Shining Star

Marlene Roulliard broke free from a vicious cycle and founded the Women's Empowerment Circle.

"Her biggest contribution is her heart," says RoSean Kent Howard, a Four Winds councilmember. "Her heart is so big, she can't help but help the people. She's raised a lot of kids, too, and she's still raising them. And she's humble. Very humble."

Lisa didn't know Marlene well, but she'd heard some of these things. So she stopped by Marlene's bungalow, which is next door to Four Winds. Although Marlene had a full house that night, she took Lisa in. She has watched over her ever since.

When Lisa's boy was born seven months ago, Marlene practically became his grandma. She fed him, sang to him, loved him. And this generosity has helped Lisa to stand tall. She has learned how to use computers. She has made plans to attend college this fall. She's hoping to get her own place. But no matter what she accomplishes, she and her baby will continue to visit the basement of Four Winds and sit among the women.

John Johnston
A stitch in time: Marlene Roulliard works on a star quilt 
in the Four Winds basement.
John Johnston
A stitch in time: Marlene Roulliard works on a star quilt in the Four Winds basement.

"They care about me here," Lisa says. "They do."

Corn bread, bean soup, rice and chicken casserole, cinnamon rolls with icing. Come on in, Marlene says. Grab a plate and have a seat. If you want to visit, you gotta eat. And when you're done, eat some more.

It's another Monday night, and the women are here again, talking about making jingle dresses, moccasins and dolls representing the different Native American nations. They're here again talking about babies, husbands and supplies they need, like new sewing machines, embroidery thread, polyester stuffing and diapers. Size fours. Don't forget the Lamborghini. They need one of those, too. A yellow one.

Come on in and take a seat. They're just talking.

After a while, though, a few of them will gather around the big quilt with their manicure scissors and spools of thread and begin snipping, measuring and humming. Marlene will sit back in her squeaky chair, flicking that lighter, presiding over it all. And they'll stay there until they're ready to go home.

The wind is sharp outside, and the snow has a thin crust of ice. But in the basement of Four Winds, the women drape their jackets over the backs of folding chairs and lay their gloves on the tabletops. In here, they stretch their legs out and loosen their hair ties. Among friends, family and familiar faces, these women are warm.

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