Friday, March 17, 2017

A young family needed us

A young couple in their early twenties came in with an 18-month-old baby. The father worked while the mother stayed home, and all was well until the father was in a car accident that crushed his leg. While receiving medical care, he lost many weeks of work; his employer held his job for him, but the time off was unpaid.

When he walked into CCSC, he needed help in paying his electric bill. As he signed in, he said very quietly - without making eye contact - that he had never been in this situation before. The volunteer responded, saying she was glad he had come to us. Her graciousness relaxed him.

Another volunteer listened to their story and coordinated payment of the bill. This young father was overcome by the kindness he experienced more than the financial help we provided. With deep emotion, he said he hoped to one day help our ministry.

I share this story to illustrate not only the clients we help, but also the compassion our volunteers impart. Mr. Rogers said, "There is a space between the needy and the person who is asked to help. That space is holy." In all work areas, the CCSC volunteers enter into that holy space and do God's work.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The face of hunger mirrored mine

For dinner, my 15-year old son ate three large hamburgers, a pear, and a serving of grilled potatoes. He finished it off with an ice cream cone, and then an hour later he was foraging in the food pantry. He's all arms and legs and appetite. Our food bill is creeping up.

A CCSC client's teen son also has an insatiable appetite, but she has a limited income and is a single mother. She came to us during her lunch break because she simply needs more food for her son's growth spurt. I was humbled to hear her story.

There are many faces of hunger: the elderly, working families, and teenage boys. Last year, CCSC gave over 30,000 food packages to the hungry. Last week, we fed over 200 families. Today was busy. Tomorrow will be also. Thanks to all who support our work by volunteering time, conducting food drives, and sending in financial gifts. All are needed, appreciated, and put to work.


Monday, January 9, 2017

We're here to help

One of CCSC's goals this past year was to help more people find work and increase their income, and we have positive results to share.

In the JobNet program, we helped 43% more clients than in the prior year. And we expanded services by adding a "coach", someone to work with people to achieve goals that would help stabilize their lives. Some of those goals include finding more affordable housing, reducing expenses, become banked, earning a GED, etc... Over 200 clients opted for this service, with nearly 50% achieving either short- or long-term goals.

Some of the jobs found include accounting assistant, truck driver, payroll coordinator, as well as jobs in medical records, healthcare delivery, and administrative positions in the energy sector.

Notably, we had a 355% increase in the number of clients receiving computer tutoring, therefore becoming fluent in office technology.

In the Martha's Way program (vocational training), we had a 16% increase in the number of graduates, which means the Houston-area now has 242 new entrepreneurs launching their small business. This training program helped increase household wages for these families, with the latest survey showing the average graduate earning about $24/hour. This helps the nearly 500 children living in those homes to have food, a roof over their head, and other basic needs met.

At CCSC we pay attention to metrics, but we also care about the individual people behind the numbers. So I'm grateful for one of the JobNet clients who stopped me in the hallway to tell me how much we've changed her life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

This is a happy picture


This is Russell, a longtime volunteer at the Sunshine Resale Shop. I share this picture to illustrate the generosity of CCSC volunteers throughout the ministry. Russell always has a smile on his face, and welcomes customers into the shop with hospitality.

Each day, the shop and two food pantries open with the volunteers gathering for prayer before beginning the day. They pray for our clients, our churches and our community. They share their own individual concerns. No matter the weather, issues of the day, or concerns of the world, these groups begin their work together with a prayer.

These volunteers are not one-dimensional. I imagine there to be contrasts between each in their theological and political approaches to the world. But these differences are irrelevant when we gather at CCSC. Do you and I have to agree on everything before we can work together to alleviate hunger? I hope not.

This is a small, but important aspect of CCSC. Our small ministry witnesses to the strength of working together across lines (despite lines, maybe), rather than using lines to separate us. The words of Jesus are powerful and call for much work to be done to build up the Kingdom of God. There's room for differences of opinion... and then room for us to pray together and work together.

Please join our team. We need more volunteers. As he's gotten older, Russell is not able to come to the shop as often. If you're willing to serve, I think he would share that chair he's sitting in.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Some November lessons

This past month, I was in three different CCSC churches: a Baptist, an Episcopal, and a Methodist church. I heard three fabulous sermons, visited with lots of good people, and left refreshed. Below are some of the messages I walked away with:

Hold a baby - If you're feeling despondent, confused or helpless, holding a baby will center you and bring you close to God. Babies need love and food. Love and food. Maybe all the stuff we worry about is extraneous to what really matters.

Say thank you - Say thank you to God for the goodness in your life, especially if things aren't going well. When life is chaotic and upside down, the best way to find your center of gravity is to start naming what is going right. Even if it's just one small thing. 

Share yourself - Share your strength, share your faith, share your time, share whatever is good and right in your life with others. This message was not preached. It is what I observe every time I visit this particular church. They are a generous congregation that oozes love and hospitality.

What did you learn in November? Are you interested in deepening your spiritual life? Visit some churches and take them on a test drive, if you don't currently attend a church. If you're a regular church-goer, add in a new spiritual discipline to keep yourself from becoming stale. The new year is almost upon us - make a resolution that could possibly enrich your soul.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It's been a busy week!

Thanksgiving week is not quiet around here.

The parish of St. Vincent De Paul Catholic finished their food drive Monday, bringing several cars loaded with donations. Bethany Christian Church arrived next, bringing another generous delivery from their congregation as well as the Lamar High School Swim Team. The youth from St. Michael Catholic then began organizing and sorting the donations, thereby expediting the distribution of food. And in two days, we've given high-quality food packages to 163 families and currently have a waiting room full of families.

At JobNet, six new people registered with the program, which is rare for a holiday week. In addition, 28 other job seekers came in for coaching, a Quickbooks class, and computer training. More are here today.

The doorbell keeps ringing, with Christmas toys being delivered for the upcoming Jingle Bell Express program. It's a happy sound!

There are two moments this week that stand out to me. The first was when a new volunteer told Volunteer Coordinator Kate Gallup that she can feel the love in this place. Me too.

And then my week started with a hug from Winston, a former client who does our landscaping. He's grateful for what CCSC has meant to him. Me too.

So this Thanksgiving week, I hope you also have experienced generosity, love, a flurry of happy activity, and a hug from a friend. This is what I'm grateful for this week.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Today in staff meeting

Every Wednesday afternoon our staff gathers for a weekly meeting. We share what's going on in our work area, with those on the front lines also sharing statistics and insight into the clients we serve.

Staff meeting begins with a prayer or devotion, and today Program Director Karen Holloman opened the meeting with these words from theologian Henri Nouwen:  

Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be. Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of our society. The homeless, the starving, parentless children, people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sisters - they require our attention.

We can trust that when we reach out with all our energy to the margins of our society we will discover that petty disagreements, fruitless debates, and paralyzing rivalries will recede and gradually vanish. The Church will always be renewed when our attention shifts from ourselves to those who need our care. The blessing of Jesus always comes to us through the poor. The most remarkable experience of those who work with the poor is that, in the end, the poor give more than they receive.

And here are some highlights shared in today's meeting:
  • a record number of students (1,839) had their vision screened this fall; those needing glasses will receive them through CCSC's Louise J. Moran Vision Care program
  • last week we fed 266 families through the two food pantries
  • on Saturday we held a food fair (a free farmer's market for the hungry) and helped 257 families
  • 52 job seekers were helped at JobNet, with seven new people asking for guidance in their job search
  • a record number of students are enrolled in Martha's Way, the program which teaches entrepreneurial skills and launches small business owners
Does this sound good to you? If so, please consider supporting our work by volunteering your time, donating food or clothing, and/or financially supporting CCSC's mission.