PRAYING AGAINST THE ODDS

Developers of a Lemay casino have political muscle on their side. But the School Sisters of Notre Dame are betting on a higher power.

From the rear door of the Maria Center, where the Notre Dame sisters operate their Head Start program, Speh gazes out on the proposed casino site. Beyond the rusty cyclone fence, the field leading to the river has turned tawny with the coming of winter. She wonders what will happen to the property that has remained vacant for so long.

"One of my concerns is that they are stopping creativity," Speh says. "There have to be creative people in the St. Louis County Council who can think of other uses for that land besides a gambling boat." Speh believes that the residents of Lemay are of the same mind.

"No casino should be put in a residential area. I'm not the only resident I'm talking about. There are so many good people out there. We've been passing out petitions, asking them personally. I've collected over 300 petitions, and in that collection I'll bet that I haven't had more than 15 people who said they want it. I'm working every day trying to get more.

"I don't have an ax to grind, except for the fact that it's wrong for the community. It's a selfish industry. They don't think of the common good. They only think of their own money. A casino won't lift Lemay up. It will tear it down."

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