Friday, December 5, 2014

Another Leap of Faith

When we began this ministry just over a year ago, it required a leap of faith because none of us had any experience with this kind of outreach program.   We are now looking to take another leap of faith by increasing our monetary maximum from $35 to $40 per person per year in order to match what the other churches in the Community Resource Network offer. Our ten-bucks-a-month club will be accompanied by our new one-client-a-month club and we hope our generous donors will join up.

Sometimes, we see people who are struggling under what seem to be impossible odds, either economically, physically or emotionally. In this month before the holidays, we realize that these factors often cannot be separated.

Meredith approached us for help with rent.  Often we cannot do so, as the amount required is either too large or it may mean an ongoing problem that cannot be helped by our once-a-year assistance.   This time, though, Meredith had just found a job, and could manage most of the rent on her own with a little starter boost from the Community Resource Network.  She is the mother of 10 children and lives at Dorothy Place.  Her son, her second child, was murdered several years ago. Meredith also lost custody of  her children several years ago, but she has now recently regained it, with the exception of her youngest child, age 5, who lives with her oldest daughter. Her son's murder trial is scheduled for the beginning of next year. She has visited other churches, so we added our pledge to those she had already received, along with our blessing that she would prevail through this next difficult year.
Peggy lives with Harry, who suffers from severe diabetic neuropathy.  They own a small RV in the county.They are able to keep warm because Opportunity Council gave them enough wood to see them through the winter.  Peggy was hoping for help to buy tarpaulins, as the RV has a roof that leaks in several places.  She had already done the legwork and priced the best tarps for the job at a local hardware store. When they each pool their resources, she and Harry are able to save $17 per month for "emergencies,"but were hoping that our combined pledges would cover the entire amount" so their emergency fund would be untapped this month.  We were glad they came to us and gave them our pledge towards the tarps.   They expressed their gratitude for this assistance--and also because it hadn't rained in over a week.

Marjorie has fallen behind with her rent for the first time in her life. She was not being threatened with eviction, but she has four children between the ages of 7 and 2, had recently been abandoned by their father and was now a single, working mother. She had a full time job, paying $1000 per month in rent, and had no choice but to take a two-week leave of absence, without pay, to care for her sick two-year-old who required hospitalization. Hence, her predicament.  The amount she required, though, was too large for the network to cover.  We gave her our pledge towards a part of what she owed, and strongly urged her to speak to her landlord to ask if she could pay off the remainder in weekly installments. We felt that was her best approach as she has a good rental record.  She was filled with anxiety: afraid of losing her job by taking a little extra time to seek help, and afraid of speaking with her landlord "who isn't the nicest person." May she work something out with him and may it all go well for her and her children from now on.

Thank you to all our donors for making it possible for us to continue to serve those in need during the holiday season.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

First Anniversary plus Fundraising for Folk in a Jam

On October 30, 2013, we opened our doors for the first time.   We were thrilled to be a part of Bellingham's Community Resource Network and, 12 months later, we still feel the same way.

Last Saturday, we spent the day at BUF's harvest festival.   It was a happy gathering and we used it as a forum to advertise our presence and to raise some money for our cause.   It was truly a team effort as, during the summer, some of us opted to spend several mornings picking blackberries, others chose to meet a couple of afternoons to make jam in BUF's kitchen, while the rest provided the glass jars and labels for our product:  Humanitas Homemade Blackberry Jam.   It is excellent--and we have more jars available if you missed the sale at the harvest festival (see the Humanitas table in the social hall each Sunday). 

It is appropriate at this point, I think, to say a word about the dedicated team of people who show up at Humanitas, week after week, to greet each guest with a warm smile, a ready ear, and an open heart.  During these 12 months, we have become a tightly knit ministry, but that does not mean we are a closed group.   We welcome anyone into our fold who wants to serve our greater community in this way.   We are proud to work with other churches in our inter-faith effort to help local people who are going through a tough time.  We have learned the myriad ways in which they suffer,  our level of awareness has grown, and we have come to realize, in all humility, that "but for the grace of God" or "the luck of the draw,"  we, too, could be a step away from disaster.

Bailey needed a warm jacket.  His family was paying for the cost of travel to Spokane so that he could enter a drug rehabilitation facility, but winter is on its way.    The coat he was wearing belonged to his brother, and he wore it only on "a temporary basis."   Luckily, Bailey's timing was perfect--we were having a coat drive at BUF that week.   One of us escorted him to the coat pile and he spent a wonderful few minutes choosing a coat that fitted him properly.   As he left, he remarked that it was "better than his brother's!"  No funds from Humanitas changed hands in this transaction.   Thank you, BUF coat donors.

Myra lives in a motel that has seen better days, but she is adamant that she will not relocate.   She relies on a wheelchair, as her legs have been amputated below the knee. Volunteers do her shopping and any other errands she may require.  She runs into difficulties because she does not treat the volunteers well.   If this behavior continues, our fear is she may run out of options.  Following several telephone calls, though, a seasoned volunteer came to us on her behalf.   We gave him a voucher for groceries from Fred Meyer so that Myra could purchase the special food she insists she needs.   Not everyone is grateful for our help, but that does not mean the need is any less.

Toby suffers from Crohn's disease and had just been released from another hospital stay, this time for two weeks.  He tries, but it is hard for him to hold down a job under these circumstances.   He needed help to pay a power bill, and had pledges from several churches in our network.   Toby's wife is working full time in retail sales, but she is a hair and makeup artist and "works around the clock" building up her clientele.    We gladly added our pledge to those he had already collected.

Thank you for continuing to support this mission.   We are very careful with your donations.   Every dollar we receive goes to the clients.   ALL our supplies, e.g. stationery plus the coffee, tea and healthy snacks we offer our clients, are donated by the Humanitas team. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


We have been visited by a number of women in late middle age (or older) who struggle to make ends meet.    It is unlikely that their lot in life will improve in the near future, so a place to sit and have a hot cup of coffee, a conversation with friendly faces, and a little monetary assistance, be it only once a year, can bring immeasurable comfort.

Jane has been diagnosed with a neurological disease which affects her memory and as a result can no longer work.  She also needs surgery on her painful knees.  Because of long-time domestic abuse, she has suffered from PTSD for many years.  She is on state disability and is in the process of applying for social security relief.     Jane is still able to drive her small car so we gave her a voucher for gasoline so she can more easily make it to group counseling sessions rather than walking to the bus stop.

Belinda had pneumonia.    She called us from the hospital to explain why she couldn't come by to see us, that she had received a pledge from St. Paul's Alms Ministry the week before and needed the church network's help to pay her monthly phone bill.   It was her lifeline and her only way of keeping in touch with helpful neighbors.    We verified her plight with both the hospital and St. Paul's, and delivered our pledge by hand into St. Paul's safekeeping. 

Estelle is well educated with an advanced degree earned in her adult years and on which she is still paying student loans of $250 per month.     She is now unable to work.  She is also the sole caretaker of her adult schizophrenic son who lives with her.   Their combined income is $1500 per month which is considered too large for her to qualify for many kinds of  assistance.    She is hoping for forgiveness of her student loan, but until that happens, it is difficult to make ends meet.   We gave her a pledge towards payment of her power bill.   A TV switched on for most hours of the day is essential in the daily routine of her son.

These stories are often difficult to hear, but the women are stoic and struggle along as best they can.  On their behalf, we thank you for your continuing monetary support of our ministry.  Blessings to them--and to you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our Veteran Friends

Some of the people in need of temporary help from Humanitas have served in the military.   These are stories from veterans who visited us during the month of June, 2014.

Sam sought help from the entire church network for pre-paid gasoline cards to defray the cost of driving to Pennsylvania where he had been offered a job in his chosen profession of an airplane technician. He had worked in this capacity for a major manufacturing company both here and overseas, and because of his job and his military service, had lived in over 40 countries.   His  last assignment was in Saudi Arabia where he was accompanied by his family.   Sadly, their compound was badly damaged and many people were killed when a truck, filled with dynamite and driven by a suicide squad, was deliberately blown up at the gate.  As a result of this horrendous experience, Sam was afraid to let his family out of his sight.  On returning home, he was unable to work, and lived on savings, now depleted.  To leave his family behind in Bellingham while he drove to Pennsylvania was a big step--for all of them.   His plan was that once he had a regular paycheck and a place to live, his wife and four children would join him.   We gladly gave him a voucher for gasoline.

Natalie, living on a disability check, sought help to pay a power bill.  She wept because she had never had a shutoff notice in her life, and it had created a great deal of anxiety for her.   Thankfully, we were able to advise her to seek assistance from Opportunity Council and the American Legion, as the amount she required was more than we could put together.   In our small way, we offered alternative assistance, and she accepted a voucher for gasoline, as well as a quiet place to tell her story.

Matthew needed rental assistance.   Living on disability because of a painful back injury sustained in the military, he had used his monthly rent money to drive to Alberta to pick up his ten-year-old son from a mother who could not properly care for him.    In spite of pledges from our faith network, Matthew still fell short of what he needed, and was very worried.   Enter his friend--who gave him the balance.

Thank you for your continued support of this Ministry. Forms to join our Ten-Bucks-A Month Club are available at the Welcome Center in the Social Hall.   Heartfelt gratitude to all our generous donors.        

Friday, June 6, 2014

Welcome to our Ministry--and the first three stories on our blog

As you know, we opened for the first time on October 30, 2013, and have been quietly working every Wednesday morning in the old narthex area on "I" Street.  The people we meet are from every walk of life, as bad luck, unemployment, ill health and sometimes poor life choices, know no boundaries.  Each person who walks through our door is guaranteed a warm greeting, a hot cup of coffee, chocolate or tea, and a non-judgmental atmosphere in which to tell us of their difficulties and needs.

Over these months, we have noticed that our Native American friends are among those who come to see us.  We are pleased that word about Humanitas has swiftly reached them.  Most of the time, we can give aid.  If we can't, then we do our best to offer advice as to where they can turn for help.   We have ministered to Skagit, Mission and Nez Perce tribal members, but the majority of Native Americans who have found us have been from the Lummi Nation.  Here are three of their stories:

December, 2013
Lennie called us during the Christmas break when the food banks were closed.  He had paid for a motel room for several days, but had no money left over for anything else.  He had eight children, but was traveling with just his wife and a baby who needed milk.  We were able to furnish him with vouchers for both food and gas to tide them all over the holidays.We encouraged him to contact his extended family.

April, 2014
Maisy was obviously very sick when she came to see us.  She had "bad legs" and had great difficulty walking. She breathed hard and wheezed even while seated. We had talked on the phone the previous day, and she had been urged to send a friend on her behalf.  However, she chose to come in person.  She was worried about her power bill which was now 24 hours overdue, she was already on a partial payment program, and had received help from Opportunity Council.  We added our pledge to those she had already gathered from other Community Resource Network churches.

May, 2014
Arthur, a recovering alcoholic, "keeping his head down and staying out of trouble," had been working two restaurant jobs for two years, which together brought him in $974 per month.  There was not much left over after paying his monthly rent of $700.   He had been sent home from work because he was sick and had lost several days' pay as a result.  Fortunately, he was eligible for food stamps, but he needed assistance with the current month's rent.  We were glad that we could alleviate his anxiety about maintaining a roof over his head.

To ease the worries of those in distress, even in our small way, is very satisfying.  For that we thank the wonderful congregation at BUF who have aided this mission.  Of course, we are constantly fundraising.  It would be very hard indeed to hear these cries for help and have no way of offering assistance.  To those who generously gave at the auction, to those who have donated along the way, and to the members of our Ten Bucks A Month Club, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

The Humanitas Team, June 6, 2014
Note:  Today is school graduation day for the Lummi Nation.   Congratulations all graduates.  May you lead successful and happy lives.