Friday, January 31, 2014

Sometimes it's okay to talk to a stranger

This morning, staff member Stephanie Hodge was at a local grocery store picking up some of the "Red Barrel" bags.  You know those barrels:  they are in most grocery stores and the contents are donated to food pantries.

As Stephanie was loading her car with the food bags, a stranger approached.  He asked if she worked for the agency that would be distributing the food to the hungry, and when she said "yes", he handed her $100 as a cash donation.  And then he walked away.

When she shared this story, it made all of us smile:  not because of the $100 donation, but because of the generosity of a stranger, who asked for nothing in return for his gift, not even a tax receipt.

I love anonymous goodness and have the privilege of seeing it often at CCSC.  We clearly see it with donors and volunteers, but also with clients.  One cold winter day, a homeless man came in looking for a coat, and we were out of warm clothing.  Another client overheard the conversation between the man and a volunteer.  He stepped forward to give the man his own coat, saying that he had an apartment and couldn't imagine sleeping on the streets without warmth.  This was someone who had come to us needing food and clothing, yet he freely gave away his only coat.

Because I work in a faith-based organization, I am surrounded by spiritually focused people, seeking to live their faith and values in the world.  Most of the people I know want to do great things with their lives.  Yet I wonder if greatness is in the little moments that comprise our daily lives.  Mother Teresa said it best:  "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." 

Friday, January 17, 2014

With apologies to mathematicians, numbers aren't everything

We are working hard to finalize our 2013 numbers to report the year's results. This involves our financials as well as our program statistics and outcomes.  Essentially, CCSC had a good year, and we'll be reporting the information formally next week.

Numbers matter because we can measure accomplishments and make comparisons to prior years as well as to our goals.  But numbers cannot be the sole mechanism in measuring success.  An organization's mission also needs to be assessed:  Did we live our core values (these are mentioned in a prior post)?  Can someone walk into our programs, office, or resale shop and see a match between our values and our daily interactions?  Do we "walk the talk" with our organizational culture?

I share this not to give an assessment on CCSC's culture (although I think our staff and volunteers do an outstanding job).  I share this to show that when we measure success, we also have to consider how well we relate to others, especially those we serve.

So I'm always grateful to receive feedback on how we can improve in this area.  And of course, I love to hear directly from our clients. 

Earlier this week, I ran into a former JobNet client.  He wanted me to know how much the people at JobNet meant to him:  he said they changed his life, and he rattled off all their names.  He's been employed for three years now.  In the year he was a client, he represented one person out of 50,000+ who our organization helped.  His statistic was not meaningful, if you look at just the numbers.  But his story was meaningful to those who worked with him.  He believed they genuinely cared for him, and this helped propel him forward.

So as we publish and report our numbers, remember that each program statistic represents a human being, with his or her own story.  CCSC aims to meet our targeted programmatic and financial goals while seeing each person coming through as a child of God, worthy of our best effort.

If you would like to become a CCSC volunteer and join our community, please contact our volunteer coordinator, Kate Gallup, at

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Isn't Over

There is a poem I read this time of year that I find inspiring.  It's called "The Work of Christmas" by Henry Thurman:

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner
To teach the nations
To bring Christ to all
To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman

Like many of you, I revel in the majesty of Christmas.  I enjoy all the activity at CCSC and seeing so many volunteers come through our doors this time of year, eager to serve and help us fulfill our mission.  I also love the quiet time I have with my family, the music and decorations, and the inspiring worship services at my church. 
So when it's over, and I find myself in January, it can be a bit of a letdown.  I read this poem as a reminder that while the pageantry and magic of Christmas has its time, the work of Christmas is timeless and ongoing. 
This week, as in most weeks throughout the year, CCSC works its mission.  We help job seekers to find a job (or a better job).  We feed families and individuals, and we put eyeglasses on the faces of at-risk students. We train women to become entrepreneurs, help older persons with their medication, and working families to avoid homelessness.  We do this in a culture that says all people are to be treated with dignity and respect.  We do this in a culture that strives to balance accountability and solid business practices with the ethos of our mission:  to be the hands and feet of Christ in a hurting world.
Thanks to all who support and believe in our work.