workforce Board for the 2018-19 year, Tri Kappa member, and long-time Healthcare Foundation of La Porte volunteer.  

Greta Friedman was elected judge of La Porte Country Superior court No. 4 in 2014 after seven years as its magistrate. As a magistrate, she was a member of the Board of Managers of the Indiana Judges Association and was instrumental in helping set up La Porte County’s Problem Solving Court. She was recognized for these efforts as Judge of the Year by the Indiana Criminal Justice Association in 2016. She also is an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Greta is one of the founders of Stepping Stone Domestic Violence Shelter, was active on the Red Cross Board, and is a former La Porte Service League member. She is a long-time FUMC Praise Band member and also has acted in community theater for many years.

Years ago, Shelley Ludlow saw the need and worked to expand La Porte Community Child Care programs across the school corporation. She then recognized a gap in pre-K offerings and started a program called Kindermates. In addition, she was a strong supporter of the high School Girl Reserves volunteers, and a former member of the La Porte Service League. Following a Haiti mission trip, her zeal for missions ignited and she began mentoring high school students, serving on church committees and traveling on additional service trips.

Bonnie Quigley is an FUMC choir and Handbells member. In the community, she’s been a backbone of La Porte Little Theatre for more than 40 years – directing, costuming, and mentoring while performing in 50-plus shows. She also served as board president, and now as business manager. Bonnie has been active with Footlight Players in Michigan City and with the La Porte County Symphony, and received multiple awards for acting, directing, and set design from Northern Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation. She retired after 24 years in various La Porte County positions, including with the police department and with Judge Greta Friedman.   

Mary Kay Steele and her husband, Peter, created and have led the FUMC Praise Band for 19 years. She also has served as children's choir director for The Presbyterian Church and VBS music leader for 1st Church of God. Mary Kay is a Youth Service Bureau Lunch Buddy, has been a Girl Scout troop leader, created the "Side Porch Girls Reading Club" and is a long-time Girls on the Run coach.  She currently works as a children's librarian. With FUMC, she served through a Washington, D.C., mission trip and will travel to Guatemala this summer. She has been a Hoosier Star Audition and Celebrity Judge, and a competition finalist, and has won numerous regional theater acting awards. She is the song stylist for Me and the Boys and the Midwest Big Band.

Sandy Young is an 18-year Praise Band member and serves on the FUMC Mission Committee. She is president of the Arts in the Park board, incoming president of La Porte Service League, a Hoosier Star committee and League of Women Voters volunteer. She retired as Vice President from Unity Foundation of La Porte County and continues to chair the county Home Team coalition. Previously, she focused on health and wellness issues as Director of Healthy Communities of La Porte County and coordinator of the Drug Free Partnership. She’s also been active in community theater, performing in more than 50 shows.

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