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 | By Erin Looby Carlson

Dispatched to serve

Sheriff raises thousands for Emmaus House, helps women who once spent time in his jail

Bill Federspiel heard the call at age 4. He remembers it clearly and even has a photo that memorializes the exact moment. It was Christmas Day 1972. Proudly wearing his new uniform from Santa and standing in front of the tree inside his family’s home on Maplewood Street in Saginaw, he had a desire to one day become a police officer.

Of course, like many pictures, it only tells part of the story. The innocence of a young boy at Christmas is clear; what is not clear is the reason for his desire to wear a uniform in real life.

“My dad was a drinker and abusive to my mom, and I was afraid of him,” Bill said. “This was before 911 and domestic violence laws ... but when the officers from the Saginaw City Police Department did come to our house, Dad went away to ‘sleep it off’ somewhere. I think I correlated, in my young mind, that these guys in uniform equaled me having a good night sleep without fear.”

Whatever the exact reason, Bill describes his pursuit of a life of service in law enforcement as a call. After graduating from Nouvel Catholic Central High School, he moved to Florida and attended the Southwest Florida Police Academy. He became a police officer at 19 and spent a decade working in a large department, many years of which were undercover in the vice and narcotics division.

During his time in Florida, Bill grew in both the practice and knowledge of his faith. In December 1996, he returned to Saginaw with his wife, Mandy, whom he met and married in Florida. They and their children are members at both St. Thomas Aquinas and the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption parishes in Saginaw. He was working as a police officer when he heard a second call. This time, it was to submit his name for a seat on the Saginaw City Council. He won the seat and held it for several years before running for Saginaw County Sheriff in 2008.

“My prayer every day is, ‘Lord, please open whatever doors need to be opened and I’ll run through them, and close whatever doors need to be closed and I will turn around and walk the other way,’” he said.

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2008, Bill was sworn in as Saginaw County Sheriff at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Saginaw Township. In the newspaper clipping from the Saginaw News, Bill is pictured being sworn in by a judge in the presence of Father Randy Kelly, the parish’s pastor. A large crucifix is visible in the background.

“I wanted to give credit to the Lord who brought me here,” he said.

Born and raised Catholic, Bill was baptized at Holy Rosary Church in Saginaw. The old church has been vacant for years, but across the parking lot, the former convent became a testament to God’s love and mercy. In 1987, Emmaus House opened its doors to provide safe housing for women working to re-establish their lives after being released from jail, prison and drug rehab. Little did Bill know how close this ministry would become to his heart.

‘It’s been a journey’

Kimberly Moore stands in the Emmaus House kitchen pulling chicken off the bone to make a huge pot of soup for all the ladies who live there.

“I love to cook homemade food,” Kimberly said. “I ran restaurants for 25 years and sold cars for 14.”

Kimberly grew up in the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects in Detroit, the nation's first federally funded public housing development for African Americans. She said there was poverty and pain, but also a lot of love.

“When you put people in a project, it’s like a lot of people in a small community on top of each other, right next to each other … it was a family,” she said.

Although she had love and family, she admits her childhood was rough. She said she always wanted to go to church, even visualized herself singing in the choir, but her mother wouldn’t go because the family was too poor to buy the proper clothes.

Kimberly has battled addiction and is herself a survivor of domestic violence.

“I was abused for over 12 years by my children’s father,” she said. “I have four children. I lost one of them who was beaten out of me.”

In 2001, Kimberly went to rehab, saying she wanted to get her life together for herself and her children. When she got out, she said they had two great decades before she relapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was isolated and depressed and found myself going somewhere I didn’t want to go. I have eight grandchildren and I wanted them to be proud of me.”

So, Kimberly went back to rehab last year. There, she heard about Emmaus House, and knew it was where she needed to go.

“When I got out of the vehicle, there were open arms saying, ‘Welcome home,’” she recalled. “It was a feeling I cannot explain. It has changed my life. I'm in a (twelve-step) program now. I have a sponsor, I’m making amends to my family and I’m giving back. It’s been a journey.”

Emmaus House includes five homes housing 30 women. Each one has a house manager, and Kimberly is the manager of House No. 1, which welcomes all new guests upon their arrival. The women consider her a mother figure; she feeds them and builds them up.

“I get them first and love on them until they can love themselves,” she said. “I get women with abuse stories, and I’m able to sit down with them and cry with them and tell them I got through it, and they’ll get through it, too.

“I asked God to save me, restore me ... and I have that restoration today.”

With God all things are possible

At the center of the Emmaus House ministry is God and a lived encounter with his love and mercy. That’s why Executive Director Donna Clarke (see related story on page 16), like Emmaus House founder Sister Marietta Fritz, doesn’t accept any government funding. Instead, they rely on the generosity of the community.

A few years back, Sheriff Federspiel, who is also a musician, was asked to participate in Emmaus House’s annual fundraiser at First Presbyterian Church in Saginaw. He wanted to make sure they really wanted him— after all, many of the women at Emmaus House had come through the jail.

When he was sure they wanted him, he agreed to play piano as guests of Emmaus House sang a few songs during the event, which brought in a few thousand dollars.

"Through my interactions with the Emmaus House, my perception of those who were addicts and formerly incarcerated has changed dramatically,” Bill said. “The ladies of Emmaus House are brutally honest about their experiences. They express their situations, no matter how unpleasant, in a clear and accurate way, without attempting to disguise that unpleasantness. It is this honesty, the baring of their souls, that has touched my heart."

Through his involvement, Bill learned that the ministry’s foundation is built on God and that the program works.

“Women are not reoffending,” Donna said. “Our women are cleaning up their lives and becoming productive members of society.”

Despite their success, however, Emmaus House was tested in 2020 and 2021, as donations dropped dramatically. They remained convicted that they would do nothing to sacrifice their ability to keep God at the center of their ministry and they continued to trust in the Lord’s providence.

When Bill found out the ministry was struggling, he wanted to help … in a big way.

"As a child living in a home with domestic violence and alcoholism, many Saginaw police officers during the 1970s were called to our residence on Maplewood Street during great times of need,” Bill said. “I found comfort in that act of public service and I hope that I am able to convey that same compassion to the ladies of the Emmaus House as they, too, deal with fear, anxiety, embarrassment and loss."

The idea of a concert came to mind and through a series of events Bill attributes to divine intervention, he found himself on the phone with a member of the Kenny Rogers Band who called him from Nashville, Tenn.

Bill pitched the idea of a Kenny Rogers Tribute Concert as a fundraiser for Emmaus House; the sheriff himself would perform as Kenny Rogers. To his amazement, the band loved the idea and agreed to travel to Michigan to perform with him.

In almost no time at all, Bill found sponsors to help. Dick Garber, Garber Management Group, Jolt Credit Union and Team One Credit Union all stepped forward to cover the cost of bringing in the band.

Just weeks later, Bill and the Kenny Rogers Band were performing for packed houses during two performances at Bronner Performing Arts Center in Frankenmuth.

“It was spectacular,” Bill said. “It was the good Lord; it wasn’t me. People say, ‘How did you get the Kenny Rogers Band?’ and I say, ‘I didn’t. [God] did, because the Emmaus House needed it.’”

In the end, the fundraiser brought in almost $27,000, or approximately 10 percent of Emmaus House’s annual budget in 2021. A second Kenny Rogers Tribute Concert in 2022 raised another $27,000.

"The sheriff has been our angel,” Donna said. “Times are tough right now. Our economy is not good and, when that happens, people don’t donate as much. He’s really come in and saved us financially.”

The Emmaus House ministry has had an incredible impact on Bill, as well. In many ways, it has brought him full circle. At four years old, he heard the call to be a police officer, equating the badge with having a safe place to sleep at night. Years later, having followed through on that call, he is helping to provide that same safety and security to others, including those who have spent time in jail.

"My involvement with Emmaus House has changed me as a person,” Bill said. “It has strengthened my faith by opening my heart to the women in this program. It has shown me that the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed through the lives of these ladies, and it has also brought me closer to our Lady, Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary. My Irish grandmother, Margaret "Mick" Taylor-Maziarz prayed the Rosary daily and it brought her tremendous peace.  So, too, my mother prayed the Rosary daily for strength and peace.  My cousin, the late Father William Taylor, was also an inspiration to me in my formative years.  To this day, I keep my rosary in my front pocket to remind me of the power of prayer and the great love and mercy of God our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the outpouring of grace through the Holy Spirit.”

The Diocese of Saginaw provides annual financial support to Emmaus House through charitable grants distributed by the Bishop's Charity Board. To learn more about Emmaus House, visit