Wanted: Volunteers Who Can Make a Difference Behind the Wheel!

One of the most important functions of ABCCM's Crisis Ministry centers is to get food to those who are hungry. But how does the food actually get to ABCCM? As we do in so many areas, we rely on volunteers! Several community members with some free time and a valid driver's license and insurance regularly drive from donation centers and food banks to our Downtown Crisis Ministry in Montford to make drop-offs. From there, ABCCM packs food boxes for those in need and makes sure other crucial items get to ministry sites where the homeless and hungry in Buncombe County have access to food for their needs.

And boy, could we use more drivers! We are currently looking for drivers on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, with backup drivers needed Thursday and Friday. It takes about two hours a week, and we appreciate a weekly or monthly commitment. We provide the van and the route - you just do the driving!

Each run provides enough food for 10 households and 72 meals in our soup kitchen - what a tremendous impact! The volunteer job is the perfect way to have a big impact in just a few hours per week or month.

For more information or to volunteer, email Aaron Schnurbusch at aaron.schnurbusch@abccm.org or call (828) 398-6805. For other volunteer opportunities at our Crisis Ministry and other areas, visit our volunteer page.

Serving as God's Vessel at Lent

A volunteer stopped me in the clothing room as I was making a donation to tell me he had just celebrated one year of sobriety.  He said it all began when a volunteer shared with him that he had been forgiven.

He told me he had lost eight years of his life due to constantly being drunk. “When I heard that I was forgiven and could lay down my guilt and shame, I have been sober ever since," he said. "That’s why I love to volunteer– helping others in the clothing room, putting on the love and grace of Jesus!”

Right after the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, verse 14 says: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.” How often do we trip over the stumbling blocks of our own judgements of who deserves help, who has ‘brought it on themselves,’ or those people are not like me? When we judge others in this way, are we not like the very Pharisees that Jesus called hypocrites, which we criticize for their short-sighted, self-serving spirituality. 

During this Lenten season, we give up many things in order to think of Him more often and realize our greater dependence on His love, grace and mercy. Our prayer is that we will give up those stumbling blocks which give us convenient excuses not to serve, or not to give. We thank God for all those who consider giving up two or four hours, once a week or once a month to encounter the Christ in serving their neighbor. 

Someone asked me recently how ABCCM orchestrates change. I simply responded, “We create the opportunity for others to serve and watch who the Holy Spirit chooses to bring together.” The one thing we know is that when He brings people together, then He is in their midst and the joy of forgiveness, through grace and reconciliation, brings redemption in the lives of others. It can be through the smile and welcoming presence of a receptionist, or through the careful listening of an intake worker or counselor. It can be that doctor, nurse or pharmacist who offers not only a diagnosis and healing medication, but also that healing touch that lets another know how much God loves them. 

Throughout this Lenten season, we will find out how much God loves us. Will you be His vessel so that another will know that God loves them?

Reverend Scott Rogers, Executive Director

 

Out of the Kitchen, Into the Community

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The veterans who are part of the ABCCM’s culinary training partnership with A-B Tech spend a lot of time in the kitchen at the Veterans Restoration Quarters. That’s where they learn the basics of working in the restaurant industry as they train for careers that pay a living wage.

Getting out of the VRQ kitchen can be just as valuable of an experience, as one group of students recently learned when Chef Eric Cox, ABCCM’s director of food service operations, took the class for a special behind-the-scenes look at one of Asheville’s most popular restaurants.

The group recently visited Buxton Hall Barbeque in the South Slope neighborhood. There, the students observed prep work for side dishes, assisted with the processing of a whole hog, and saw how dessert – chocolate-dipped crackling skins finished with sea salt and cayenne – can be created from an unlikely source.

“It was quite the eye-opening experience and good to see that there is potential for what we’re doing here,” says Brian, a U.S. Army veteran who is a resident of the VRQ and is a member of the advanced class. “It was great to get out there and see what possibilities lay ahead.”

The veterans were back in the kitchen a few weeks later for a morning session with Chef Denny Trantham, a chef who works for US Foods and who formerly worked as a chef at the Grove Park Inn. He brought with him to the VRQ a selection of items from US Foods’ “Scoop” line of innovative products, including Brussels sprout petals, seared tuna and grilled chicken breast, which the class utilized to prepare a delicious lunch.

US Foods Chef Denny Trantham works with veterans in ABCCM's culinary program during a recent morning at the Veterans Restoration Quarters. Chef Denny and the students made a delicious lunch from the company's Scoop line of innovative products, and picked up lots of tips and tricks from the chef.

US Foods Chef Denny Trantham works with veterans in ABCCM's culinary program during a recent morning at the Veterans Restoration Quarters. Chef Denny and the students made a delicious lunch from the company's Scoop line of innovative products, and picked up lots of tips and tricks from the chef.

Chef Trantham was thrilled to work with the veterans on their journey to self-sustainability. Although he was familiar with ABCCM’s culinary program because he had sent product to Chef Cox for use in the courses, Chef Trantham had never had a chance to cook with and lead a class of ABCCM’s veterans.

“For me, I want to share my craft with the men and women that have given their lives. Anything that I can do to assist and help them get into the culinary craft, is my obligation and duty just like they served my country,” he says. “US Foods has been very supportive of this. Anytime I mentioned to them, ‘This is for the veterans,’ they’ve said, ‘Do what you need to do.’”

ABCCM’s culinary program offers veteran residents and clients training that will move them towards career-level, living-wage jobs. How can you help? Sponsor a scholarship! Click here to support this crucial program!

Group photo with Chef Eric Cox (bottom right), ABCCM's director of foodservice operations.

Group photo with Chef Eric Cox (bottom right), ABCCM's director of foodservice operations.

The Power of Food

Dottie Burton, a 20-year volunteer in ABCCM’s Downtown Crisis Ministry could serve there in any number of areas – from greeting clients in the front lobby to sorting clothing donations.

Instead, Dottie chooses to do her service around food. She works in the kitchen, where she preparesand serves food to those in need of a hot lunch.

“I just love to be in the kitchen,” she says, “because the clients who come in for the soup kitchen and food are the ones who, I feel, need my encouragement. Some of them are so down, and to go out and talk to them over a meal and a cup of coffee so they have someone to open up to, made a big difference for them.”

March is a time of year during which food becomes a critical need at ABCCM. Our Crisis Ministry centers distribute food all winter – a time when families are making the heartbreaking choice between paying heating bills and buying groceries. Our food supplies tend to grow thin, and we need the community’s help so we can keep providing these important services.

Volunteer Tim O'Connor looks over a list of foods requested by a client at the Downtown Crisis Ministry. Tim enjoys packing food boxes and bags for the clients, because he was one himself several years ago.

Volunteer Tim O'Connor looks over a list of foods requested by a client at the Downtown Crisis Ministry. Tim enjoys packing food boxes and bags for the clients, because he was one himself several years ago.

Volunteers like Dottie who work in the Crisis Ministry kitchens do so because they understand the importance of providing food, whether it’s that warm meal and cup of coffee in the soup kitchen or a full box of food to someone who is struggling to make ends meet for the month. Tim O’Connor, who has been volunteering at the Crisis Ministry since 2011, knows that feeling – he was once a Crisis Ministry client. He volunteers regularly with his support person Jenny Brooks, who has come to enjoy her service packing food boxes with Tim in the food pantry.

“I like helping people and I like working here, helping out,” Tim says.

“It’s good to know we’re packing up what people need,” Jenny says. “They’re so grateful, and they smile a lot. That’s why Tim likes to take the boxes out to them in a big shopping cart to see them smile.”

Crisis Ministry volunteer Jenny Brooks serves dessert to a client during a recent soup kitchen lunch.

Crisis Ministry volunteer Jenny Brooks serves dessert to a client during a recent soup kitchen lunch.

As a volunteer counselor, David Johnson hears a lot of requests for food. Not only does the fulfillment of those requests touch his clients, he has also been transformed by his experience with 1-on-1 work.

“Food is a necessity. It’s not like the television. When we are able to give them food bags, there’s just an overwhelming sense of gratitude, this sense of impending doom that’s been in the back of their mind and has been alleviated,” says David, a UNCA Asheville senior majoring in psychology. “I find this is an experience where you are really living the Gospel, not just reading and learning about it. That’s what has been transformative for me, just seeing how impactful that is in other people’s lives, putting it into practice rather than just reading about it. It’s been a gift.”

ABCCM is always looking for volunteers to help in its Crisis Ministry center kitchens and food pantries, where there are opportunities to serve lunch at the Downtown Crisis Ministry center, and work to pack food boxes and organize donations. ABCCM also takes donations of food. Regular needs include:

  • Canned meats (Spam, stew, tuna, salmon, etc.)
  • Self-rising flour
  • Sugar
  • Hot and cold cereal
  • Canned fruit
  • Saltine crackers
  • Cooking oil
  • Juices
  • Canned soups
  • Pasta and pasta sauce
  • Jelly
  • Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables

Food drives are a great way to get involved! Thinking about holding a food drive at your church or place of business? Call (828) 259-5300 to speak with someone our Crisis Ministry.

UNC Asheville senior David Johnson, who volunteers as a counselor in the Crisis Ministry, goes through a client's paperwork before a meeting. Johnson sees how grateful clients are when they're able to get assistance with food.

UNC Asheville senior David Johnson, who volunteers as a counselor in the Crisis Ministry, goes through a client's paperwork before a meeting. Johnson sees how grateful clients are when they're able to get assistance with food.

A Blessing from Walmart

Here at ABCCM, we know how important it is for our homeless residents to have access to employment training programs that can lead to steady jobs and careers that pay a living wage. The Walmart Foundation recently recognized the work being done at Steadfast House to help our women on the road to self-sustainability.

ABCCM was recently named the recipient of a $50,000 state grant from the Walmart Foundation and the North Carolina State Giving Advisory Council through the State Giving Program.

This funding will allow us to expand the Transitional Workforce Investment Program (TWIP) already in place for male veterans at our Veterans Restoration Quarters, female veterans at Steadfast House, and veterans served through our Veterans Services of the Carolinas (VSC). The expanded program will now include around 50 civilians, most of whom are female civilian residents of Steadfast House. About half of these women are survivors of domestic violence and/or single mothers who are transitioning into permanent housing and job placements.

“We are blessed to receive funding from the Walmart Foundation that will help the women at Steadfast House gain the skills they need to advance into living-wage careers and enable them to move on into safe, stable housing and live self-sufficiently,” said Reverend Scott Rogers, ABCCM’s executive director. “Our job training programs have been remarkably successful, but limited in dollars, and now we can serve more residents at Steadfast House.”

“Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are pleased to support Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry and their Transitional Workforce Investment Program,” said Brooke Mueller, Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs for Walmart. “Through this grant, ABCCM will be able to expand their outreach to women in the community and help them receive access to programs to help them build skills needed to enter the workforce.”

TWIP will focus on the needs of each participant though extensive case management and will tailor services and assistance to help each participant address individual barriers, such as housing and transportation, as they complete job skills training programs. ABCCM staff works to link participants with access to health and human services, training opportunities, and jobs. Funding is available for short-term certification courses at our community college and coverage for licensure fees are also provided, so participants may qualify for living wage jobs. ABCCM works with 114 employers to place participants in six different career areas, including small manufacturing, culinary and hospitality services, retail services, transportation and truck driving, internet technology, and health care. Once the participants’ income is stabilized, ABCCM focuses on helping them find private, affordable, and sustainable housing.

Vehicle Donations Transform Lives!

An anonymous donation of two vehicles will transform the lives of two of ABCCM’s residents, one at the Veterans Restoration Quarters and the other at Steadfast House.

Mike, a U.S. Navy veteran living at the VRQ, is a skilled and experienced machinist who had been offered jobs in the area. But without a vehicle to get him back and forth to a job, he was stuck working part-time at a fast-food restaurant within walking distance. Marye, a new mother living at Steadfast House, had just finished her schooling to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) but was struggling to get her son to day care and hunt for jobs.

Their lives have now been transformed. “Now my journey begins,” Marye said after she helped her case manager install a car seat in the back of the Nissan Maxima from Whitt Motor Sales in Candler.

Marye hadn’t had a car for two years, when she lost it due to domestic violence. Her new vehicle will allow her to drop off her son at day care and then interview for jobs without having to worry about the bus schedule. Eventually, Marye will use the vehicle for transportation to a new job that will move her and her son from homelessness to self-sustainability.

“This is such a blessing and I am so grateful,” she said. “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Mike had already been job hunting when the donated vehicle became available to him. In fact, Mike had been offered jobs in the past, but because he had no transportation he was unable to accept them. Last year he decided to go on a job interview by riding his bicycle in combination with the bus. The weather was nice when he got there, but by the time he left it was raining. It took him three hours to get back to the VRQ.  Mike got a call that he had been hired, but he had to turn down the offer due to his transportation challenges.

Before he knew about the vehicle donation, Mike had recently decided to leave his restaurant job and try to find a machinist position. He spoke to VRQ Director Tim McElyea about his plans to go on job interviews. Tim knew the car donation was available and was going to Mike – who serves as a Team Leader at the VRQ – but let Mike share his job struggles for a moment before sharing the good news.

“He came in my office and told me he had prayed about it and decided to put it in God’s hands to try to get a machinist job, and see what falls into place,” McElyea said. “I said, well, let me tell you something.”

Mike’s Toyota Camry allows him to accept a position in his field, which will take him from fast-food wages to a job starting at around $24 per hour, plus benefits.

“It’s going to be a life-changer,” said Mike, who admits that he teared up when he heard about the vehicle.  I was just stepping out on faith. This is a blessing from God.”

Cars and vans donated to ABCCM are often given to male and female veterans, veteran families, and civilian women who are transforming their lives. Other donated vehicles are used to transport veterans to and from the Charles George VA Medical Center, training courses and college classes to ensure they have access to medical care and education as they restore their lives. These donations have a huge impact as they move men, women and families from homelessness to self-sustainability. If you have a vehicle to donate, please call 828-259-5300 for more information.

Servant Leadership Center Now Open!

New offices for Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry are now open at 20 Twentieth Street, off Patton Avenue in West Asheville.
The new building is called the ABCCM Servant Leadership Center, and will house ABCCM’s administrative offices and meeting rooms where ABCCM will host volunteer training sessions. Special events and marketing services are located at the new site.  The building will also serve as a strategic planning center for ABCCM and a community gathering place.
In thinking about ABCCM’s new offices, Reverend Scott Rogers said, “The Servant Leadership Center reflects how “those who would be the greatest, should wash the feet of others” (John 13:14);  or in other words, how we should meet the needs of their neighbors. That's what ABCCM's congregations, donors, volunteers and leaders strive to do – create opportunities for others to serve their neighbors.”  
The site will also eventually be the location of a new warehouse to replace the ABCCM’s longtime donation center on Coxe Avenue in downtown Asheville. All donations, whether in-kind items such as food, clothes, household items and furniture, will go to the warehouse where they can be gathered in a central place then distributed to our four Crisis Ministries, Medical Ministry, Jail Ministry and Homeless Ministry locations at Steadfast House and the Veterans Restoration Quarters (VRQ). Until the new warehouse is open, donations can be dropped at the Crisis Ministry sites:
Downtown in Montford at 24 Cumberland Avenue
ABCCM South, 20 Buck Shoals Road in Arden
ABCCM North Buncombe Samaritan, 403 Weaverville Highway, Weaverville
ABCCM Hominy Valley, 1914 Smoky Park Highway, Candler
Other sites for dropoffs:
Medical Ministry at 155 Livingston Street
VRQ at 1329 Tunnel Road
The Servant Leadership Center is open to members of the public. Please call (828) 259-5305 to arrange a visit. The new mailing address is ABCCM, 20 Twentieth Street, Asheville, NC, 28806
ABCCM’s former offices at 30 Cumberland Avenue are no longer open.  The Crisis Ministry is still serving at 24 Cumberland Ave.
 

 

 

Celebrating Love in February

Celebrating Love in the Month of February is about what we do for others. Are you bothered by how much love of self and self-centeredness seems to dominate our culture? I am not referring to politicians. But I wonder, are you as troubled as I am about the level of self-centeredness with which social media has surrounded us? Pictures of what I am eating ... really? What really got me was someone taking a picture of how much flab they could pinch. Between the Snapchats, Tweets and Facebook, I wonder if we are becoming so focused on what’s going on around us that we lose sight of our neighbors crying out in their wilderness.
While we are used to seeing pictures, I want to share some word pictures from around ABCCM. In the Crisis Ministry, I was painted a picture of a husband and wife whose hours have been cut; now there isn’t enough money for food, or even pay the power bill. This is a picture of a family that wants to work hard and give the kids their best, but just need a little help from their friends.
Another picture shared with me at Steadfast House was that of a woman who has obvious bruises and cuts. She is homeless and scared. She doesn’t put words and sentences together like folks that have had three meals a day and a regular place to sleep. She talks about her abuse in very unusual descriptions, but the volunteer who listens understands from the woman's body language how scared and anxious she really is.
Another picture at the Veterans Restoration Quarters is one of a veteran who won’t even look the intake person in the eye. He fidgets almost uncontrollably and his voice is hardly above a whisper.  The most often-asked question is, "What did you say?"
A volunteer told me, “When you mix in a dose of listening with compassion and respect, sprinkle in some concern and you start to see their countenance change.” A week or two week later, the pictures had changed for each person. For the woman who was embarrassed to ask for food, the tears welled up as she tells how much being able to feed her family meant. For the abused woman, the picture is of a calm, relaxed face – knowing that she is safe and doesn’t have to worry about the next meal or where she will be. The veteran’s picture is hardly recognizable in the next couple of weeks because he looks at everybody, says "hello," greets them with a "sir" or "ma’am," and you can already tell that he has gained some weight after eating so well.  We all need to honor the love of those around us; and the love of those we depend on the most. There is also a time to take the strength and bounty of that love from family, a spouse, and our church and pour it out in a few precious minutes or hours to someone who is not just consumed with themselves, but is truly wondering if anyone cares or is in pain, or lonely, or needs the sprinkle of hope and compassion that only another person can bring.
If you are that person whose love is overflowing and you are feeling the tug or call of the Holy Spirit to do something for someone else, to make a difference, or to use your gifts like those of a nurse or healthcare provider at our Medical Ministry, then please contact us for a tour or for more information by emailing volunteer@abccm.org or calling 259-5300. You may contact one of our ministries directly. You may want a special program at your church of civic club, and we are happy to come talk about the impact of love on the life of our neighbors.  
Reverend Scott Rogers
Executive Director