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.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Compassion has a good return on investment

Several years ago, I spoke at a CCSC church, giving a "moment for mission" during worship services. After the service, a woman came over to let me know she was a client many years ago.

She had been a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, and her husband walked out on her, disappearing with all their financial assets. Her church was her rock, providing emotional support, lots of love, and bringing her to CCSC.

She wanted me to know how much CCSC had helped her. After her husband left, she found a job, although it did not pay much. Her standard of living dropped dramatically, so she and her son came to CCSC on occasion for food, financial assistance, and help through the youth services programs. It was tough, but she worked hard and received promotions with pay raises over time.

When she spoke to me that Sunday, she said her son had graduated from high school and joined the military. He was serving his country and had a plan for his life; she was clearly proud of him. They had made it.

I'm writing about her story not just to share a happy ending, but also to demonstrate what just a little help can do to propel a family forward. Our ministry's culture is saturated in compassion, but we use a business model to operate the mission. We alleviated her immediate burden and made a tangible, long-term impact on her life, keeping this family from being hungry, homeless, and living in poverty.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This is a requested re-run

A couple of you reached out to me after my posting earlier this week, requesting I re-post the blog from December 2013, so it is below.

Do we ever give up on someone?
We helped someone a few weeks ago who was homeless for 40 years until he decided to come off the streets.  Over the years, many people had tried to convince him to leave the streets, and he always said "no".  Until one day 18 months ago he said "yes" and then embarked on a new phase of his life.

He served in Vietnam and saw things he said were too horrible to describe.  When he came home, he was not welcomed back by his family or his community - he felt the brunt of society's anger for the Vietnam War.  Looking back, he understands that the lack of support, coupled with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused him to detach first from his family and eventually society.  He entered the world of living on the streets and stayed there for 40 years.

When he agreed 18 months ago to get help, he was diagnosed and treated for PTSD and referred to the Veterans Administration (VA) for help in entering mainstream society.  He has received services from the VA, and at the time he came to CCSC, he had an apartment he could afford and was about to start a skills-building program that will help him to find work. 

He came to us needing food.  His benefits are enough to pay for his apartment's rent, but he often runs out of food before the end of the month.  His demeanor was serious and focused.  He has been through hell and is not light in spirit, but he is quietly grateful for the turn in his life. 

I have thought a lot about him these last few weeks.  I wonder why he finally said "yes" to coming off the streets.  I wonder how many people gave up on him: his family, friends and others who encountered him.  If I had been his friend, would I have given up on him? Or would I have persevered in trying to help?

Who knows.  But my encounter with this gentleman highlights an important spiritual truth: no one's life is disposable, and there is hope in even the darkest situations.  I am grateful to him for his living witness of life's redeeming possibilities, and I'll bet he has positively impacted everyone who has worked with him these last 18 months.

Monday, September 26, 2016

We helped a veteran today

He's disabled, works part-time, and barely makes it each month. I have a soft spot for veterans. A fair number have come through our doors over the years, and it bothers me to see their struggles.

A few years ago, we helped a female veteran who was escaping an abusive husband. She took her children to a shelter and slowly began to rebuild her life. The shelter provided temporary housing and the emotional support she and her children needed to heal. CCSC provided clothing, school supplies for the children, and help in finding work. The story has a happy ending in that she found a well-paying job and was able to move into her own place.

And then there was the homeless man who I wrote about a few years ago. He was homeless for 40 years after serving in Vietnam and is now off the streets. (His story is worth re-reading, by the way. Just scroll down to December 2013 to find that blog).

The gentleman we helped today simply needed food. It is September 26 - the end of the month - and he had run out of money. He lives on about $800/month, so it's a stretch to make those dollars last all month.

How can you help? Donate food, and you'll be helping veterans as well as working families, the elderly, children, victims of domestic violence and all those in our community who live in delicate, vulnerable situations.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I met some motivated women today

Today I dropped into the English class we offer the Martha's Way students. It's taught by one of our volunteers, John Reynolds from Westminster Methodist Church.

While it seems obvious that someone would take an English class to learn the language, I was interested in understanding the motivation behind the women taking two hours out of their day, twice a week, to come to class. And the answers distilled into two main reasons: 1) to improve their skills, therefore increasing their income, and 2) to help their children.

When asked about their dreams, these also distilled down to two main answers: 1) economic independence, and 2) to provide a better life for their children. These are the dreams of mothers. As always, I left the classroom reminded that our students and I have more similarities than differences.

This fall, CCSC is off to a great start with a record of 62 new students embarking upon this program that launches entrepreneurs. Are you interested in hiring one? Click here:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How do you wear your stress?

I have a big birthday coming up, so age is on my mind. I confess to being fairly shocked at the person gazing back at me in the mirror: the smile lines and strands of gray hair startle me.

This is what's in my head as I sit in on an interview with an older client. She's had a hard life: her husband walked out on her, leaving her as a single mother; her parents died shortly afterwards, deepening her grief; and she's been hungry often in her life. Recently she had a stroke, and the medical bills have been overwhelming.

The surprise is when she pulls out her identification along with her children's: I assumed she was in her 60s with grown children, but she's actually 12 years younger than me with children living at home. Stress has aged her.

The CCSC volunteer helping her is kind and patient, coaxing out details of her story so we can help with immediate needs as well as make quality referrals to other nonprofits. She needs food and clothes, but we also connect her with a medical clinic offering pediatric care as well as mental health services. She's looking for a higher paying job so we send her to CCSC's JobNet program.

She leaves our offices a little lighter, but her overall burden is heavy. This is not a feel-good story - it's a hard story that reminds me of how small my struggles are compared to others'. It's a story that makes me grateful to work at CCSC.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

This really happened to me...

I was sitting at a traffic light, a few cars back, and a homeless woman was up ahead with a sign asking for help. As the light turned green, I slowly accelerated, and as I passed her (in slow motion, I think...), she banged on my car hood, and yelled "the church has forgotten about me!"

I kid you not. Out of all the cars she could have said that to, why me?

I'd like to tell you I circled back, got out of my car, and had a good conversation with her. But I was late for a meeting, and actually... kind of speechless. And startled. I don't remember a thing about my meeting, but everything about that encounter.

And I've been thinking about her words, wishing I had directed her to our food pantry and other church-based services in the community. I wish I had shared what I know: that the church, especially here in Houston, is active in helping others.

I know church people working to prevent human trafficking, teaching ESL classes, tutoring at-risk kids, mentoring prison inmates, providing chaplaincy care at hospitals, and addressing many societal needs.

Naturally, I can point to the 40 CCSC churches active in our ministry. Just last Saturday, we had hundreds of volunteers from these churches spend their morning assembling thousands of school supply packets for low-income children. Faith Lutheran Church generously loaned us their facility for this event.

While this was occurring, a team of volunteers from River Oaks Baptist and Saint Paul's Presbyterian Churches ran our food pantry in Southwest Houston. It is located on the grounds of St. Luke's Methodist @ Gethsemane. And volunteers from a variety of churches, along with a team from St. Martin's Episcopal Church, were operating our food pantry in central Houston.

I could go on and on.

Essentially though, I hope the homeless woman got the help she needs. Rest assured, I am no longer passive while my car is idling. I'm paying attention to everything going on around me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What we did in June

I enjoy combing through the program statistics, so below is a snapshot of what CCSC's staff and volunteers accomplished last month.

  • fed 820 hungry people
  • prevented 75 families from becoming homeless or living in substandard conditions
  • helped 44 people with medical needs (prescription meds, dental needs, eyeglasses)
  • gave 258 people gently used clothing
  • welcomed 30 new clients to the JobNet program and celebrated as 7 left because they found jobs
  • graduated 38 students from the Martha's Way program, equipping them to begin their new housecleaning businesses
  • generated $29,000 in sales at the Sunshine Resale Shop (these proceeds go right into CCSC's mission)
And we are on the brink of helping 6,500 at-risk students with brand new school supplies and clothing. Are you interested in volunteering at this event? See below for details or click here to sponsor a child: It's a fun event, as you can see from this picture of Jeff Holstien, one of our dedicated volunteers who has helped to lead the program in the past.


Back to School Event

Sort & Set-Up (Prepare grade-appropriate school supply packets)
Saturday; July 30, 2016  7:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Location: Faith Lutheran Church, 4600 Bellaire Blvd @ Ave. B (just inside Loop 610)

Distribution: (Assist clients with their school supplies, vouchers, and clothing)
Friday, August 5th, 2016
7:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Saturday, August 6th, 2016
7:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Faith Lutheran Church, 4600 Bellaire Blvd @ Ave. B (just inside Loop 610).
Parking Advisory: Please park in the Crosspoint Church parking lot in the back of the church – off Avenue B. Clients will park in the Faith Lutheran Parking lot for ease of access to their cars once they pick-up their supplies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Last Saturday was special

Nine years ago, a high school student interned at CCSC for the summer, and she made a strong connection with our mission, clients, and staff. Her name is Danielle Cox, and she has since completed her masters degree and was ordained into ministry this past Saturday.

Danielle grew up at First Christian Church-Houston, and I appreciated seeing how her home church wrapped their arms around her, making her ordination personal and rich in meaning. This church was overflowing with love for her.

Near the end of the ceremony, Danielle presided at the communion table for the first time as an ordained minister. Her words resonate with me still. She said we as Christians need to make room, lots of room, for more people to join us at "the table". She was not simply talking about the communion table, but metaphorically about the church being a place of hospitality. A place that draws people in and models the teachings of Jesus. A place of love, just like First Christian Church.

I'm glad all that is now officially in her job description - she's going to be an amazing minister.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Are you fluffy?

Below is a picture of Judy, one of CCSC's Emergency Services & JobNet clients. She's looking for an administrative job, and we've had the privilege of working with her.

When asked about her experience with us, she said "I came into JobNet flat, but they fluffed me up." I just love that quote. So if  you're feeling a bit flat, come by CCSC, and we'll fluff you up.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Someone is happy because of your donation

There is a gentleman we've helped several times this year with food and clothing. He is recovering from a stroke (so he's not working), and his family depends on his wife's income. Her hours have recently been cut, so the family is having a tough year.

This week he told us that the clothing he received earlier was extra-special: it gave him something appropriate to wear to his son's high school graduation. He related to us how very much this meant to him because without CCSC, he wouldn't have been able to dress up.

I understand his situation well because my daughter graduated from high school a few weeks ago, and it is a moment to mark and celebrate. Clothes are not the most important thing, but most of us want to wear our Sunday best to momentous occasions. It's difficult to imagine not being able to do that. It's also difficult to imagine going hungry, not being able to buy shampoo, and worrying about routine bills many of us pay without thought.

If you are someone who donates your clothing to us, THANK YOU.  If not, put a box like this in your closet, and once it's full, bring it to us. We'll sort it, parcel it out to different areas of the ministry, and make sure it is given new life on someone else.

Friday, May 27, 2016

I've had some traffic woes

This week I've gotten stuck in Houston traffic several times. Today I was idling next to a city bus and remembered a client many years ago who was searching for work, but didn't have a car. He had to take several different buses for his appointments and job interviews.

What I remember most is his description of riding the bus, day after day. He said there was despondency on the faces of some riders that affected his mood. Maybe it was the routes he took, but he described people who were glum and seemed weighted down with sadness. He shared this to explain how CCSC's JobNet program was an antidote for him: he would get off the bus, walk into our offices, and be greeted by upbeat staff and volunteers. He said they encouraged him to persist and kept him going on those days when he felt his hope waning.

He's long gone (because he found a job) but his comment on our environment has stayed with me.

We're in the process of developing a campus plan that will include a new building to better integrate and grow our services. Over the next year, a lot of attention will be given to office spacing, storage, work flow, and those kinds of matters. We have smart people who will come up with just the right plan.

Yet the aura of CCSC - the gracious, encouraging environment that sees the sacred in all people - will not change. It will just have more space to work and breathe in.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

We alleviated someone's burden

She is in her mid-twenties and attends a local university, paying for her education by working and receiving some financial aid. She just moved into a new apartment, closer to school, and within a few days, realized it was infested with bed bugs. The cost to eradicate the bugs - which the landlord opted out of helping financially - was left to the tenant.

So she paid for the extermination and then bagged up her clothing and soft goods to kill the bugs. The experience took an emotional toll on her - you could see it in her face. But it also took a financial toll because the cost of eliminating the bugs meant she couldn't pay the full amount of her rent that month.

As a Houstonian, I really don't want someone who is working hard to complete her education to become homeless. I want her to succeed and contribute to our future economy.

More importantly, I was deeply touched by how much this seemingly small incident (for those of us who can easily afford extermination services) put her on the brink, emotionally and financially. So I'm grateful she came to CCSC, where we could alleviate her burden. I hope she left our offices feeling a bit freer and able to focus on her upcoming finals.

Friday, April 29, 2016

My son's feet smelled really bad

When I leaned over to tell my teenage son good night, I was assaulted with the smell of dirty socks. It was pungent.

With a sheepish grin, he confessed that he couldn't remember how many days he'd worn the socks, so he reluctantly took them off, tossed them into the laundry basket, and opened a drawer chock-full of clean socks. Boys!

This little incident reminded me of "Mr. Smith", a now-deceased CCSC friend who couldn't tolerate the thought of anyone being cold, so he generously donated blankets, coats, and socks. He worried about people who lived on the streets as well as those who lived in run-down apartments without adequate heating and cooling systems. So he did what he could and donated these items.

In contrast with my son, there are people who wear one pair of socks for several days in a row because it's the only pair they have. My son, like most of us, is unaware of the bounty in his life: a drawer full of clean socks, a closet full of clothes, a bed with sheets and a blanket, and items such as toothpaste, shampoo, and dental floss.

I share all of this to make two points. First, pause sometime this weekend and take in - really take in - all the good things you have that are taken for granted. I know I'm guilty of overlooking the little things in life. Second, when you're buying personal items such as those listed above, pick up an extra item and donate it to CCSC or another human services agency. I can assure you it will be a much-appreciated donation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Still finding greatness in the parking lot

When I drove into my regular parking space on Monday morning, I was greeted by Winston. Winston is a former CCSC client who utilized our JobNet program several years ago to find work. In addition to his regular job, he now also runs a landscaping service. CCSC is one of his customers, so we see him twice a month.

He always greets me with a "how are you" that is authentic, not the "how are you" that most of us use as our standard conversation starter. 

This week we visited about our respective Sunday mornings. I gave a "moment for mission" at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, and he was called upon (at the last minute) to fill in for his minister. Luckily he is well-equipped: he has read the Bible multiple times and conscientiously applies its principles to his life.

Winston is saturated in God's word and love, and it shows in his humility, authenticity, and deep faith. Whenever I speak with him, I come away feeling more centered and grounded. I imagine he has that effect on most people.

While I'm grateful CCSC was able to help him years ago, I'm even more grateful we still get to see him regularly. A talk with Winston is like a much-needed shot of spiritual B12.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Living the gospel in the parking lot

I recently visited with a group of clients in the CCSC parking lot. They found our ministry from a nonprofit that helps people with multiple diagnoses to become self-sufficient. CCSC complements their work by providing food and clothing through the Emergency Services program and employment assistance through the JobNet program.

I visited with one of the men about his experience with us, and not surprisingly, he was grateful for our help. He had a bag of food and a JobNet flyer showing upcoming workshops. He planned to attend the Linked-In workshop because he thought it would better position his employment chances. The man next to him received a suit, tie and shirt so he can start his new job appropriately-attired.

Each of these people have hardships that are difficult to imagine living with on a daily basis. The woman near the edge of the group looked forlorn. I wondered what her story was.

Our clients are Jesus's people. By that, I mean that Jesus reached out to people who were downtrodden and forgotten by society. He showed compassion. In the last parable before his death (Matthew 25:31-46), he told his disciples that when you feed the hungry and clothe the naked, you are actually serving him. I hope Jesus would find us serving him well at CCSC.

This is Holy Week: a time to focus on the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. My personal spiritual walk is rich because of this time in the church calendar. But I have to continually remind myself that dedication to spirituality is meaningless if I don't apply the tenets of faith to my ordinary, daily life. I need to remember that stopping to talk in the parking lot keeps my faith grounded.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Life is like a cup of coffee

A few months ago I spoke at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The pastor, The Reverend David Browder, began his sermon with a discussion on how society has changed over time, just like coffee. He noted that we used to all drink from one pot of coffee, but now individualize our choices and no longer share a coffee pot.

This analogy has stayed with me: a community coffee pot vs. a non-fat, soy latte for one person, a regular, no-foam latte for another, etc..., etc...

I don't want to make anyone feel guilty about all the coffee choices we have now...I have my favorite coffee drinks also.

But returning to the sermon's point: I wonder if we have less of a sense of community than we did a generation or two ago. Do we know our neighbors? Do we know the people who sit in our pews at church or shop beside us at the grocery store? I ask these questions because I think the less we know, the more we can become detached from others' problems.

CCSC is not a neighborhood, but is a community for volunteers, staff and clients. Most of our volunteers have not undergone the crises that the clients have: their background and life stories are different. But the volunteers listen patiently, taking in all the clients have to share, and then determining how we can best help. I rarely observe judgement, but instead see compassion and sadness at how hard some people's live are.

Understanding others, especially those who have different backgrounds, is akin (I think) to drinking from the same coffee pot.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sometimes you don't ask but just thank

I was giving a “moment for mission” at a church , thanking the congregation for its support, updating them on the ministry, and sharing a recent client story. After the service, one of CCSC's volunteers came over and asked why I didn't use the time to also request donations of men’s and children’s clothing. She thought I missed a great opportunity to share this need. I was taken aback by her gentle scolding and fumbled a response.

I thought about her comment for several days. Yes, she was right: we do need those clothing items. We also need food donations, more volunteers, and increased financial support.

In the nonprofit world, we ask and ask and ask. We are efficient in processing donations. But I wonder if we could do a better job in saying "thank you", with no strings attached.

So I wish I had responded to our concerned volunteer that my talk at her church was only to say thank you. And to reassure her that we do also ask for the resources we need to keep CCSC moving along.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

CCSC's Endowment Board gets an A+

CCSC has an endowment, and it helps cover some of our operating costs each year. We have a special board who oversees the funds, and today's meeting was the one in which they review the investment strategy to ensure the funds are properly invested.

We have a dedicated group. This year Gordon Arnold, Beth Bruce, Brian Grove, Don Miller, and Frank Wozencraft serve on this board, and they were thorough in analyzing, discussing and determining the best investment strategy, given today's economic climate. They made good decisions today and consistently do so, taking good care of these assets that are so important to the ministry.

Essentially, these assets translate into investments into human lives. For example, while the Endowment Board met, the food pantry next door was open and helping the community:

  • We provided food for an elderly woman living on $958/month.
  • We helped a mother who works for a major retailer, earning about $1,200/month to provide for her family of four. Her oldest son is currently studying to join the Marines.
  • A disabled man came in asking for a new shirt because he only had one: the one he was wearing. He happily found four shirts that fit him.
  • And then we helped a man who works for a well-known Houston restaurant who lives with a chronic disease. He was hospitalized last week for a flare-up, but is back at work now. He lives on about $1,000/month.
There were many others who came through the ministry today, at the other food pantry as well as the two employment programs.

These client stories illustrate our mission. And backing up our mission are lots of people serving on committees, overseeing resources, and helping to make decisions that propel the agency forward. Today I'm grateful to the Endowment Board, for their outstanding stewardship of CCSC's assets and commitment to our work.

Monday, February 1, 2016

See who we helped recently

Before CCSC’s Annual Meeting last month, our new Board President, Chris Martin, decided to immerse himself in our mission. Within 48 hours, he had visited JobNet, met with a group of current Martha’s Way students, sat through a client interview at one food pantry, and toured the other pantry, all while asking thoughtful questions.

From these field trips, he shared the following impactful stories at the Annual Meeting: 

At the food pantry, a gentleman came to us immediately after his chemotherapy appointment, understandably not feeling great. He had recently received custody of his eight-year old daughter who is the center of his life. During the interview process, he shared that finally having his daughter back with him is what keeps him going during these tough times. However, with the addition of his daughter and the medical expenses, he is struggling on his limited income.  CCSC helped this family with rental assistance and food.

At Martha’s Way, one of the students shared that she is starting her house-cleaning business to increase her income. Her daughter is currently a student at Baylor and plans to attend medical school, so she wants to make sure her daughter can pursue her dreams.

In the latter story, Chris noted that it’s a wonderful example of how CCSC’s assistance can be a long-term investment in a family.

Do you want to see how we helped other families in 2015? Click here to see a summary of last year’s work:


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Be careful with signage

I saw several signs similar to this one posted around the perimeter of a church parking lot. The signs also stated  "church parking only, violators will be towed".  The signage was sizeable and numerous.

(NOTE: This is not a CCSC church.)

While churches and ministries need to protect their properties, these signs made me uncomfortable. I'd prefer wording that was more diplomatic and didn't have an unwritten "go away" message communicated. 

I'm more drawn to hospitality because Jesus offered it so generously. For this reason, we are intentional in creating it at CCSC, especially in our communication style, even when we need to say "no".

The most important way to measure our success is to ask for feedback, both formally and informally. Below are comments we received in 2015 from those we served: 
  • Thank you, I was treated with courtesy and respect.
  • You showed sincere concern for me.
  • This program has changed my life and my children's lives.
  • This was the first time I needed assistance, and you were so helpful.
  • I thank God every day for the peace and love in this place. (from a volunteer)
  • Y'all showed me there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I started a job last week!
The unwritten sign we strive for at CCSC is "you are welcome here". I hope you feel it too.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

No resolutions for me

I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, mainly because they tend to evaporate by February. Instead, I like to set goals (both big and small) on an ongoing basis. Don't laugh, but one of my recent goals is to read War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. I'm on page 265 (out of about 1,100 pages) and am loving the book.

Our students in the Martha's Way program also set goals, and when I was at a recent graduation, one of the graduates shared her story. She is the single mother to a 3-year old boy and works in a factory to pay the bills. The hours are not ideal, and they limit the time she has with her son. She said the job also takes "energy from her", which negatively impacts all aspects of her life.

Then she heard about our vocational training program and enrolled. This has meant in the short-term that she is away from her son more. But in the long-term, she believes the program will enhance not only her financial security but her ability to be a present and engaged mother.

As she shared her story, she also named some goals:
  • To start her own business and increase her overall income
  • To make sure her schedule will be flexible so she has more time with her child
  • To share her success with her family
I share her goals to inspire you. There's a mom out there trying hard to be the best she can be for her son, and CCSC is fortunate to be able to help her. For those of you who invest in our ministry, this is someone you are investing in.

So back to your New Year's resolutions: I say forget about them. Instead, think about some of the small and significant things you'd like to do in the next few months and work to achieve those.