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HomeAid Atlanta plans work days at MUST Ministries’ homeless campus

The Elizabeth Inn Shelter at MUST Ministries is the newly selected charity to receive expert help from volunteer professionals in the building field. Thanks to the generosity of HomeAid Atlanta, who works in partnership with the building industry, qualified volunteers will tackle numerous projects on the campus next month, providing a significant gift to the non-profit.

HomeAid will partner with Community Associations Institute of Georgia (CAI) to complete the work at MUST.

“To have professionals come to MUST and offer their services and supplies is a tremendous blessing,” said Dr. Ike Reighard, President and CEO of MUST. “HomeAid Atlanta will complete many projects that need to be done to improve the homeless campus and they will do them well. What a blessing to our clients.”

Last year alone, the Elizabeth Inn campus housed 874 people in the shelter and provided 85,974 meals in the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. In addition, the cold weather shelter, the warming center, employment services and outreach to the homeless are located on this campus, one of 13 locations operated by MUST that serve 30,000 people a year.

“We hear quite a bit about MUST Ministries,” said Jean Hilyard, Director of Engagement at HomeAid Atlanta. “They have a good reputation and we wanted to connect,” she said. “We have the same goals – to help the homeless – so we will be on their campus May 12 and 19 for our Care Day effort.”

The group will be doing pressure washing and other prep work first, followed by building a 12’ custom shelving unit for the Employment Services Classroom on the homeless campus. Also on the task list are painting, a handicapped ramp rebuild, sprucing up decks and ramps on every building and a bathroom upgrade. CAI and partners are also installing a large, interactive children’s artwork areaon the concrete near the children’s playground.

One of the biggest tasks is fixing the large parking lot pavement. From painting doors to replacing old facia boards, the team will tackle an extensive “To Do List”. About 580 CAI of Georgia volunteers are expected to help and will also serve lunch at the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen on campus.

“It’s quite an undertaking, but it’s so nice to work with an outreach like MUST that serves so many types of people,” Hilyard said. MUST helps about 30,000 people a year and 80 percent of them are women and children. Most of the clients live in Cherokee and Cobb.

HomeAid, organized in 2001, works in partnership with the building industry, as well as community building organizations, to assist people experiencing homelessness, so it’s a perfect fit with MUST Ministries, Dr. Reighard said. “We are so grateful.”

Hilyard explained it this way, “We want to help people who help so many. And MUST does that well.”

MUST takes leadership role in homeless housing challenge

shelter challengeFollowing the “Shelter Challenge,” a statewide initiative to place as many homeless families and individuals as possible in permanent housing, MUST Ministries is taking an ambitious approach. “We plan to house 90 people in 90 days,” said Program VP Rachel Castillo.

MUST is part of a 19-organization collaborative learning initiative led by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The group anticipates promising results as they focus on making shelters more accessible and helping those clients quickly obtain stable housing. The target dates for the challenge are March 15 – June 12.

“For 46 years, MUST has focused on helping our neighbors in poverty. Our vast experience has taught us the significant value of stable housing. Last year, we provided 78,486 safe nights of rest to those in need. Through our Elizabeth Inn Shelter, Permanent Supportive Housing, Veteran’s Housing, Tenant Based Rental Assistance and other programs, MUST is already helping 1,222 a year,” Castillo explained.

But with the current crisis in housing, more must be done, she said. 53,000 people in Georgia are homeless, according to Castillo. That’s why MUST is teaming up with affordable apartment complexes, private landlords and community partners so more people can get a second chance. The largest poverty-focused charity in the area, MUST is working every day to place guests from the 72-bed facility.

Of the almost 30,000 served by MUST annually, 1,500 are living in homelessness and thousands more are in acute financial distress, she said. “Many have been living below the poverty level for years and are on the verge of homelessness.

“Based on the media gross income for households and median rent in Cobb County from the U.S. Census Bureau, 47.73 percent of households who rent in Cobb are overburdened by rent costs. Many of the affordable housing complexes in Cobb have closed and addressing the affordable housing challenge has become critical,” Castillo continued.

“Forty percent of our clients are women and children,” Maurice Speaks, Elizabeth Inn Shelter manager, said, “so we have to work hard to find family housing that’s safe and affordable. Our area is very limited in that capacity, but we have recently negotiated to provide 10 more apartments for the disabled who have been chronically homeless and three of those will be for families.”

In a unique approach, MUST is asking community members to help provide home supplies for these clients. Clients who have little to nothing need linens, toiletries, cleaning kits and microwaves. Anyone who wants to help can drop these items off at the MUST Donation Center at 55 Chastain Road, Suite 110, Kennesaw, and mark them “90 in 90” so they can be given to families who finally have a home.

“If everyone works together, we can identify appropriate housing options and help people get started on their paths to stability, Castillo said, “The whole community can get behind this initiative to end homelessness in our area. This effort will change so many lives.

“We work at it every day, but this emphasis on housing will raise awareness and call people together to network in new ways. MUST wants to help as many people as possible and we look forward to the community support for what we hope to accomplish,” Castillo said. “We can all make our community better.”

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Tanya Hurt: ‘I’m not going to give up the fight’

Tanya HurtAfter the deaths of three family members, Tanya Hurt was trapped in the throes of depression.

She felt the Lord leading her to leave her hometown of Cincinnati and seek change. With no idea where they might end up, she and her husband loaded the youngest four of their eight children into their car, packed everything they could fit into a U-Haul and began driving south.

“I got on my hands and knees and asked the Lord to guide me,” she said. “I didn’t know where I was going.”

Hurt’s long journey down I-75 ended in Atlanta, but she didn’t find the change she had been hoping for. Instead she found was more pain: Her family was now homeless.

The Hurt family bounced from hotel to hotel, but eventually their money ran out. With no support system and no resources, they were out of options. The family’s only hope of having a roof over their heads was to find a family shelter.

Their search for refuge brought them to the Elizabeth Inn at MUST Ministries, the only local shelter that might be able to house a family as large as hers.

When she arrived, though, intake was closed for the day. She was too late. It seemed her hopes were dashed.

When Tanya came back early the next day to try again, she learned a family had just left the program and space was available for her and all her children. Had she come earlier or later than she did, there likely would not have room.

Hurt remained at the Elizabeth Inn for several weeks, slowly regaining stability while receiving the mental and emotional support she sorely needed. She learned that a better life was not only within her reach, but she held it in her hands.

“The staff showed me that I’m not supposed to depend on anybody to get where I need to be,” she said. “I must put more effort into myself to get myself out of my current situation.”

Hurt said she has a multitude of people at MUST to thank for how far she’s come, and that even today, she thinks of MUST as a friend she was able to go to when she had no one else.

“When I go to MUST, my face is recognized and I know I’m not alone,” she said.

Today, the Hurt family is back on its feet, regaining self-sufficiency. Her husband is employed at a local bakery, her children are in the process of becoming enrolled in school and the family has a place to call home.

Although her life is still a struggle at times, Hurt knows it’s worth it.

“I’m not going to give up the fight.”

‘Making a way for us when we see no way’

Schnyeder Destine

Schnyeder Destine, a former MUST client who now is CEO of Bexiam, talks about the difference MUST supporters made in  his life:

“MUST invested love and hope into me and my family, and because of that we are able to give back to others who need hope. But it was a journey to get here and MUST was part of my story. MUST gave us food, furniture, toys and hope. They treated us with dignity and compassion.

“When you give to MUST Ministries, you are helping thousands of children – just like I was – have a future. You’re allowing us to grow up and make our dreams come true. You are giving us a hand up, not a hand out. You are making a way for us when we see no way.”

Many of your neighbors see no way out of their difficulties. When you give them help through MUST, you also are giving them hope!

MUST partners with KSU to help students feed their children

Many college students face financial challenges, but some struggle with homelessness or have children they are unable to feed.

KSU food pantrySo MUST Ministries is partnering with Kennesaw State University’s Center for Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment (CARE) to provide food and toiletries to students in poverty with children to feed.

The CARE Center offers support to students who are struggling with homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless, students experiencing food insecurity and those previously or currently in foster care. Among many other services, the center operates two on-campus food pantries.

According to CARE Center director Marcy Stidum, in some cases, these students have more than just themselves to support. If a student is a parent and living in poverty, MUST will supply groceries and toiletries to the family through the child-focused MUST Save It Forward (SIF) program.

“If we ever hope to break the cycle of poverty, we have to eliminate barriers and empower people to succeed,” according to the SIF Team.

“The MUST Save It Forward mission is to eliminate the barrier of hunger so students have a greater opportunity to succeed in school and life. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with KSU, allowing us to now serve students in all levels of education from elementary school all the way through college.”

How to help: A simple gift of $12 a month feeds a family through SIF. Just go to mustministries.org and donate online to help.

A simple way to give help that people really need!

Amazon shopping cartWe all want to help people in need, but it’s not always simple.

We want to give a person something that really helps. But how do we know what’s needed? And how do we get it to the people who need it most?

MUST Ministries has a simple solution: Our new Amazon.com wish list.

The wish list contains essential items that all our clients need, including necessities we often take for granted: towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and many other everyday items. You’ll also find items MUST Ministries need for its daily operations, like trash bags and copy paper.

Simply click this amazon.com link and select the items you want to donate — and the items will be shipped directly to our Donation Center.

How easy is that?! You know exactly what you’re contributing, and you know what you are giving to make a difference in someone else’s life.

You can find a direct link to the wish list on our website: mustministries.org/givehelp

MUST Ministries has been awarded Charity Navigator’s highest rating for dependability and excellence. For more information about MUST’s dedication to ethics and transparency, visit mustministries.org or charitynavigator.org.

Women coming out of homelessness find hope as artisans

When Nicole left an abusive situation, she knew it was best for her children. She had endured abuse, but never knew her children were suffering until one night her daughter said, “Mama… when you’re not here, Daddy hits me.” Nichole and her children left immediately.

IMG_6412Where she ended up is changing her life. After finding shelter, she got a job as an artisan in the Glory Haus workshop called “Repurposed on Purpose”. The creative shop makes jewelry, fabric goods and other items for several customers and is launching new items for boutique sales.

Through a partnership with Glory Haus, a large distributor of inspirational gifts, décor and collegiate items, MUST’s Employment Services team worked to recruit women coming out of homelessness to work as artisans. Under the leadership of Sheila Lynch, the workshop is growing and taking on more projects, including leather jewelry, unique shirts and Christmas gifts.

“The most important thing MUST offers people is hope,” said Ike Reighard, president and CEO of MUST. “This creative workshop is a perfect fit because our mission is in line with Glory Haus and we are working together to provide hope to the hopeless. It’s so meaningful to see these women use their talents, skills, enthusiasm and creativity to make beautiful items that bless others. In the meantime, they are becoming financially stable.”

MUST serves about 30,000 people annually, 80 percent of whom are women and children.

HOW TO HELP:
Purchase handmade items on gloryhaus.com or donate to the Employment Services program at MUST Ministries at 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.”

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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?