The Maxwell House Drops of Good Renovation video for Urban Ministry Center has been posted!
The Maxwell House Drops of Good Renovation video for Urban Ministry Center has been posted!
“So, what are you going to be up to this summer?” was the friendly, only slightly curious question of friends and family as my freshman year came to a close.
“Oh, I’ll be working at a homeless services center in Charlotte,” was the vague, only slightly knowledgeable answer I gave in response.
The reactions would range from surprise to confusion to excitement, but usually settled on “Well, that’ll be interesting!” And looking back, I think that is the only thought that came to my mind as I prepared to be a part of the Stapleton-Davidson Urban Service Internship. All I knew about my summer at the Urban Ministry Center was that it would surely be interesting.
I never could have expected the sheer chaos of my Monday morning check-in on my first day on the job. I was bombarded with questions that I hadn’t a slightest clue how to answer, and lots of angry neighbors who could tell I didn’t know what was going on. And I never could have expected that I would be leaving the Urb with the ability to walk up and down the check-in line and answer questions on the fly.
I never could have expected the amazing team that I have been able to work with. The staff here has gone above and beyond in making me feel welcomed, affirmed, and loved. They have walked me through learning the ins and outs of the Urb, and guided me through my many, many missteps. I have watched them function as an amazing unit, with every single member dedicated to helping and respecting every neighbor that walks into our center, and making sure that meeting their needs is at the heart of every action. I look up to the staff here, not just because of what they do, but because of who they are. They are people I admire and have learned so much from, and have had an unbelievable impact on my life.
I never could have expected the deep and lasting relationships that I have made with neighbors. The neighbors I have met have stretched me beyond my comfort zone, and have challenged me to truly understand homelessness and to meet people exactly where they are. I saw lives at the Urban Ministry Center change, fortunes reversed, hopes and dreams realized. I built relationships of trust and respect and love with neighbors, and though they don’t know and can’t know it, I am indebted to them for changing who I am.
This summer has been filled with challenge, and yet, because of the challenges not in spite of them, I can experience real joy. I can laugh with Dexter when he mocks my stupidity, and feel Vivian’s pain about the bus schedule. I smile whenever Bobashei smiles, and my face lights up whenever Miss Loretta calls my name as I walk up the front steps. I laugh and laugh when Michelle escorts me to the front door, and tells every neighbor that we’re “a thing”. I get uncontrollably happy when James tells me he’s gotten his medications covered for another two months, and feel a deep sense of pride when Brian tells me that all the bus passes I’ve given him have lead to a steady job.
I am only just beginning to realize what an amazing opportunity the Urban Ministry Center gave me this summer. I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience, and will never be able to thank everyone enough for these ten weeks. I know that this has been an internship that I will never forget.
That is what I did on my summer vacation. And I wouldn’t have spent it any other way.
In mid-June, I was selected by the Arts & Science Council to attend the Americans for the Arts Conference (AFTA) in San Antonio, Texas. The experience was the perfection punctuation as I wrapped up my year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with UMC’s ArtWorks 945 program. For the past year I had worked on building capacity within the program by fostering partnerships, engaging volunteers, and raising funds. This all sounds dandy, but the questions I often get are, “Why art? What does that have to do with homelessness?”
The answer for our program, and the Urban Ministry Center as a whole is COMMUNITY. ArtWorks 945 not only provides a safe, positive, and productive place for community to be built with our neighbors, it is one of UMC’s many arms that reach out and positively affect the greater Charlotte community. It is only because of our connectedness to individuals, volunteers, churches, businesses, and other institutions that we are able to take on the huge job of ending homelessness in Charlotte.
The AFTA conference highlighted that the arts exist in a similar realm where connectedness and collaboration is essential. It is said that when the arts form a firing squad, they form a circle. It is up to us as leaders to instead create a new vision where our links together allow us to be stronger and more responsive. With coordinated advocacy and partnership, our strength is not in the single threads of our separate work, but in the rich fabric we weave together. Over the years ArtWorks has cultivated partnerships with over 70 community partners, while UMC has worked with hundreds more. Without this approach our huge task would be unthinkable, and now I know that on a personal level I have to move forward with intentional action to add more threads to our fabric.
Picture: Here I am in front of the “La Antorcha de la Amistad” otherwise known as the “Torch of Friendship.” It is a symbol of bi-lateral cooperation between Mexico and the US, but I couldn’t think of a better photo to also illustrate the idea of collaboration!
Thank you to the Arts & Science Council for granting an Emerging Leader in the Arts Award to attend the 2012 Americans for the Arts Conference.
“Welcome Home” reads the sign in John’s new home. It was made for him by a group of elementary school students, one of the several groups that have helped John make the transition from thirteen years of homelessness to home.
Like around 12% of all people who experience homelessness, John is a veteran. Through programs like the Veteran’s Administration Supportive Housing (VASH) program, the federal government has set a goal to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. John is a beneficiary of this program.
Through VASH, a veteran receives a Section 8 voucher through the local housing authority, which can be used at a variety of rental properties.
But making a house a home takes more than just keys to an apartment. Through the VA, John receives support from a case manager, who visits with John in his new home and supports him in achieving his goals.
The new organization “Charlotte Bridge Home” has partnered with the Urban Ministry Center to provide welcome baskets to chronically homeless veterans moving into housing. A fellow veteran visited with John in his new home last week and brought a basket overflowing with touches of home: cleaning supplies, towels, and the kitchen basics.
VetNet with Time Warner Cable is donating use of their truck and staff members to help furnish John’s apartment. Here Ransel, who along with Phil, helped John pick up furniture from Crisis Assistance Ministry and move it into his new home.
And finally, a 4th grade classroom at Providence Springs Elementary school, with whom John shared his story the day he moved in, made John the “Welcome Home” sign and each student made him a card. After signing his lease, John sat down on the floor of his new living room and read through those cards. Then he took a nap in the safety and security of his own home.
That was the email our staff got this morning from StreetSoccer945 (SS945) Coach Peter Fink – and yes, there were four exclamation points. He’s excited, as are we, that this team prevailed in the coed Sportslink league they’ve been playing in on Wednesday evenings. The season started with a goal of having fun and everyone receiving equal playing time. The first several games were losses, but no one seemed to care—there was good team spirit and lessons being learned. The mindset led to a couple of wins at the end of the season, and provided the catalyst for the new playoff attitude: play to win. Pete began coaching, relying on the lessons already reinforced over the previous weeks (Facing Reality/Acceptance, Accountability, Knowing Your Role).
Seeded 8 out of 9 teams, SS945 was required to win a play-in game to even enter the tournament—they did (3-0). Next up, the number 1 seed. No problem—tied until the last two minutes, they upset number 1: 5-4! Rolling through the semi’s (5-3), last night’s game started like the beginning of the season, in the hole. Down 0-2, SS945 finally scored a goal and then the turning point came: the SS945 goalie save a penalty kick – momentum was finally on their side and SS945 won the championship game 4-3.
Members of the team are homeless (7 in shelters now), formerly homeless, or volunteers from the community. SS945 helps players transition out of homelessness and many today are finding work and holding down jobs. The curriculum used in practice leads players to examine choices and think ahead. Each practice contains a focused lesson, a team building exercise, soccer drills and games modified to include/highlight the day’s lesson, and a closing discussion where all can share how the lesson can be demonstrated in their own lives. The mix of neighbors and volunteers brings a greater community and value to all.
Players are outfitted by Umbro and play against other soccer teams who often do not know the circumstances of the SS945 players. After games, Brixx provides pizza and the team sits around talking about the game, and anything else that’s on their mind. That’s Pete’s favorite part of SS945. They are just a team. Friends. A Community. And the circumstances that brought them all together don’t matter at that moment.
Street Soccer is powerful. It promotes personal growth, teamwork in a much broader sense, and opens possibilities. Charlotte and the Urban Ministry Center are the birthplace for StreetSoccerUSA, now with 20 affiliates across the country. Teams from these cities will come together July 27-29th in New York City to compete in the USA Cup. The Homeless World Cup will follow in October in Mexico City. How powerful for someone who is living at a shelter to be able to travel to NYC or Mexico. It opens one’s eyes to a global view and motivates people to make changes—Pete has the stories to prove it. Maybe you will hear a couple when you get involved. . .
Tuesday Night Kick Arounds start May 23rd and everyone is welcome to participate. A half-hour lesson is followed by soccer scrimmages and personal discussions of the evening’s lesson. Watch the SS945 webpage for more information about the Kick Arounds or the Royal Court, SS945’s fan club.
Anything with Operation preceding it sounds like a military action, right?! Well, this is not KP duty, soldier, this is Operation Sandwich and it’s a campaign to quell hunger (if even for one day) in our homeless neighbors. Operation Sandwich does not require a General or any officer to organize, and in fact, some of our best annual organizers are the Character Council at the Beverly Woods Elementary School—3rd, 4th, and 5th graders!
The Council has next week covered, with a planned 700 sandwiches a day, each individually wrapped with a cookie or two as an extra treat. It’s a great contribution and one that makes an impact on our neighbors every day. Operation Sandwich eases the burden on the Soup Kitchen and offers neighbors something ‘to go’ if needed. The Soup Kitchen is the initial point of contact for many of our neighbors and a very important setting for building relationships and trust—the first steps in ending homelessness.
One of the Character Council’s teachers, Beth Early, discovered the Soup Kitchen when it was located at St. Peter’s Episcopal on Tryon Street (before the Urban Ministry Center was founded). She was leading a group of Pineville Elementary second graders on a field trip to the Discovery Center when the students observed a line of people waiting for food. An open discussion about homelessness ensued and the children wanted to know how they could help.
Ms. Early, and those Pineville Elementary 2nd Graders began supporting the Soup Kitchen with sandwich donations. Their support spread to other grades and schools, and today many others use Operation Sandwich as an important part of their service hours, ministry, or team building activities. In fact, last year, 300 groups and individuals contributed over 75,000 sandwiches to the Soup Kitchen!
We can use 700-800 sandwiches each day and have room for more donations. Ideally, sandwiches are individually wrapped, and delivered between 8-9am for use that day. We welcome deliveries of 800, but they are in no way required – you can make as many as you are able and we will combine/coordinate with other groups. Contact Sandra Smith to coordinate your day!
Hello, and welcome to the new UMC blog! This is where you can hear about the SABER grad who's come back to visit after 4 years of being sober and doing great; the ArtWorks participant who just found housing; the Super Bowl party enjoyed by HousingWorks residents at Moore Place; the outstanding volunteers who make Room In The Inn a success; and the many others who support the work of Urban Ministry Center.
Leave a comment, subscribe, and check back frequently to stay in touch with us.
Copyright © 2013. The Urban Ministry Center - 945 N. College St - Charlotte, NC. 28206 704-347-0278