Community of Caring

Mother Mary Beth Kennedy and Elder Charles Kennedy

Our Founders

Mother Kennedy & Elder Charles Kennedy

Raised in Erie, Mother Kennedy graduated as valedictorian at Strong Vincent High School and was awarded a full scholarship to Temple University. In 1946, she met her husband, Elder Charles Kennedy Sr., and earned her bachelor’s degree two years later.

In 1955, the Kennedys came to Erie for training to become missionaries in Africa. In January 1956, they established and operated a mission school in the Liberian villages of Tugbakeh and Wissekeh. After returning to Erie in 1964, they founded the House of Prayer while Mother Kennedy worked as a substitute teacher in the Erie School District. Deeply concerned about children with social and emotional difficulties, the Kennedys founded the Community Country Day School in 1968. Many of these children needed a haven outside of school, and the Kennedys created the Community Drop-in Center, now Community Shelter Services.

In 1980, the Kennedys founded Community of Caring, a social service agency that provides the necessities of life. This became an active international organization in Cuba, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. The Kennedys believed God called them to “a ministry of reconciliation,” bringing various races, classes, and nationalities together.

Later, Mother Kennedy received a master’s degree in Bible Theology from the International Bible Institute and Seminary in 1981. She went on to earn a professional teaching certificate in Special Education from Edinboro University in 1983. The University also bestowed on her an Honorary Doctor of Public Service in 1991.

Mother Kennedy was a gifted writer and author of inspirational poetry and instructional books. Over the years, Mother Kennedy received numerous accolades, including an Apostolic Blessing from Pope John Paul Il for her service to those in need. In 1995, she received the prestigious United Way of America National Alexis de Tocqueville Award, previously bestowed upon Bob Hope, Henry Ford Il, President Ronald Reagan, President Jimmy Carter, and the Gates Family. Susan Hirt Hagen presented her with this award at the United Way of America annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Kennedys had four children: the late Rev. Charles Kennedy, Jr.; Mary Kennedy Brown; Elizabeth Kennedy Rooks; and Grace Kennedy Foster, M.D. They were also blessed with eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Elder Kennedy passed away in 2005; Mother Kennedy continued their lifelong work of changing the world with love. She passed away in 2020. Their legacy of love and service continues to this day.

Mother Kennedy

The Edward C. Doll Community Service Award

The Edward C. Doll Community Service Award, named after Ed Doll, longtime volunteer leader of The Erie Community Foundation, honors those who inspire our community through philanthropy and volunteerism. Foundation Trustees proudly recognized Mother Kennedy as their 2017 honoree. Mother Kennedy designated the proceeds of the Edward C. Doll Community Service Award to Community Country Day School, Community of Caring, and the Charles and Betty Kennedy Legacy of Love Foundation.