“Success” is creating outreach programs
I was talking with a church friend recently about reactivating a ministry I’d developed a few years back and was forced to suspend for a while. It was a Transitional Needs program and, through discussions with a couple others, they thought it might be a good time to look at starting it back up. I gave them a brief history of the project. This project was borne out of our Faith Partners congregational team ministry whose initial efforts were to create substance abuse and addiction awareness, education, and recovery support for our congregational community. These initial activities led to later expanding our efforts to meeting the needs of community members in early recovery who found themselves transitioning out of different forms of recovery residence experiences.
It started out of work that the church was committed in doing with a local indigent recovery program, called The Extension. We had been doing monthly dinners for some time and had gotten to know a number of the residents, some of whom were completing their one year residence and moving back into the local community. I’d always enjoyed the conversations with the residents, almost exclusively from needy circumstances – either out of incarceration or living on the street. Conversations steered toward where they’d lived prior to getting into the treatment program, where they intended to transition to, what they did or didn’t have, and what they thought they might need.
The need was certainly there. The Men’s Residential program had space for between 55 and 60 residents, where the separately located Women’s program had beds for 20 – 22 participants. That meant a completion rate of 4 – 6 per month. At first, the contributions were limited to food items – canned goods, staples like pasta and rice, and cleaning products – three or four large grocery bags worth. A couple of the congregants were discovered to be “extreme couponers” and were more than eager to swap strategies as to how to combine sales, Buy One, Get One Free specials, and double coupon deals to accumulate hefty inventories of items to donate. Over the course of time it became like a competition, to see how much product could be obtained with the least amount of money. And of course, the contributions were more than welcome, as those who were transitioning from residential treatment back into the community were greeted with items to put into their pantries. One of the couponers even held a couple of sessions at The Extension on how to lower their food bills.
Gradually, contributions began to be raised for other necessary items to help with the residents transitions back into the community. Serviceable furniture – beds, frames, drawers, and side tables – and small appliances – toasters, ovens, irons, and such – began to show up and always found homes. About 8 months into the ministry, we connected with a couple other churches in the area that were coordinating similar endeavors. Coordinating among our mutual teams reaped the additional benefit of commonly shared warehouse space.
Inventories of household items grew over a couple of years. We ran into a snag about a year or so ago, when the warehouse space was closed and inventories couldn’t be efficiently relocated. Donations had to be limited, or at least timed so that storage limited until new space could be found. Now, following the discussion with my friend, it appears as though a bit of storage space has been donated allowing the effort to be resurrected.
Those completing the residential treatment program are typically in positions where they have their essential needs met, are gainfully employed, have their transportation needs met, and have a place to live. Starting their lives in recovery with a couple items of furniture, a few appliances, and a variety of groceries is a valuable way of expressing a welcome from our church and invitation to join us in both worship and continued outreach.
Sacred Tapestry UMC