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MUST Ministries expands housing, food programs for families

Valentine’s Day announcement includes new housing units in Cobb County, increase in Save It Forward food allotments.

Thanks to a Valentine’s announcement, life will be sweeter this year for families in need as MUST Ministries makes significant strides in expanding programs. MUST’s efforts to meet the ever-growing demand for services to families experiencing poverty includes new housing opportunities and additional food distributed in schools.

motel programAccording to Exec. VP Chris Fields, barriers to stable housing can be significant, particularly for those with a disability. “For close to a decade, MUST has provided supportive housing to those who have a disability and are experiencing chronic homelessness.

“Today, we are announcing the opening of 10 additional apartment units in Cobb County to assist our neighbors in need. These new units will house both families and single adults whose head of household has a disabling condition and who have been chronically homeless. The expansion of the MUST program represents a 50 percent increase in our supportive housing program in Cobb.”

“We have more applications than beds, but approximately 24 people, including children, will have stable housing in the program expansion,” said VP of Programs Rachel Castillo.

This is the first time HUD has awarded a new supportive housing project for Cobb in nearly a decade, Fields stated. “MUST is very excited to expand our housing program and offer more stability for those in poverty. We are beginning to take applications now and plan to begin serving new households this month.”

The apartments in South Cobb are part of a two-year grant MUST hopes will be extended. The housing is on a bus line and also features walk-in closets and other amenities that raise the level of dignity and provide hope.

In addition to more supportive housing, families in the MUST Save It Forward (SIF) program will be receiving more food. MUST’s SIF program is a food pantry program in conjunction with Marietta and Cobb County Schools that allows students and their families to get 75 pounds of food and toiletries each month. The program not only provides much needed nutrition to children and their families, but also has been shown to improve learning and health for those children in this program.

“We are excited to announce the addition of five more pounds of food for each family between mid-February and the end of the school year,” said Fields. “Eliminating hunger in families is a strategic focus for MUST, so this increase is part of our continued effort to partner with our schools and community to serve hungry families.

MUST is now serving almost 2,000 people a month through the MUST SIF program. A counselor or social worker helps identify those children in greatest need, and MUST provides the food and toiletries using a couponing program with community shoppers.

The program has grown by 20 percent in terms of families served this year, said Paula Rigsby, Director of Children’s Programs at MUST. “We expect it to continue increasing. In addition to canned goods and toiletries, MUST works hard to provide frozen meat and fresh produce.

“We are so grateful and blessed by the support of our wonderful community and volunteers, coupon shoppers and donors and are honored to be able to increase the amount of food and toiletries provided to the families served by this program. Eliminating hunger allows school children to reduce absenteeism, while improving grades and social skill development.”

For more information on how to get involved in the MUST SIF program, email prigsby@mustministries.org.

Atlanta radio personality pays it forward after falling on hard times

Ray Dyer’s dreams of finding a better opportunity in the entertainment industry brought him to Georgia, but shortly after he arrived it became apparent those dreams might die here.

When the former morning show co-host left a successful radio career in New York for a marketing agency in Marietta, the last thing he expected to find was joblessness.

Ray Dyer

“Big Ray” Dyer on the air at V-103.7

“I had my acceptance letter, my salary letter, everything,” he said, “but I got down here and couldn’t get in touch with anybody from the company.”

It wasn’t long before Dyer discovered his prospective employer had gone out of business. With his wife out of the workforce, Dyer’s family was left with no income.

“We spent a lot of our money just trying to make sure that the ends met and the walls didn’t cave in,” he said. But even with help from friends, the accounts soon dried up.

At the suggestion of a friend, Dyer’s wife sought help at MUST Ministries. The resources she received had become small luxuries for the Dyer family: a Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas gifts for their son, resume help and even a suit to wear to interviews. The help allowed her the freedom to finish her degree in network engineering.

Shortly afterward, Dyer landed a position in marketing for a local comedy club, and then his dream job as an on-air personality at V-103.7, an Atlanta CBS radio station affiliate.

“Everything picked up because of MUST,” he said. “If it wasn’t for MUST, I think we probably would have had to move back to New York, which was not an option.”

As a way of paying it forward, Dyer started Marion’s Heart, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children with the resources they need to have a full childhood. He also spearheads an effort to collect clothing specifically for larger men, for whom thrift shopping can often be difficult, and the comedy club he manages conducts a yearly toy drive benefiting MUST’s Toy Shops. “I want to make sure that MUST isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

Dyer also works as a motivational speaker, assuring his listeners that hard times don’t last forever. He likes to remember a saying that has stuck with him: “A step back is a set up for a comeback.”

Do you want to Be Help to someone in need? 
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Connect with “Big Ray” on Facebook.

Woodstock City Church steps up to help less-fortunate neighbors

A partnership ought to take you beyond the realm of what either partner could do alone, according to Dr. Ike Reighard, Pres. and CEO of MUST Ministries. “And that’s just what happens when MUST partners with Woodstock City Church.

WCC partners“This congregation has figured out a path to true community transformation,” Reighard continued. “They’re making a tremendous impact in Cherokee County and beyond by partnering with charities who know what they’re doing, but need the funds and volunteers to enable the optimal outreach.”

“Why reinvent the wheel?” asks the senior pastor at WCC, Gavin Adams. “The charities like MUST that we choose to support are already doing amazing things to help others. Through our annual Be Rich Campaign, we help fund and support existing programs and their dreams for the future.

“We vet non-profit partners like MUST to ensure they are operating with the highest level of excellence. We love MUST, because they know how to evaluate situations and respond accordingly.,” Adams explained. “We’ve found our churches in the North Point Ministries network can be most effective by collecting resources and supporting nonprofits. It doesn’t make sense for us to compete with them by offering similar services. We always choose to partner rather than pioneer when it comes to serving the community.”

“What an amazing blessing it is to have a church tell us to dream big with them,” Reighard said. “Last year, MUST’s Summer Lunch program provided 251,424 sack lunches to children on the free and reduced lunch program who have little to nothing to eat during the summer. We helped children in seven counties, including Cherokee, thanks to a gift from Woodstock City Church.”

WCC volsIn addition, the church gave money to reduce the food insecurity among students by supporting MUST’s school food pantry program, now in 24 schools. Hunger affects social behavior, grades, health, relationships and virtually every aspect of a child’s life, so MUST’s Save It Forward program uses couponing to help feed 330 families a month, including public schools and Kennesaw State University students in need who have children in the home.

A part of the grant money is designated to helping Cherokee residents with rent and utility assistance through MUST’s housing program. Providing housing stability by preventing homelessness in Cherokee is a MUST goal.

The charity receives more than 150 requests a month with little money to meet those tremendous needs. The nonprofit has been able to assist only 10 percent of the requests and the needs are continuing to grow. This funding will enable MUST to serve more than fifty percent of those requesting assistance, or five times the number previously served, a critical effort in preventing homelessness.

The Be Rich campaign actually extends through the year with numerous volunteer projects planned and scheduled. Woodstock City Church members have worked in partnership with MUST at the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen, Donation Center, Save It Forward Warehouse, MUST Marketplace thrift shop, MUST Toy Shops and the Cherokee Thanksgiving boxes project.

Additionally, a large food drive on Jan. 22 is expected to reap two truckloads of food for MUST’s 27 food pantries. “It’s a generosity that demonstrates their love for serving the Lord and serving others,” Reighard pointed out. The church has done these things in the past year, but have also connected with many other projects in the past.

“Those of us who work day in and day out to serve the poor are so encouraged when an organization comes along side of us and offers financial support and time. It blesses the clients, but it blesses the MUST team too. We know Woodstock City Church is ‘all in’. They’re with us. They care and they take action,” he said.

“Woodstock City Church is a servant leader in that they have set a path to make a difference in a unique way. They find out what God is already doing, then get in the middle of it. That’s a strategy that will radically change a community.”

– Kaye Cagle

Beat the winter brain drain!

When January comes around, people are still hungry, still cold, still jobless, still homeless. Yet as a society, we’re spent. We’ve been giving and thoughtful and helpful and hospitable until we’ve about had enough. December did us in. We hosted friends and family, we gave gifts, we cooked, we shopped, we traveled, we watched football … and now we don’t want to do anything.

We just want to get through January. It’s cold and blustery and not very interesting. There are few exciting activities. Big events are “on hold” as we wait for better weather.

brain drain blog 170106So what do we do? Fight it. Decide you’re going to be different this year. You’re going to help others in January — and maybe even February and March. You’re going to pursue giving in the “off season” and set an example for your kids, your neighbors, your church and anyone else who notices it’s not December and you’re still giving.

What can you do? Here is a short list of ways to help:

1. Put together a group of friends and volunteer to cook and serve a meal at the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. Email lminns@mustministries.org for available dates.

2. Gather friends and family and go sort food and clothing at the Donation Center. MUST receives a lot at Christmas and we need help getting it all organized. Email gfleming@mustministries.org and ask when help is needed most.

3. Give money. Yep – it doesn’t flow into charities in January the way it does in December, but there are still the same number of needs. You can make a big difference by giving now.

4. Collect items needed most, like new underwear and socks in every kind and size. When you help 30,000 a year, there is never enough underwear and socks. We also need undershirts, bras, long-johns, large diapers, pullups and camis. Take them to the Donation Center at 55 Chastain Road, Suite 110, Kennesaw.

5. Our 24 school food pantries are running low on cereal, canned or boxed potatoes, boxed pasta and boxed rice. Our other food pantries need canned meat, spaghetti sauce with meat, boxed dinners with canned meat, oil, sugar, juice and condiments. Take them to the MUST – Save It Forward warehouse at 1395 S. Marietta Parkway, Building 900, Suite 904; Marietta.

6. Pray. More than anything, MUST wants to be in the center of God’s will, helping those in need and doing what He calls us to do — to love our neighbors as ourselves. Pray for God to guide and provide. And keep praying. God seems to be making a way for some big changes in 2017, new ways to help and extend our reach to those in need.

So if January feels bleak, move forward and so something heart-warming. Don’t let the past hectic pace keep you from serving. Dive into winter in a new way.

When you’re huddled up by the fire, think of those by a fire in the woods. When you turn the heat on in your car, think of those who have to walk in the cold. When you put on your warm coat, think of those who have no coat. When you eat a hot meal, remember those who have no food. You’ll be motivated to do something. And it will make a difference in their lives … and yours.

Do you want to Be Help to someone in need? 
Do you want to Give Help?

Time found me

Julie Broshar

Julie Broshar

How often have you thought about all of the things you would do, if only you could “find the time”? Maybe it’s the time needed to do something as mundane as organizing your closet, or as ambitious as training for a marathon. Or it could be the time needed for you to do something more important – not just for yourself, but for others. Something that could start small and grow into a passion.

That’s the spot I found myself in for many years. With a family and an often-demanding career, I struggled to find the time to attend to other areas of my life. And one of those areas that I neglected was giving back. Sure, we would donate to charities, and a few times a year I’d participate in corporate or church-led volunteer events, but I always left those events wishing I could do more.

“If only I could find the time.”

Then something unexpected happened: Time found me!

My corporate job was eliminated (yikes!), but in the experience of searching for a new job I saw an opportunity. Finally, I had the time to volunteer at MUST Ministries on a regular basis. And what a blessing my experience volunteering at MUST has been!

I was warmly welcomed into the volunteer program and quickly saw first-hand how our efforts (big and small) help to serve those less fortunate in our community. Whether it’s assisting with the annual Gobble Jog (MUST’s largest fundraiser) or seeking donations of socks during a time of need, at the end of the day it’s about offering hope to our neighbors in need.

Now I am starting a new job and will no doubt find myself short on time again. But as I leave my weekly volunteer day behind, I won’t forget the way I felt when I had the time to give back at MUST.

And I won’t wait for time to find me again before I return to volunteer.

Will you help sustain our anti-poverty programs in 2017?

MUST 161228Almost 30,000 people struggling in poverty turned to MUST Ministries for help and hope in 2016. About 80 percent of those served were women and children, according to MUST President and CEO Ike Reighard.

“Most people have some misperceptions about those living in poverty,” Reighard said. “More than two-thirds of those served by MUST are younger than age 18.”

As MUST faces 2017, it needs significant community financial support to sustain the food, housing and jobs programs that pull people out of instability. MUST’s ratio of administrative costs to program costs is among the best in the country, and Charity Navigator ranks it at its highest 4-star rating in financial performance. MUST also was ranked a top-100 nonprofit in Georgia by Atlanta Business Chronicle.

“When you give to MUST Ministries, you are helping thousands of children—like I was—have a future,” said Schneyder Destine, CEO of Bexiam and a former MUST client. “You are giving us a hand up, not a hand out. You are making a way for us when we see no other way.”

Supported by almost 10,000 volunteers, MUST offers food, housing, employment services and clothing to individuals and families living in poverty and homelessness. The organization’s services include three food pantries that distribute more than 213,000 pounds of groceries each year, an employment services program that put 468 people back to work last year, and clothing closets that distributed more than 338,000 articles of clothing.

MUST also provides Cobb County’s only walk-up emergency shelter, which is currently forced to turn away an average of 225 women and children seeking shelter each month due to lack of space.

To learn more or to donate now, go to www.mustministries.org.

 

As the year draws to a close …

ike_reighard

One of your neighbors wrote me recently to say thanks for the difference you have made in his life, and I wanted you to see the note:

MUST Ministries has helped this old vet so much.
This was one of my darkest days but you have given me hope.

Because of your generosity with MUST, your neighbors in need have a safe place to stay during their crisis of homelessness. They have groceries, clothing for their children, and job training to get them back on their feet.

Your gift to MUST Ministries changes lives. As the year draws to a close, and you consider year-end donations, we hope you’ll give generously to MUST Ministries.

With gratitude,

Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard
President and CEO
MUST Ministries

P.S.: Please remember to make your year-end donation by Dec. 31, so it can be deposited before 2016 is over. On behalf of thousands of your neighbors in need, thank you for remembering to help.

MUST receives highest rating from Charity Navigator

MUST Ministries is again the honored recipient of a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the watchdog organization’s highest distinction for dependability and excellence.

Charity Navigator logo blue

Charity Navigator is the nation’s largest and most-utilized charity evaluator, rating charities on a one-to-four scale based on their financial health, accountability and transparency.

According to Michael Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, only a quarter of rated charities have achieved the four-star distinction.

“This is our highest possible rating and indicates that MUST adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way,” Thatcher wrote in a letter to MUST. “Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that MUST Ministries exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work.”

According to MUST’s latest financial reports, the organization spends 85 cents of every dollar on its program services providing those in need with food, housing, employment services and clothing. The remaining 15 cents goes toward a combination of development and administrative expenses.

“Donors want to know which charities to trust. This distinction demonstrates that MUST is among America’s most fiscally stable and efficient,” said MUST President and CEO Ike Reighard. “We take our stewardship role very seriously and are blessed to have served 30,000 people in need in the last year.” Eighty percent of MUST’s clients are women and children, he stated.

For more information about MUST’s dedication to ethics and transparency, visit www.mustministries.org, or visit MUST’s Charity Navigator page at www.charitynavigator.org.

MUST hotel-motel program adds bed capacity for homeless

The number of people struggling in homelessness locally is far greater than one facility can accommodate, and MUST Ministries is the only walk-up shelter in the area. To help overcome some of the bed shortage, MUST is launching an emergency motel lodging program addressing the challenge of families living in homelessness.

“In the past year, MUST has provided 67,416 safe nights of rest through our housing programs, including 829 people served in the Elizabeth Inn Shelter,” said Rachel Castillo, Vice President of Program Services. The 72-bed shelter accommodates two-parent families, single parents with children and single women and men. “You can imagine how difficult it is for larger families to find shelter if they require multiple beds,” Castillo stated. “Our family area stays at capacity.”

“Most people in our community are unaware of the tremendous need for both affordable housing and emergency housing.” — Rachel Castillo

Three motel programs at MUST are helping to ease some of the demand. In Cherokee County, families come to MUST’s Canton location for case management and employment services. They must pursue employment while using a hotel-motel voucher for a 30-day stay. The program targets the homeless in Cherokee and operates on a limited grant.

In Cobb, MUST has two motel programs available. The first houses families for two-day, weekend stays prior to meeting with case managers. Two motel rooms have been allocated for this purpose. The second option, an agreement with My Brother’s Keeper of St. Ann’s Catholic Church and St. Vincent de Paul of Transfiguration Catholic Church, offers multiple hotel rooms near MUST for up to a one week stay. This program also includes case management and three meals a day at MUST. Some meals can even be taken “to go” if the family wishes to return to their room.

“We are so encouraged by these housing options now available to families who are desperate to find help,” Castillo said. “Most people in our community are unaware of the tremendous need for both affordable housing and emergency housing,” she continued. “MUST is making progress in providing for more families, but we need further support.”

She said most hotel nights cost more than people think and that’s one reason their quantity is so limited. “The budget motels in the area can cost a family several hundred dollars a week and they simply do not have that much money when they’re trying to buy food, diapers, gas, shoes and other necessities.”

Anyone interested in supporting the housing program is encouraged to go to MUST’s web site or Facebook page and donate online.

MUST is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to helping people in poverty in eight counties of Metro-Atlanta. Last year, 34,000 people—including 22,000 children—turned to MUST for help and hope.

Gobble Jog benefits thousands of clients in need

little GJ runnerA perfect fall day played host to 9,500 runners and walkers raising money for their neighbors in need. More than $550,000 in corporate sponsorships, race fees and participant fundraising will help 30,000 people in poverty with groceries, housing, emergency shelter, hot meals, employment services, Summer Lunches, Toy Shop gifts and clothing.

The festive event featured costumes, music, a VIP area sponsored by Northwestern Mutual, photo booth, FISH radio personalities Kevin and Taylor and more.

“What a great morning to show our gratitude,” said Pres. and CEO Ike Reighard. “When thousands of people gather on Thanksgiving Day to help others, it’s one of the most meaningful events in the country.”

Check out our Gobble Jog photo album on Flickr!