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The Widow’s Mite

At times, we receive questions about the clients we serve and occasionally assumptions are made … sometimes negative assumptions. If they truly knew our clients, they would realize many face mental health, physical health and life circumstance challenges we cannot imagine and would be hard-pressed to survive. Unfortunately, some clients are their own worst enemies, who through their attitudes or their choices have put themselves in hard places. Regardless of the challenges, we are called to serve them with respect, compassion and dignity.

Yesterday, something happened that typifies the great majority of those who seek our assistance. I went out to check our mailbox at the street and found a letter. It was a small envelope with a handwritten address and return address. I did not recognize the name, but recognized the address as a housing unit from the Canton Housing Authority. When I opened the envelope, there was no letter or note, but simply a folded dollar bill. When we checked our database, we discovered she was a MUST client who had last received services several years ago. I realized that she had offered a donation of what she could to say thanks for the meaningful services she received.

I was reminded of two things. First, the story of the widow’s mite from the Bible, where Jesus commented that the widow had given more than any other person because she had given all that she had. Second, I was reminded that the overwhelming majority of our clients are people just like me who have had some type of setback that puts them in need. It has taken every ounce of courage they have to come in and ask for help, braving embarrassment, shame, guilt and possible judgement. “I’ve never had to do this before,” they say. Our job is to give them acceptance, hope and the assurance that although we have all been in a position to give before, and that feels good, we all will someday have to ask for help. Our prayer is that we can help them through this setback to bring them back to the place where they can give again.

In this person’s case, our prayer was answered. We have clients who come in because they are in need of food, but will donate clothes that someone has outgrown. We witness countless acts of appreciation and kindness from our clients. I was touched by the simple generosity of this client’s dollar bill and reminded that the image of God is in each of our clients (and staff, donors and volunteers!). Some may reflect it more brightly than others, but we are all His workmanship.
Blessings,
Kendall

FedEx Ramp Manager Shares Her Journey from Homelessness to Hope

On any given night, more than 500,000 Americans find themselves homeless. Many people take for granted having enough to eat, a place to stay and adequate clothing to wear. It isn’t until you are without these things that you can begin to understand the pain that comes with it.

Ametruis Knox, a FedEx Express ramp manager who has been with the company for nearly 20 years, can relate to the hardships of homelessness. She was once homeless growing up in Philadelphia.

“A lot of people believe that homelessness is always associated with those who have substance abuse problems or are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Knox. “That’s actually very far from the truth. A lot us are really just one paycheck away from being homeless. There are a lot of different circumstances involved. It could be health related, and they couldn’t afford the cost of healthcare. It could be their house burned down. There are so many reasons out there.”

As a child, Knox and her mother found themselves homeless and hungry when Knox’s father lost his job. They stayed at a women and children’s shelter and got their meals from local churches whenever they could. A little over a month later, Knox and her family moved into an abandoned home with no running water, no heat and no functioning bathroom. Knox recalls getting water from a leaking fire hydrant down the street. They had to use the stove to heat what little water they had to keep themselves clean.

“I really wasn’t sure if things would get better,” Knox said. “I didn’t think it could get any worse. I experienced a lot of anger, anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand why we had to be homeless. I knew my father had lost his job, but I never thought we would be put out of the place we lived.”

It is always darkest before the dawn

Life knocked her down, but it didn’t keep Knox from getting back up. Determined to achieve success, she ran track in high school and earned a college scholarship. After one year of college, Knox  sacrificed her scholarship and returned home to take care of her mother who suffered from multiple sclerosis.

A few years later, Knox answered a newspaper ad for a customer service rep and was hired at a FedEx call center in Pennsylvania in 1997. She eventually made her way to Las Vegas and into a management training program with FedEx that would lead to a role as a ramp manager in Atlanta, a position she holds today. Knox is in charge of ramp agents, dangerous goods and material handlers.

“I never thought in a million years I would be here,” Knox said. “There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and it was a very long road. Someone believed in me along the way. That’s what I try to instill in my employees, to not give up and to keep going no matter what.”

Knox wasn’t always comfortable talking about her past. She felt shame for a long time and tried to forget that part of her life. Many years later, a FedEx co-worker unknowingly would help Knox face her past and use it for good.

“During our FedEx Cares campaign, a peer of mine approached me to help with Project Overcoat, a program designed to collect and distribute blankets and coats for the homeless,” Knox said. “I was somewhat reluctant at first, not sure if I wanted to open those old wounds, recall memories of my past and be involved with something that hit so close to home.”

After some hesitation, Knox agreed to participate. Her involvement led her to a women and children’s shelter where some of the coats that had been collected through the program were distributed to the homeless. While there, she saw something that caught her eye and touched a part of her past that she once tried to forget.

“I looked and saw a mother and child, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Knox said. “It was like seeing myself back in time. At that moment, I knew I had to speak up and not be ashamed any longer.”

A woman who at one time did not even want to think about her past would go on to serve as a spokesperson for Project Overcoat on TV in front of thousands of people. Knox appeared on the local FOX affiliate and told her story to encourage the people of Atlanta to donate coats and blankets. It also led her to speak at other homeless shelters and organizations, like MUST Ministries, about her experience.

“FedEx helped me find my way and provided the opportunity to take care of myself and serve others who face what I faced as a child. If my story can help someone else, then I have lived my purpose.”


By Tim Miller

June 6, 2016

 

Original link: http://about.van.fedex.com/blog/homeless/

 

Have you volunteered?

Have you ever wanted to change your routine? Are you about to retire? Have you ever asked yourself, what is next? Where do I go from here? Well, if you have ever volunteered, you know it is a rewarding experience. It is good knowing you are helping others. Many feel this way about volunteering with any organization. When you volunteer with MUST, you get more than just a good feeling. You will meet new people make long-term connections, offer aid to your fellow man in order to better their lives.

Putting your skills to use where they are most needed is meaningful, knowing that you are a partner in changing lives. At MUST, the clients are held accountable to do their part in improving their situations. Having had the pleasure of volunteering over the last year with MUST, I have been humbled at the extraordinary work everyone does to build a better community.

Let me explain why MUST has been great to me. I recently relocated to Georgia with a vague idea of what was next for me. I felt like I hadn’t contributed to the world even a fraction of my blessings. I was fortunate to be introduced to the great people at MUST Ministries and the awesome work they do for their neighbors. They offer housing, employment services, food, clothing and much more to people in need.

I have seen how fortuitous life can be (e.g. people can lose their homes, not make enough to feed their families, etc.) and I thank God for my own blessings every day. Many, by no fault of their own, do not land on their feet, or have the necessary support to change their situations alone. People become more than just a number on an application when you see them every day in your neighborhood. Just think your neighbor just may be someone in need. In my opinion, this makes MUST Ministries an invaluable resource to their community. As a volunteer, they have allowed me to use my skills and knowledge to help others less fortunate.

I think at some point in life, people feel lost without a compass, map or GPS to guide them on their journey. For some, they are lost in a sea of hopelessness and endless uncertainty. It is wonderful to know that MUST Ministries’ team of volunteers and staff can be a beacon of light during those dark times. Volunteering my time has been very fulfilling for me. I am proud to be one of the ten thousand volunteers at MUST Ministries. Utilizing your unique gift to do good for others is, to me, a MUST. The only question becomes… have you volunteered?

Shanna-Kaè Mallett

Finding their way home

HOUSING

Omar Edwards sits outside his apartment in Marietta. MUST Ministries provides housing for 73 disabled individuals previously living in homelessness in Cobb and Cherokee Counties.

Homeless neighbors find shelter in MUST Permanent Supportive Housing

Once his shift at Wal-Mart wound to an end, Omar Edwards had nowhere to go. No one he worked with knew that the employee with the boisterous laugh, who arrived to work an hour early, had no home to return to — except two pieces of luggage and a blanket he fashioned into a tent.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs 2015 Report on Homelessness estimates that on a single night in January, 756 individuals living in Cobb and Cherokee Counties were homeless. Edwards no longer includes himself in that number. Today, he is one of 73 people receiving stable housing from MUST Ministries’ Permanent Supportive Housing Programs.

The long-term programs house homeless individuals whose physical or mental disabilities or substance abuse disorders make it difficult for them to obtain self-sufficiency. The ultimate goal of the program, according to Rhonda Hall, Program Director, is to connect clients with the resources they need to gain stability and eventually return to independent living.

“Supportive Housing provides a safe, stable place for individuals who desire to better their lives,” she said. Today, Edwards is involved in a church program educating people about the realities of homelessness and working towards financial self-sufficiency.

Clients are provided with fully-furnished, two bedroom apartments with utilities included, as well as toiletries, household items, food support when needed, and access to supportive services. Case managers work with clients to determine personal education, employment and health goals to connect them to the resources needed to achieve those goals. Resources can include anything from obtaining food stamps or social security benefits, to physical and mental health treatment, dental services, employment services, GED classes and recovery meetings.

Homeless families need help

Clients come from any number of circumstances. Before his search brought him to MUST, Herb Schwalbe took shelter wherever he could find it: here a tent in the woods, there a friend’s home, and even a few nights in a hospital waiting room. “If it wasn’t for this, I don’t know where I’d be,” he said.

Although many clients, like Schwalbe, are single individuals, families also make up a portion of the program’s client base. One of these families, a mother named Michelle Smith and her 15-year-old son, were admitted to the program in 2013 after Smith’s substance abuse inhibited the two from finding housing anywhere but in the most unlivable of conditions.

“We were living in a trailer that was basically condemned, and we were living there with three other people.” Smith remembered. “We wanted a change but had no resources.”

Since entering the program, Smith said she has remained sober and found employment as a supervisor at a greenhouse in the area. A housing voucher granted her by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will soon enable her and her son to find their own housing and live independently.

A place for veterans

Veterans also make up a significant portion of the program. The 10-apartment Veterans’ Supportive Housing Program in Cobb County serves 16 honorably or generally discharged veterans. The United Way of Greater Atlanta indicates that veterans constitute 21 percent of all homeless individuals living in Atlanta.

“People look at them like they’re a threat,” said case manager Michael Boyd. “These people are good. They’ve served our country. They took bullets. They’ve suffered from depression. They’ve had to go through a lot of things that you and I will probably never go through.”

Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety are all common mental illnesses reported by clients of both the veteran and non-veteran programs. Because of this, case managers place a great emphasis on self-esteem, positive affirmation and community. Clients gather together in weekly community meetings to share news, exchange helpful information and celebrate birthdays and advances made towards self-sufficiency.

“Every person in the program is loved and accepted for who they are,” said Rachel Castillo, Vice President of Program Services at MUST, “so it really does become like a great big extended family.”

Between the two campuses, MUST Permanent Supportive Housing has sheltered 115 people in the past year. According to Hall, 99 percent of these did not choose to live in homelessness, but none of the residents lets this deter them from choosing their future. Schwalbe said his dream is to eventually move out and have a home together with Smith, his girlfriend. Her dreams are equally bright.

“My outlook on everything has changed,” she said. “I have all the options in the world now.”

How to help: Give to the housing program or sign up to volunteer at mustministries.org.

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.

Prayer
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.
Blessings,
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.