Former MUST client motivates others to make radical change

Tucked just beyond a tree line off Highway 41, Ron Green had a decision to make. He was broke, addicted and hungry as he stayed in the woods near thousands of Cobb County residents who prospered. He could continue on a path of destruction or he could seek help and hope.

Ron Green and Monica Clarke founded “Operation Snatch Back”, a ministry dedicated to changing young lives and help them overcome obstacles like homelessness, poverty and addiction. The pair now speaks monthly at MUST Ministries’ Elizabeth Inn Campus in Marietta to offer the same encouragement to MUST clients.

Ron Green and Monica Clarke founded “Operation Snatch Back” to help young people overcome obstacles like homelessness, poverty and addiction.

From age 17, Green found himself committed to a lifestyle of substance abuse, violence and gang-affiliation leading to several arrests, incarcerations and even a few overdoses. After years of addiction, he decided to make a change. He spent a year in a recovery center and became sober, but still had no place to call home.

In the summer of 2001, Green arrived at MUST Ministries’ Elizabeth Inn Shelter with his wife and four young children…homeless, hungry and hopeless.

Because the Elizabeth Inn is a drug and alcohol-free campus, Green’s sobriety finally allowed him and his family the luxury of a place to lay their heads at night. Now 42 years old, he still remembers the volunteers and case managers who helped him get back on his feet. “The MUST team members were refreshingly engaging and genuine. I didn’t care how much they knew, I wanted to know how much they cared. They inserted belief in me and wanted to see me succeed,” Green said.

Because of his calling to empower young people with his story, Green co-founded “Operation Snatch Back,” a ministry dedicated to mentoring and inspiring people who have lost hope. Green and co-founder Monica Clarke have dedicated their lives to the cause. The pair speak regularly at engagements and offer mentoring and career coaching services.

For the past year, Green has dedicated two Mondays per month to speak to current Elizabeth Inn residents and others in need at MUST. “Motivating Mondays” is an avenue to uplift, inspire, encourage and motivate through lectures and hands-on exercises, Green said. He uses his powerful life story to impact people who are where he was years ago to do what he did: get help, accept that people believe in you and recognize your own potential.

“What a blessing to have a former client return to help others!” said Ike Reighard, MUST President and CEO. “Ron is able to connect with our clients on a special level. His understanding of the homeless mindset is a tremendous asset.”

You can help: Donate on the MUST Ministries website or Facebook page. To volunteer at the Elizabeth Inn or any MUST campus, click “Be Help” on the MUST website.

Beginnings of Hope

The Loaves and Fishes Kitchen at MUST Ministries has always been a place of hope, but on this particular day it was even more so. The kitchen serves as a refuge where individuals struggling with the twin monsters of poverty and homelessness can take a break from the battle to enjoy a warm meal. This day, however, was not like other days; while the lunch rush sat down to a fried chicken meal served by perhaps their only stable food source, a young woman stood up and began sharing a story.

Her name is Ametrius, and the story is her own.  She is a manager at FedEx Express in Atlanta, but before that, she had been the child of a homeless mother. With raw honesty, she told of the burdens of depression, shame, anxiety and anger she carried long after her experience with homelessness. MUST clients listened attentively as she shared the lessons life had taught her about ridding herself of negative influences and remaining patient and resilient.

I’ve never walked where these individuals are walking, and I can’t claim to fully fathom any of their experiences, but as I watched Ametrius speak to them, I could see that she was helping them in a powerful way, a way that I cannot—a way that many of us cannot, simply by virtue of our circumstances. She understood them.

There is something very poignant in watching a person whose life has reached its nadir interact with someone who has survived the very same fight. I scanned the room. I didn’t know anyone’s story, but I wished I could step inside their minds in that moment, as intonations of agreement issued from everywhere and raised hands gave proof of the resonance of Ametrius’ words.

There is an incredible amount of power merely in being understood. It is a safe harbor free from judgment and isolation. It is a place where you can be certain that you are not simply a lone soul hacking your way through the jungle of circumstance. Others have walked this path before you and survived it.

Perhaps our clients could look at Ametrius and see a sort of future version of themselves—someone who came out the other side of the tunnel strong and successful. But perhaps it was enough simply to hear someone tell them, “Yes, I know how awful it is. You’re not alone.” Her presence there was living evidence that homelessness and poverty are monsters that can be defeated, and it gave me the privilege of witnessing something rare and beautiful.

I watched someone sow the beginnings of hope.

Maddy McGee

Plan B

I sometimes share an Upper Room devotional as my director’s article, sometimes because it particularly speaks to me or I think it particularly applies to what we do here at MUST, and sometimes because it’s been a crazy week and I haven’t had time to collect and compose my thoughts to write something of my own.
Even though I try not to use an Upper Room devotional two weeks in a row, the one from this past Monday spoke to me so much that I wanted to share it.

Paul wrote, “Since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. . . . Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there.”
- Romans 15:23-25 (NIV)

Often my Plan A falls through, and I have to go with Plan B. Before graduation, my “humble” Plan A was first to pastor a 2,000-member church and then work my way up from there. I landed in Plan B: a country church with 38 members. It was the best thing that could have happened, giving my wife and me the chance to focus on establishing our marriage. When I retired, my Plan A was to hike the forest trails of southern Oregon. Then I started experiencing foot problems. Plan B became the rewarding ministries of interim pastoral work and representing abused children in court.

The apostle Paul’s Plan A: to plant churches in Spain. He landed in prison. His Plan B: to write letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon while in prison — letters that have blessed millions of people for centuries. The Moabite Ruth’s Plan A was to live a quiet life in Moab with her foreigner husband. When her husband died, a new plan kicked in and she moved to Israel, becoming an ancestor of Jesus — her faith and commitment an inspiration to countless people.
We all make plans and suffer disappointment when those plans don’t come to fruition. I’ve learned that however grand our goals, God might have deeper spiritual opportunities in store for us that can turn our disappointment into joy.

Thought for the Day
Today, I will look for the “Plan B” opportunities God brings my way.

Guardian of our lives, in the midst of frustration, help us to believe that you have greater plans for us than we even know to dream. Amen.

I imagine MUST is Plan B (or C or D) for our clients. I pray that God can use us to make their Plan B His best plan for their lives.
Kendall Jones

MUST Program Director in Cherokee County

An Intern’s Perspective – August 2015

An Intern’s Perspective By Andrea Paiva All it takes is a life altering moment of fully witnessing the depth of despair in your own hometown to change the way you view life and its basic necessities. I still remember that heart-wrenching moment on my first MUST Ministries Summer Lunch ride when I saw children rushing out of their apartments to get their lunch bags. I couldn’t remember a time when I ever had to worry about whether or not I was going to eat that night, so this was a huge eye opener. It was this day when my perspective on homelessness and poverty was greatly challenged. I would have never guessed that down the road from my home, there are children who are not promised a meal everyday and that children make up a large percentage of homelessness in the U.S.  I never really gave much thought to the idea that a mother would rather take her kids and flee an abusive relationship, with no guarantee of a place to sleep, then to allow her kids to witness the abuse on a daily basis.  Every situation is different and every person that receives help from MUST has a unique and personal story to tell. The MUST family, made up volunteers, staff and those who give to the organization, believe in each individual that receives care at MUST. They come to work eager to hear the stories of transformation and driven to play a roll in those stories. This kind of encouragement is transferred into the office, where work isn’t just work, it’s a mission field.  This summer, I worked alongside Kaye Cagle, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, and the development team. I got to see how people celebrated each other in their accomplishments and I too was celebrated when I got my first Hispanic Media placement. I was privileged to sit in on Monday afternoon meetings with the development team as they initiated each meeting with prayer. It was refreshing to be in a work environment where, even during a hectic day, you are encouraged through prayer and reminded that He is in control. After this summer at MUST, I have a better understanding of homelessness and poverty and how prominent it can be, even in areas closest to where you live. I am a much more grateful person, thanks to this experience. I know that my seemingly large troubles truly do not compare to those of others and it has helped fuel my passion to help those in need. Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” I think it’s so easy to get caught up in ourselves. However, I’ve found that joy comes abundantly when I think of my life less and invest into the lives of others. Ultimately, this is the heart of MUST Ministries. It is a family of people from all walks of lives, who see the vast need in their community and have made a decision to dedicate their time, resources, skills and money to see an end to homelessness and poverty and to see lives transformed. This truly was a rewarding experience and I am eager to continue being part of this wonderful organization in the years to come.

More Blessed to Give

I have been volunteering at MUST for a relatively short amount of time. I know of quite a few people that have been volunteering here for years, which says a lot of both the organization and the level of commitment of the volunteers at MUST. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Tuesdays volunteering in the Employment Services department of MUST Ministries – from meeting and assisting clients to getting to know fellow volunteers and staff members. There is a certain aura of warmth that fills the air. Even when I first started volunteering here, I would have never hesitated to ask a question or voice a concern (not that there were any!).
Employment Services is a great resource that MUST offers and I have been blessed to be a part of it even in a miniscule way. A Back to Work class is offered followed by resume writing and job search assistance. Many clients do not have a resume at all and the thought of writing one from scratch can be daunting. Needless to say, it is amazing what tenacity and a little encouragement can produce within a couple of hours! Many days, I would help a client finish his or her resume and they would be well on their way to Cobb Works or another job board to find viable jobs. Employment Services offers many other great ways to improve one’s standard of working and living, including OSHA classes, ServSafe training and empowerment seminars – there truly is no limit to the potential of the program and the dedication of staff and volunteers.
When I was first looking in the area for volunteer opportunities, I gravitated towards MUST partly because I was familiar with it (I volunteered here back in college as part of a sociology course) but more so because MUST honors God’s call to serve. At MUST, I am consistently reminded that it is a blessing to give. I cannot help but think that all I give is my time and attention and what I receive back is tenfold to that. Since I began volunteering at MUST, I have come to learn, understand and hopefully embody the lesson that when we give, serve, encourage, and are simply kind to others, the blessing we receive within ourselves is tantamount to whatever we gave out. When I have helped a client finish their resume and they have put in a couple of hours of job searching online, I can tell that they feel empowered and ready to face the job search challenge. Having a complete resume is monumental; once it is ready, a major hurdle has been overcome and I have come to recognize the look of relief and gladness in faces. Finding a job can be tedious and discouraging at times for anyone, especially if you factor in the reality that some of the men and women that we assist are living in the shelter at MUST and/or facing some critical challenges in their life.
I am humbled and privileged to meet and work next to these individuals. I can now say that I’ve been on the receiving end of genuine appreciation; it is an awesome feeling and I am often overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude myself. Oftentimes I want to tell them that it is I who is appreciative, it is I who has been the recipient of giving and the pleasure of meeting was mine. God placed me here at MUST for a reason and I am most humbled and grateful to be a part of His great plan.
So you see, MUST has been part of a journey for me. I am moving out of state next month to continue that journey and I could not leave without having told someone, anyone who may read this, that I am thankful to MUST for providing the means to serve and the environment to grow, for both myself and the communities served every day. Apart from college, I had never volunteered anywhere and now it has become an integral part of life. I want my son to grow up knowing what it means to be part of something larger than oneself, what it means to volunteer and serve without expecting anything in return. What he will have to learn for himself is that when you give without expecting a return, more often than not, the return is priceless.

Everyone can help feed hungry children

Do you remember being in grade school and dreading long summer days full of nothing to do but beg your mother to take you to your friend’s house to play? Unfortunately, my mother worked full days during the week and I was left with a stocked kitchen and my imagination. As an intern at MUST Ministries, being a part of the Summer Lunch program takes me back.

The only difference between me and the children that are recipients of the Summer Lunch program is that I had three meals a day and they do not. My grief and complaint back then, at the age of 10, is nothing compared to the children who patiently wait to be given a sack lunch from the Summer Lunch volunteers.

It’s an eye opener for me. I’ve always been somewhat aware that America is facing a hunger issue. In the United States today, nearly 16 million children face hunger. If it weren’t for me interning at MUST, I probably still to this day couldn’t comprehend it; I still can’t, in fact.

In the year 2014, 254,906 summer lunches were distributed to children in eight counties. This summer, MUST will serve their 2 millionth lunch since the program began 20 years ago! The growth rate of children who receive free and reduced lunch has sky rocketed since 2009. Students are on summer break for 10 weeks. How are these children being fed over the summer?

The Summer Lunch program was created to “feed” each child’s body, mind and soul by providing a sack lunch five days a week and a free book to each child on Fridays. There are many stories of children eating a portion of their lunches and either saving it for later or for their parents. These meals impact each child and remind them that there is still hope.

MUST serves in eight surrounding counties collaborating with many churches, corporate groups, YMCA and hundreds of volunteers. I can’t think of a better way to meet the need of child hunger.

Want to help? Read more about Summer Lunch on the MUST web site or email [email protected]. Pledged lunches are desperately needed.

An intern’s perspective

Have you ever sat in a building surrounded by people and wondered about his or her story? Have you ever had the courage to go up to one of those people and ask, “What is your story?” In our minds, that doesn’t seem normal. We are afraid to ask a question that big, but what if the response was to tell you about his or her life, because maybe on that day that person needed you right there in that moment to ask that very question.
A few weeks have past as the new marketing/ public relations intern for MUST Ministries and it is incredible that in such a short time my eyes have been opened to more than just the development side of MUST. When I initially got the position as an intern for MUST, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what MUST does for their neighbors. When I was able to tour the Elizabeth Inn Campus, I finally began to get a clear understanding.
I took advantage of my time at the Elizabeth Inn where the welcoming Loaves and Fishes Kitchen was beginning to serve lunch to those who are hungry. I scanned the dining room full of many stories waiting to be heard and I sat beside a woman in her mid-thirties. She eagerly welcomed me to the chair next to her and we exchanged names. It was then I opened up conversation by simply asking her about her story. Her face immediately lit up from ear to ear, like a child on Christmas morning. She proceeded to tell me about her goals she had for herself, and you could feel her vitality and determinism. I was inspired hearing about how she lost her job, and had little family left, but she still had praises in her life.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet” (John 13:14). This verse rings very true for MUST. I feel that even asking someone to share his or her story is an act of serving. The volunteers and staff at MUST are living out this scripture by serving and loving all people. It is astounding to see the time people set aside to serve at the Elizabeth Inn Campus, and all other areas that volunteers serve for MUST.
At MUST, the people are kind, the structure for each program is efficient and most of all it’s faith centered. As an intern, it’s significant to surround yourself with people who will encourage you and help you grow. I’m thankful to be a part of MUST and the many things I will take away from my time here beyond marketing and public relations.

From The Cherokee Tribune – Lunch Delivery Serves Up Good Feeling

Marguerite ClineSince most people in our county live well, it is easy to forget many live in poverty. Those of us who have worked in the MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Program have witnessed it daily.

A few days ago, Sharron Hunt and I were attempting to go down a one-lane dirt road in very rural north Cherokee County. The road was blocked by two cars of sheriff’s deputies.

Not sure of what we should do, we asked one officer if it was OK for us to be there. Before he could answer, children came running around the deputies’ cars to get to us.

They live in the houses at the end of the road and knew we were delivering their lunches. Those children had qualified for the program by getting free or reduced price lunches during the school year.

All along our route, children like them greeted the drivers with big smiles and most remembered to say, “Thank you.”

It was Jake Hall, our then minister at Heritage Baptist Fellowship, who got our congregation involved as a distribution center for the MUST Ministries Program.

That meant early risers, five days per week, arrived smiling and ready for duty. Others, like me, straggled in late to aid in packing and delivering more than 500 meals each day.

Each lunch bag contained four items. There was always a sandwich and a fruit drink. Then chips, a cookie, etc. were added. Next, they were put into boxes and loaded into cars and trucks to be delivered.

Mable Ferry, a counselor at Hasty Elementary School, may not know it but she is one of my favorite people. When she reads this column, she may think, “What! I hardly know Marguerite Cline?”

As an ice-breaker on the first day of school, teachers often ask their students, “What did you do during summer break?”

If you asked me what Mable Ferry did during her summer break, I know the answer. She delivered lunches to needy children of Hasty Elementary.

My question was, “Why?” Most teachers treasure their time off.

Mable said, “…knowing my children (Hasty children) were getting a meal …was all that I needed to keep me doing this and was more rewarding than any beach.”

It was Judy Brandon, a teacher at Hasty, who introduced Mable to the program. After it was discussed at a faculty meeting, other teachers signed on to deliver the sack lunches, too.

Help came from many directions. Other churches and organizations such as Service League of Cherokee and Canton Rotary Club made hundreds of sandwiches.

Occasionally, the plan did not quite come together. There was a delay with the delivery of the sandwiches to the church or confusion about who would be bringing them on that day.

Virginia Land, our more than able leader, was prepared for anything. Those assembled at Heritage put on gloves and made as many sandwiches — sometimes 250 plus — as needed.

From the Heritage Baptist center alone, more than 18,000 lunches were prepared, packaged and delivered during the summer.

While the program is only for children, there was at least once when an exception was made. A lady was sitting on a curb. It was obvious she had been evicted, since her furniture had been put beside the street.

When she asked for one of the lunches, we could not refuse.

One morning as we made lunches, some of us talked about a need in our church. Our teenagers needed adults to accompany them to a church camp in North Carolina. So, Norman and Frances Sosebee, Dick Edwards and I volunteered.

When the camp directors learned our ages ranged from 76 to 88, they did not think that was a good idea. Thankfully, younger folks from the church arranged to go with the teens.

Recently, Frances and I were on a route delivering lunches. We wished those North Carolina folks who declined our help could have seen us climbing in and out of the car, lifting heavy boxes and lining up the kids at each stop.

They would probably beg us to help them with their next camp.

Incidentally, Frances is not the tallest person I know and my car seats are low. With a big box of lunch bags in her lap blocking her vision, she did not always know exactly where we were.

Now if you want to volunteer for the program next summer, just call Heritage Baptist and put your name on the list. Older folks and younger ones are welcome. Unlike those North Carolina camp folks, we welcome able-bodied volunteers of any age.

Although it is sometimes hard work, you will be glad you did it. Plus, when the morning’s work is done, most of the workers, with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat in hand, sit around for a while and enjoy one another’s company.

Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.

The Impact of Stories

Intern Jennifer 2014The Impact of Stories- An Intern’s Perspective

            Stories are what make situations real to people who are otherwise detached from them.  I hear about a situation and want to help out in some way, but until something or someone pulls on my heart strings, it doesn’t motivate me.

            I began my internship at MUST Ministries excited to help my neighbors in need.  I thought I had a pretty good idea of what MUST does and as far as programs and help offered, I did.  What I didn’t know, were the stories hidden behind what they do here and why.  I underestimated the impact of experiences of the clients and their journeys.

            One of my key responsibilities during my internship was to help organize MUST’s first ever health fair.  I thought I knew the impact this would have on our clients, but I was mistaken.  Throughout the day, I heard stories from various clients and other staff members who had spoken to clients about how the health fair helped them and change their lives.

One man found a suit from a group donating free clothing to those enrolled in the health fair.  That sounds great, but this suit was special.  He had a job interview the very next day and didn’t have anything to wear to it prior to the event.  Everyone knows first impressions can make or break a job interview.  This suit gave him the chance to make a good first impression and be well on his way to supporting himself once again.

Another man walked all the way from Cartersville (a good 25 miles at least) in old, worn-out shoes that were badly in need of replacing.  From the same donation group, he received a gem: a pair of hiking boots in his exact size- name brand, top of the line, and good as new.  Since he walks everywhere, this was perfect and such a delight to him.

Throughout the summer, I also went on some summer lunch deliveries.  I knew that many children relied on this program as their sole meal for the day throughout the summer.  Think about how many times a day you get hungry and get up to grab a snack.  Take that hunger and add the heat of the summer that drains your energy.  To me, it is unbelievable how these children can play outside in the heat, with only one meal a day.

In my last summer lunch delivery, I discovered that many of the children will eat only half of their lunches, then save the rest for dinner…  smart idea.  I know it would be incredibly difficult for me to not eat it all in one sitting.  Could you?

The stories behind the situation show the true impact of what MUST is doing.  Though we don’t always think about it, these are individuals- not groups or statistics- and individuals with unique stories about their journeys in life.  Your help gives these individuals a chance to create a new chapter in their lives- a chapter filled with hope.  Why waste time and sit in front of the T.V. hearing about generic situations when you can not only make an impact, but also find out the stories each person has to tell and be a part of their stories?  It will open your eyes and change the way you think forever.

  • Jennifer Germano

An Intern’s Perspective: My Widened View of MUST Ministries

Blog Tyler 7-16-2014

An Intern’s Perspective: My Widened View of MUST Ministries

When I started my internship at MUST Ministries I thought I knew everything MUST had to offer, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I started my Internship in the middle of May with marketing and public relations and I had no idea that this internship would open my eyes to more than just writing and media relations skills.

Something I was unaware of was the number of counties that MUST helped. I was not aware that they reached out to eight different counties in Georgia. I grew up on the county line of Paulding, Bartow and Cobb and never realized the number of those in need was so great. It opened my eyes and sparked a fire for service to help those I know in need. It was right under my nose for 21 years while living at home with my parents and still is today living in Kennesaw. I always thought I wanted to travel overseas to help those in need because we were so well off here, but I found that I could do a lot here at home as well as help those overseas.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learned of all of the programs that MUST had to offer the eight counties. I knew that MUST reached out to children over the summer with the Summer Lunch Program and I knew about the shelter at the Elizabeth Inn, but what I didn’t know were other ways that MUST reaches out to the community. MUST provides job training, health fairs, the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen, permanent and supportive housing, veteran’s supportive housing and community housing, and even MUST Toy Shops during the Christmas season. Being able to experience first-hand some of the programs and help with them was the most rewarding part of my internships.

The reason all of the programs are able to work and the reason MUST can reach out to eight different counties in Georgia is the staff. With my time here I have tried to meet as many people as possible that volunteer or work at MUST. I am not saying this because I Intern here or because I am trying to be nice, I genuinely like every person I have met. It does not matter if they are the CEO of the company, a board member, a director or a volunteer, everyone treats me with kindness and respect and I will always remember that. 

I have been taught so much from everyone and every experience while interning with MUST. The lessons I take away from MUST are more than just writing and media relations. These lessons are ones that will help me become a better person and help me impact my community. 

Tyler Pelfrey