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I am a MUST Shepherd: Carol Wisdom shares her story

Wisdom_Carol_headshot

How did you first get connected to MUST Ministries?

 I was an occasional volunteer through Mt. Bethal UMC in the 1980s and 1990s when I was a member there.  I never dreamed that in 2003 I would go to work for MUST full-time for nearly ten years.  Today, I serve on the Board of Directors.

 

How/Why does the MUST mission motivate you?

 My faith drives me to serve my neighbors in need.  I pray daily that God will open my eyes and heart to see where He is already at work so that I might join him in fulfilling His purpose.  MUST clients also motivate me to get involved.  I have heard and seen stories of faith in the midst of extreme struggle, perseverance and strength when life beats someone down, and hope when there appears to be none.  If you listen to clients, they will talk about how blessed they are just because MUST offers them the very basics of life.  It keeps me in check when I complain about trivial matters.

 

3)      Why do you donate to MUST monthly/regularly? 

I donate to MUST monthly because I see how lives are changed there every day.  I also know what good stewards MUST is with donors’ gifts.  After working there, I trust MUST and know that every designated gift and undesignated gift is honored and appreciated.

Although I don’t feel wealthy, by the world’s standard I have been richly blessed in my life.  I wanted to give more than I felt that I could write in a single check.  When I looked at what I wanted to give and divided by twelve (months), I thought, “Wow, that’s doable.”  I actually have it put on a credit card and pay it off every month.  I don’t even miss it.  It is a great way to give and it is something that MUST can count on every month.

 4)      Do you have a personal experience that tells your MUST story best? (running in Gobble jog, volunteering at shelter, etc.)

One day I was at the Elizabeth Inn and passed a resident and just said, “hey, how are you today?”  She said, ”Honey, I am so blessed.”  I thought “How can she be blessed when she has nothing.  She is living in a homeless shelter!”  So I asked, “What makes you feel so blessed today?”  She replied, ”Are you kidding?  I slept in a warm bed under a dry roof last night.  I have eaten three meals in the last three days.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had three meals in one day. Someone is going to help me find a job and create a plan for my FUTURE!  What more could I ask for.  Praise God!”  It made me reflect on my complaining to my husband the night before how I was driving a ten year old car and wanted to get a new one.  And, when could we afford to get a cleaning service to help me keep up at home?  Wow!  That MUST client ministered to me in a powerful way.  When someone asks me if we are witnessing to MUST clients who are living in darkness, I secretly smile.  If everyone would just listen, I think MUST clients can witness to those who have so much and take it for granted.  I think the people in my neighborhood need to hear my witness more than MUST clients.  Many clients depend on their faith to get them through each day.

5)      Is there something we haven’t asked you about your MUST Ministries experience that you’d like to share?

 There are so many miracles I have seen at MUST.  I could tell you about so many things I have witnessed.  Most importantly, though,   MUST is an ongoing story of provision.  To know that through the community’s response,

  • a ton of food is given to the needy each day,
  • that enough nice clothes are donated that MUST can operate the MUST MarketPlace,
  • that people are willing to donate time and finances to ensure that MUST can serve 34,000 people in need each year,restores my faith in the basic good in people.

 

 

MUST Moments: Celebrating the Ordinary

1385767_13100666By Carol C. Hunt

Celebration is the acceptance of life and the constantly increasing awareness of its preciousness. We can only really celebrate when we affirm our present condition. It is the recognition that something is there and needs to be made visible so that we can say “yes” to it. To be present to the moment is an affirmation of each other in many different ways we experience life.

When I enter with the children into their joy, I enter also with them into their unique understanding of value in the ordinary discovered completely by surprise.

In the ending days of our summer lunch program, two tanned barefoot boys ran to our van and eagerly exclaimed, “Yesterday my brother and I found two baby chicks running in the trailer park.” He continued, “We begged our mom to keep them.  She said only if we can find a big box. Our trailer is too small for animals to be running around. We remember that you brought big boxes to carry the lunches you deliver to the children and we told her we were very sure you’d let us have one for our chickens’ new home.”

Not only did we have big boxes, but also we had little ones and middle-sized ones. We had choices, wonderful choices! We consecrated the chickens’ new home and left with more respect for an ordinary cardboard box.

It is odd how these “little celebrations” of surprises and kindness can link us to the diversity of our ministry:

  • A mother finding a suit in our MUST-Wear Clothes Closet for her son to wear to the senior prom
  • Mental Health Consumers unloading donuts and bread in a joyful community effort
  • A guest in the Elizabeth Inn sharing with his case manager that he has been sober for 30 days, whereas he had never gone more than 14
  • The words overheard on a cold winter day in the soup kitchen, “This cornbread is almost as good as my grandmother’s.”
  • A single mother of three exclaiming to her delight, “Because I had childcare and support, I’ve stayed long enough at my job to get benefits! That’s never happened before.”
  • A family of five taking groceries from the food pantry and returning the next week, after the father got his paycheck at the end of the month, with a small box of food to say thank you

My days at MUST are made up of ordinary moments where life is fully celebrated with kindness and affirmed in truth.

As the winter days stretched into longer light, and I discovered the surprise of the early buds of spring resting in the limbs of the tree outside the MUST shelter, I remember in celebration the beautiful words of the Psalmist, “kindness and truth shall meet” (Psalm 85).

Carol Hunt is a Georgia native, retired school teacher and long-time staff member and current volunteer at MUST Ministries.  Carol has a passion for serving the poor and helped launch MUST Ministries’ Summer Lunch program.  She is also a devoted Associate Sister of Mercy. 

I am a MUST Shepherd: Rita Moore shares her story

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Every month we will feature MUST Shepherds who  are helping serve your neighbors in need through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.

 

How did you get connected to MUST?

My first job at my church, First United Methodist Church, was to head up local missions.  The MUST board at the time had about three or four pastors and they needed someone with a background in pension planning.  I was it.  I became board secretary in 1995/96.

What is it about MUST that keeps you coming back?

My mom tells me I used to come home from school and feel bad about kids who didn’t have what I did, and we were your average middle class family.  I think I was just born with this giving spirit.  I’ve always wanted to give back.

I truly believe MUST has been a gift for me and has given me more than I have given it.  It has made me stretch.  Through my work on the board, I have matured both personally and professionally.  Everyone at MUST values what I do for them.  I feel like I can help make a difference and I’m seen as making a difference.  I think volunteering and giving go hand in hand.  It doesn’t just mean writing a check.

Why do you give monthly?

I believe I was recruited into the MUST monthly giving program at one of our many board meetings.  From the very beginning, it just made a lot of sense to me to participate.  I just assumed all board members were part of the monthly giving group.  Why wouldn’t you be?   Every time I serve at my church in Sunday school, or the dinners we serve at the community kitchen on the Elizabeth Inn campus, people are so appreciative of what we do.  It really is a privilege to do it.  That’s really what it’s all about; we don’t get these opportunities to have an impact in a life enough.

An Emotional Meeting with a Homeless Baby

Baby photo for blogToday was my first day as MUST Ministries’ newest marketing intern. I came to the office expecting a day full of paperwork and other office duties, but little did I know, today would be the day that changed my heart forever.

I walked into quite a surprise. My supervisor, Kaye Cagle, decided to take me on my first tour of the MUST Ministries campus. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. I had done extensive research on MUST, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see for myself.

The first stop on our tour was the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. When I got out of the car, I noticed a line already forming on the deck of the building. Homeless men, women and children were withstanding the cold and windy weather just to get a bite to eat. As we approached the building, I began to feel the warmth. No, the weather didn’t drastically change. It was the people waiting in line and the gracious volunteers and staff that made all the difference. All with big smiles, they greeted us as we walked inside.

Church volunteers were busy at work, preparing the meals for lunch. After only a few minutes inside Loaves and Fishes, I could feel the sense of family. These people weren’t just clients, volunteers and staff. These people love and care for each other. I could feel God’s presence working in each and every heart.

What an honor to sit at a table with a mother and her eight-week-old baby girl. They were both living in homelessness. I normally get excited when I see a baby. Not this time. It felt like my heart had broken into a million pieces.

The mother told us her difficult story. As she was speaking, my eyes began to get misty. I couldn’t believe what this woman has gone through and that her precious baby girl was born into such suffering.

The woman surprised me with what she said next. She explained just how blessed she was because of MUST Ministries and its people. She was so incredibly happy that God has placed her right here – at MUST Ministries. I couldn’t help but smile through the tears.

As we left the dining room, Mrs. Cagle noticed that I seemed a little overwhelmed. I explained to her that it broke my heart to see so many people living in homelessness, starving and cold. My boss looked at me and said, “But thank God we are here for them. Where would they be without us?”

She was right. A person living in homelessness and poverty is a terrible and sad thing. But I thank our Lord that we have MUST Ministries here that can provide light in such a dark place.

My first day interning for MUST Ministries was an eye-opening experience. I witnessed homelessness and poverty. But I also witnessed God’s gracious heart working in each and every worker and volunteer.

I came home tonight and prayed for all the men, women and that eight-week-old baby girl living in homelessness. And then I thanked God for MUST Ministries.

I am a MUST Shepherd: Brant and Holly Suddath share their story

Brant and Holly Suddath are Smyrna residents and proud MUST Shepherds.

Brant and Holly Suddath are Smyrna residents and proud MUST Shepherds.

 

Every month we will feature MUST Shepherds who  are helping serve your neighbors in need through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.

 

How did you first get connected to MUST Ministries?

We first knew of MUST Ministries through the Gobble Jog and annual food drives at our children’s school. We were convicted to give regularly to local charities, MUST is a well-respected charity and a great starting point for us.

 

How/Why does the MUST mission motivate you?

We live in Smyrna, and we believe we can truly help MUST “serve our neighbors in need” because there is a Smyrna MUST location where we can serve our actual neighbors with our time in addition to financial contributions.

Why do you donate to MUST monthly/regularly?

We were led by our church pastor who helped us see if we have more than we need, we should be generous and willing to share; and we needed a giving plan so we are not only donating our left-overs. Setting up a monthly donation helped us make our giving plan a reality. Our church does not have it’s own extensive benevolence organization because it wants to support local charities who are already doing an extraordinary job of serving the community, and MUST Ministries seems to us to be a perfect example.

Do you have a personal experience that tells your MUST story best? (running in Gobble jog, volunteering at shelter, etc.)

 Holly has been volunteering in the Employment and Education services computer lab at MUST Smyrna since January 2013. At first she helped clients during open computer lab days, assisting with applying for jobs, updating resumes, and with general computer skills. In August, she began teaching a 4-hour “Back to Work” class to help MUST clients with job readiness, interviewing, and writing an excellent resume. The ability to assist MUST clients and work alongside other committed volunteers in the name of Christ is an inspiring and humbling experience.

MUST Ministries saw a 31 percent increase in Summer Lunch distribution

MUST Ministries has been coordinating Summer  Lunches for children living in poverty for 18 years and MUST Ministries Summer Lunch checkers and packersthis year saw a 31 percent increase in the lunches as the final tally soared to a record-breaking 247,087!  Almost a quarter of a million sack lunches reached hungry children this summer thanks to an overwhelming effort by communities in eight counties.

“This is an amazing accomplishment for the Summer Lunch 2013 team,” according to Kelley Henderson, Vice President and Chief Programs Officer. “Not only did they meet the hunger needs of more than 6,000 children across eight counties, they worked together to our little neighbors in need. This monumental effort showcases MUST Ministries’ continued commitment to working with local community partners in service across North GA.

“A special thank you to our partners, volunteers, benefactors, sandwich makers, bag decorators, checkers and packers, drivers, PB&J mixers, cold cut stackers, and of course our outstanding team of staff,” Henderson said. With numerous groups and organizations involved in making this happen, the list is too long to innumerate, he said, “but we are grateful to churches, civic clubs, sports teams, scout troops, families, businesses and individuals who all pitched in to make this happen.

For Cherokee County, the number of summer lunches rose to 67,5489 from 51,338  for Cobb County, the number rose to 90,537 from 85,140 ;  Douglas County 24,947 from 15,976; Gwinnett 23,365 from 16,367; North Fulton 26,747 from 20,833; and we added Bartow  and Pickens Counties with 8,299 and 5,643 respectively.

Henderson estimated a 58 percent increase over the last four years as MUST Ministries has gone from serving Cobb and Cherokee Counties to reaching Bartow, Douglas, Gwinnett, North Fulton, Paulding and Pickens as well. “It’s remarkable what a community can do when they all work together on one cause. We are pleased to help lead this crusade to serve children in need in our area.”

MUST Ministries Summer Lunch children living in poverty

 

 

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

A few short true stories that have happened at MUST Ministries to show how God is good… all the time!  by Carol Hunt

One of my favorite stories about the clothes rack involves two high school boys who’d been invited to their girlfriends’ proms.  They were brought in by their “Big Brother” because they couldn’t afford to buy suits or rent tuxedos.  One of the boys was of average build making it easy to find a good fitting suit.  The other, however, was a rather large football player who presented a challenge to the volunteers.  After searching through the MUST Ministries clothes on the racks, they found a burgundy sport coat, navy blue pants, white shirt and print tie.  He tried them on and looked terrific.  As he left he smiled and said, “You know, these are my girlfriend’s school colors!”  God is so good!

 

 

MUST Ministries blogSally had just interviewed a young man trying to raise two children by himself.  His wife had a drug problem and had left the home.  He had lost his job because of not being able to find childcare and feared losing his home.  As he was waiting for groceries, a young woman Sally knew came in.  She had recently begun to do childcare and was willing to take on his kids free of charge.  That’s all he needed to get them back on their feet again!

 

 

A large sized man came in to Smyrna MUST Ministries in need of business clothes for a new job.  As we were looking through bags, a young man came in to donate his father’s clothes to us—just the right size!

Why should you choose MUST Ministries as your charity?

MUST Ministries North Georgia non profitWhy should you choose MUST Ministries as your charity?

That’s a good question.  There are so many charities and nonprofits out there to choose from.  They all appear to do good deeds, have their heart in the right place, but how do you know which one will use your donation dollars the most effectively?  Here are just a few things to consider:

1)     How does your charity measure up?  Has it been rated by Charity Navigator or Standards for Excellence?  These are two independently rated sites that were created to help the public determine which nonprofits they can trust.  They review charities and document the financial health and transparency so you know where your dollars are being spent.   Don’t be fooled!  There are many sites that claim to do the same, but all a charity needs to do is become a paid member to get a good rating.

2)     Is your charity a 501(c)3?  The Internal Revenue Coded (26U.S.C. 501(c) ), provides that 28 types of nonprofit organizations are exempt from some federal income taxes, however, not all can receive donations.  A 501(c)3 identifies a public charity in the United States by the IRS.  In short, this allows your donation to be tax deductable.  Just because they say they are a 501(c)3 charity, doesn’t mean they are.  Be sure to do your homework to confirm their 501(c)3 status.

3)     Is your charity using a middleman to collect donations?  Did you know when you get calls for donations, many times a third party company is used and a percentage of the amount donated goes to that company?  Make your donations directly to your charity by donating online or mailing your check.

4)     Are you spread too thin?  While diversifying your portfolio when investing in stocks is a good thing, you want to do the opposite with your philanthropic giving.  Once you decide which cause you are passionate about, and find a worthy charity, concentrate your giving so it will make a bigger impact.

I have to admit, before I started working for MUST Ministries, I did not research my charity donations.  I would make donations to just about anyone who asked (if I had the money).  Because MUST has been awarded Charity Navigator’s 4 star rating 5 years running and is one of only 230 organizations in America to receive the Standards for Excellence award, I’m proud to say I work for MUST because I know my donations are used wisely.  How does your charity measure up?

Waste Not

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Post written by Armida Silvani

We were eating lunch and making casual conversation when my husband’s friend noted how much food is thrown out at the grocery store where he works.  His observation reinforced my knowing how incredibly blessed we are in this country to have so much food we can actually throw part of it away.  Most of us do not worry about not having anything to eat. It’s no big deal if the lettuce in our refrigerator wilts or if we end up tossing that bit of food that we did not eat for dinner.  Many more of us, including me, dread the thought of having “left overs.”  When hungry, we open our refrigerator or our pantry and there in front of us is plenty of food to eat. The idea that our pantry could ever be empty or that we have eaten every bit of our left overs does not even cross our minds.  Yet, for many people, especially children, around the world, not to mention locally, hunger is a reality.  The question then becomes how do we move towards balancing the abundance and the lacking?

MUST Ministries is one nonprofit that does just that.  MUST Ministries is the place where donated goods and funds get distributed to those that see their pantries getting empty and do not have any other way of getting them filled.  Can you imagine a ton of food on a daily basis going  to feed needy families in areas of Cobb and Cherokee counties?  It is next to impossible, isn’t it, but, it happens, and it happens with your help. It happens because people share their abundance. If you don’t already donate, you can help. Why not give that extra $20 you found in your pocket, and did not even miss, or how about giving a portion of your groceries, or what you would have spent on dessert and coffee when out for dinner?   Think, your donation can be part of the ton of food going towards helping to feed others through MUST Ministries and not the part that goes to waste.

 

Meet Jerry

IMG_1582smHe is not a drug addict, nor an alcoholic. He is, in fact, a veteran who served in the Army then worked at the U.S. Postal Service. He even drove semi tractor trailer trucks for a while.  He’s a man with skills and despite living in homelessness is looking for work.  He has family somewhere up north of here. He is well spoken.

Jerry is like many of us who have held a job, have family and even served our country yet, he is also like the many that come to the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen for lunch during the week. The small dining room fills daily with individuals, like Jerry, who have fallen on hard times and the meal generously served may be their only meal of the day.  

Jerry allowed me to share a bit about his life and photo because he wants to let you know how much he appreciates your time and/or financial donations. He knows that the meals served at the Loaves and Fishes kitchen come from generous hands and hearts and he appreciates their assistance.  Jerry wants to say thank you for making it possible for him to take a warm shower, receive toiletries, for his “new” clothes, and for being able to use the computers to search for a job in the MUST computer lab.   He acknowledges that many of his friends found jobs using the computers at the Elizabeth Inn Campus and he looks forward to the time when he is once again back on his feet thanks in part to all the assistance from MUST Ministries and you.

If you have work for Jerry, or some of the others who are looking, contact [email protected]