Monday, November 5, 2018

Some things bloom in their own time

Last spring, I planted two vines from seed in my garden, and both were supposed to begin blooming within 10-12 weeks. While the foliage was gorgeous, we went through the rest of spring and all of summer without seeing a flower. And then in early October both began blooming. My back fence now has deep blue Morning Glories opening up with first light, and the front of the house has large, white Moon Vine flowers that open at sunset. These plants surprised me in their own time as did a client we worked with about ten years ago.

I know this woman's story well because I was her coach at JobNet and became quite close to her. "Pat" worked hard and found several part-time jobs to provide for her family, but it was a struggle, so she eventually left Houston to see if another city could give her a better quality of life. All of us who worked with her were concerned she was leaving a fairly good support system with her church and CCSC, but Pat was certain this was her path.

We kept up for a few years until we didn't. And then Pat walked in a few weeks ago - beaming and happy to be back at CCSC. When she moved, Pat found a full-time job with benefits that gave her and the children health insurance. She said the classes she took at JobNet and the lessons she learned from all the volunteers helped to target her job search, so she felt that from a distance, we had helped her to achieve her goal.

While Pat's income was modest, it was enough. Both her children graduated from high school, and one is in college; the other opted to go straight into the workforce, and he has married and given her a grandchild. She is stable and was visiting family in Houston when she popped in to let us know the rest of her story. 

All the volunteers who worked with Pat wanted to see her find success in Houston, but she followed her instincts and moved. And in time, her life eased up, and she found the stability she was looking for, blooming in her own time.

Friday, June 22, 2018

This volunteer makes happiness and warmth

We have a sewing friend who makes blankets for CCSC's clients. She's 96 years old, and her daughters are important to the project: they purchase the materials for their mother, bring them to her so she can make the blankets at home, and then deliver the completed blankets to us.

They select fabrics that are whimsical children's patterns or lovely adult prints. It's clear that much love and intention goes into this process. Last month, the daughters delivered 50 blankets, and there's a picture of some of them below.

Earlier this week, a woman who came in for food also asked for a blanket, saying in the same breath that she knew we wouldn't have any since it was summer. Yet thanks to our dedicated "home volunteer", we were able to surprise this woman with a beautiful, handmade blanket.

Volunteering is about sharing your time and talent for a greater good, and it doesn't have to be done on-site. If you have an idea on how you could help our clients, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Erin Donohue,

Friday, May 11, 2018

Coincidence or divine providence?

I ran into a long-time CCSC friend, who reminded me of a story from the 1990s that made a strong impression on him.

A client had come to Emergency Services-Central needing food. His only mode of transportation was a bike with a basket that carried his food. A few days after visiting us, his bike was stolen, so he called, wondering if we ever had bikes donated. Our answer was a regretful "no"; this was not an item donated often.

And then an hour later the CCSC friend called with a bike to donate, asking that we give it to a client in need. I shared the client's story with him, and we then had this philosophical conversation about God's work in this world. The client wept when we called to let him know we had a bike, and a friend dropped him off to pick it up. It was a happy ending.

The story had slipped my mind until I ran into the donor who had not forgotten the new life his bicycle received and the providence in the sequence of events.

So what do you think: Is it wonderful coincidence or God's providence?

Friday, May 4, 2018

This was a happy Friday

On this particular Friday, a gentleman came in needing some personal hygiene items and clothing to stretch his budget for the month. Nothing else. When the volunteer pulled up his file, she saw that we had helped him a year ago when he was homeless. Back then, we helped with food and several other resources, and then connected him to our JobNet program. So he told her the rest of the story: he found a job, then got an apartment, and has now purchased a car. He told her how grateful he was to have found our ministry because we were the starting point in rebuilding his life.

And then a few hours later, a former client arrived with a donation, discreetly letting us know the help she received stabilized her, and she was now good. And wanted to express her gratitude by helping us to help another.

If you're reading this blog, you're most likely a volunteer and/or contributor to the ministry, so please know that a couple of happy people visited us on a recent Friday, and their happiness is a result of your investment of time, talent, and resources.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

He found a job

He's one of the many people who have been helping Houston recover these last six months. He's worked construction by rehabbing homes damaged by the storm.

The work is slowing down, so he began a job search to return to his chosen field: caring for others. He has worked with the homeless, the dying in a hospice, and with a summer youth program helping disadvantaged young people. His job search was stagnant at the time he came to JobNet. Our team helped him refresh his resume and re-tool his job search plan, and he was soon interviewing with several different organizations.

He's now accepted an offer with another nonprofit organization that also helps job seekers. Before leaving, he let JobNet Manager Mickey Hammond know how much the support, encouragement, and practical help propelled him forward.

While he may no longer be a client, this is not a good-bye: he will be working for an organization we collaborate with, so he'll be sending new job seekers our way.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

This boy needed a blanket

Last night, CCSC had its Council of Church Representatives meeting, and Volunteer Coordinator Erin Donohue provided information on some creative projects a group of people could do to benefit our clients. One of those projects is making "no-sew" blankets, and she shared this story to illustrate the need for blankets.

Erin was in the clothing room at Emergency Services-Central and noticed a middle school-aged boy watching his baby sister while his mother selected clothing for the family. Erin was taking pictures of them and struck up a conversation. The boy asked her if we had a blanket for him, sharing that he and his younger brothers all shared one bed and blanket, and he tucked his brothers in, leaving himself without covers.

She went into the back room, found a no-sew blanket, and brought it out with an apology because the blanket was smaller than the boy. She felt bad that we didn't have a blanket large enough. But she said he lit up as if he had won the lottery, and said "No ma'am, I'm happy to have this blanket!"

Here in Houston, we don't have many cold nights, but I'll bet most of us climb into bed and pull covers around us as we descend into sleep. Now a mature, responsible boy - who helps care for his younger siblings - does also.

Below is a picture of a no-sew blanket, and you can find instructions on how to make them on line.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I wasn't supposed to answer this phone call

The caller mistakenly hit the wrong numbers when she was in the voice mail system, so she ended up ringing my desk. She was a former client - we helped her find employment through JobNet and provided food during her job search. She was distraught because she was unemployed again and needed help, so I gave her information on how to begin again at JobNet.

She gave me few details on her current situation, but spent most of the phone call describing the different volunteers who had helped her, wondering if they were still with us. The conversation went something like this, "When I was at JobNet, a woman in her 50s with brown hair was especially kind to me in the computer lab. Is she still there?" Or, "The man who bagged my groceries each time I needed food always asked how I was doing."

She didn't have enough information for me to determine who these volunteers were, but her point was clear: the volunteers made her feel wanted and welcomed and cared about. She wanted assurance that her experience this time around would be similar.

I told her I couldn't identify the volunteers, but let her know the behavior she was describing was part of our culture, and that the volunteers who helped her this time would also be wonderful. She sighed in relief, thanked me, and hung up.

To all the CCSC volunteers who are reading this blog: thank you for exuding kindness to those who come through our doors. Hebrews 13:2 tells us Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Friday, January 12, 2018

We learn from those we serve

She works one full-time job and two part-time jobs to provide for herself and put her daughter through medical school. Three jobs.

Then the bottom fell out. She was laid off from the full-time job, had to have emergency eye surgery which left her temporarily blind in both eyes, and had to evacuate due to Hurricane Harvey. So at a time when she lost her main source of income, she had two catastrophes occur that brought in unexpected expenses.

She already had a good lead on a new job and expected to be hired soon, but she needed help in paying her rent to avoid eviction. It wouldn't make sense for someone this hard-working to find herself (and her medical-school daughter) living on the streets, so naturally CCSC made the easy decision to help with her rent. We offered other services as well, which she politely declined.

Here's what touched me most in the story. The person who met with her hand-wrote this on her case notes: Client was intentional about remembering 2017 as a turbulent year, but not a bad year. She said there were bumps in the road, but also opportunities for growth. She was grounded, faithful, and appreciative.

I'm thinking these might be my goals for 2018: to be "grounded, faithful, and appreciative."

Friday, January 5, 2018

In the days before Christmas

We helped a family fleeing a violent situation by paying their rent, providing Christmas toys for the three children, and connecting the mother to additional resources. They were not only victims of domestic violence, but also victims of Harvey: their car flooded out and was totaled, and the mother lost several days of wages during the storm.

We helped a special needs pediatric nurse whose car also flooded due to Harvey. It was fixable so she spent her rent money to repair the car, but was then unable to pay her apartment rent. Her landlord waived the late fees because she is such a good tenant.

We helped a former teacher who suffered from PTSD and had recently returned to the workforce. She was able to stay in her home due to CCSC's investment in her life.

We celebrated 5 clients who found jobs in healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and sales. They are now starting 2018 with stability instead of uncertainty.

Truthfully, we all start the year with uncertainty because we don't know what the year holds. Living into the unknown requires faith that God will give us what we need for each moment. I have found what God often gives me is the right people in the right moments, and for many vulnerable Houstonians, the right people are CCSC volunteers: listening to deeply personal stories, determining how to best help in that moment, and being God's provision for another.

May 2018 bring an abundance of goodness into your life, while also giving you the opportunity to be His provision for someone else.