A Regularly, Irregular Message from Community Ministries

Hello Everyone.
Wow, how long has it been? It seems that the interval between these “regularly, irregular” updates from your neighbors at Community Ministries is increasing.  Well, we have been very busy. Let me try to bring you up to date on some of that busy-ness.

Ministry by the Numbers
We ended the year with a non-duplicated client base of around 1,200 families and provided 2,300 family services & 4,800 individual services(of all sorts, some to duplicated clients).

  • We spent $7,000 on food to supplement 180,000 pounds of donated food, including canned and boxed goods, dairy products and fresh produce from a variety of sources. Money spent on food comes from donated Martins gift cards.
  • We spent the following on Emergency Assistance: over $16,000 on utilities which includes electricity and water/sewer; just under $4,000 on fuel of all types; close to $4,000 on housing and just over $6,000 on the emergency cold-weather shelter.
  • We spent almost $6,000 on Transitional Assistance, primarily on our jobs program and on health & well-being services.
  • We donated over $140,000 (Salvation Army valuation) in gently used donated clothing.
  • Our volunteers logged a minimum of about 30,000 hours during the year. There are many more volunteer hours that we know about, but can’t count.

Moving Forward in 2017
We continue to pursue programs to help clients become more self-sufficient and are enrolling clients into a transition program with more direct and immediate support and coaching.  Our jobs program currently has seven individuals receiving some compensation for work to support our mission as well as in the community and receiving pay from partner organizations.  Our Health & Well-Being program features wellness coaching with the Jefferson County Health Officer, with follow-up appointments as necessary, and referral to behavioral health consultants, also as necessary.  Other referrals are made to a variety of healthy life-style group and individual sessions, including food and diet, stress reduction, diabetes, and more.

High Tunnel Dedication
Recently, the Ranson Old Town Community Garden Association (ROTCGA), dedicated the High Tunnel Greenhouse. This was a celebration, not just of the high tunnel, but of the progress made by the ROTCGA group over the last four years. It is absolutely clear that this team knows how to grow gardens that bring healthful and fresh produce into our food pantry on a daily basis—almost year around.

But, it is also quite clear that this team knows how to grow relationships.  Their progress over the past four years could not have been made without first, having planted the seeds of relationships with a host of individuals and groups. As important as the fresh produce is to so many, relationships are even more important.  We live in a time of growing isolation as we cluster in our own self-contained bubbles, focused on our own interests, needs and wants. The community gardens provide us with a dynamic vision of what can be accomplished by relationships that break the bounds of individual bubbles. Yes, we need fresh produce, but what we really need are relationships. Thanks, folks, you have done well!

Partnership with the Animal Welfare Society
The Cold Weather Shelter ended its’ 2016-2017 season as March ended. It was a season made successful by 11 host churches and many individual volunteers who spent long winter nights allowing our residents to sleep safely and warmly, who prepared meals and snacks each and every night and not only during the shelter season, but year around. John’s report in the next mailing will have more details.  For now, I want to focus on a challenge of this season, and in this kind of ministry.

A woman came to us after a series of family losses, including her home which she shared with her now deceased mother.  She was left with her car, filled with all she owned, and two small dogs. There were no shelters she could go to without giving up her pets; this she could not do–they were all she had. She and her pets slept in her car, heater on to ward off the worst of the cold.  Occasionally, she would come for gas vouchers to keep her heater going. She grew increasingly isolated, weak and ill through lack of healthy food, drink and movement. Our friends at Animal Welfare Society (AWS) graciously agreed to shelter her dogs.  Only, when she was assured that her pets were well cared for and that she would get them back, would she came into the shelter. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late. Her declining health state made it difficult for her to get out of her car and nearly impossible for her to get into the van. There were 911 calls and short term hospitalizations that began to help with the physical health issues, but none were lasting.  Finally, she was transferred to a hospital out of the area and began a treatment with some hope of rehab to follow. Recently, we learned that she had died, underscoring that it had been too late. Family members were located by the hospital and they released the pets for adoption through AWS.

Our challenge is always to discover how best to help our clients.  We are also challenged to understand our limits—there are just some things that we are not prepared for or capable of doing. And, we need to successfully deal with the reality that the resources available for many of our clients—indeed for many in our community—are seriously lacking. Substance abuse and mental health issues simply do not enjoy the attention or resources that they deserve. So we, and other agencies, do the best we can and we grieve when our efforts prove to be less than we would like.

We had a relationship with this client, as we do with each of our clients.  As we live into these relationships, we must also be very clear that our responsibilities for our clients have limits.  Our relationship partners also have responsibilities, and those we dare not assume. We are increasingly aware that our responsibility is mainly, “to be present,” as fully and as long as possible. And, we grieve, as a way to preserve that presence.

The Unseen
We live in bubbles—you have heard that before.  In an attempt to break down at least a few bubbles, we have introduced a series of short videos highlighting some of our clients and a few volunteers.  We wanted to show a bit of the lives and the life stories of some of our neighbors who come in these doors.  We want to demonstrate that those who give, also receive—and those who receive also give.  This also shows that we are all far more alike than different and that our bubbles are artificial constructs that we all use and that tend to make relationship building very difficult.

You can find this series on our website and on our Facebook page.