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Publix donates $51,000 to MUST’s community services

More than $51,000 is making its way to families in need, thanks to a donation by Publix Super Markets and the Food For All Campaign. Publix representatives presented MUST Ministries with a $26,413.73 check for MUST’s work in Cherokee County (photo) and another check for $25,000 for work in Cobb County.

Publix 51k 170628Publix Super Markets raised a total of $1.4 million in its Food For All Campaign in December 2016, which allowed Publix customers and associates to purchase $1, $3 or $5 donation coupons during checkout. Those proceeds were distributed to 60 nonprofit organizations in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Brenda Reid, Publix media and community relations manager said, “Thanks to the generosity of our customers and the enthusiasm of our associates the campaign is helping to make a difference in the lives of so many in the communities we serve.”

With 1,145 stores in six states, Publix has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” for 20 consecutive years. The Food For All campaign focuses on the fight against hunger.

You can join Publix and make a difference for your neighbors in need by clicking here to donate.

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.”

Want to  help?

Our Amazon Wish List is full of items needed to re-establish a household.
Your generous donation will make a real difference.

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.

MUST Ministries expands housing, food programs for families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUST receives highest rating from Charity Navigator

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

Charity Navigator logo blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUST hotel-motel program adds bed capacity for homeless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gobble Jog benefits thousands of clients in need

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

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

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

Check out our Gobble Jog photo album on Flickr!

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