Students Gain Valuable Experience at Medical Ministry

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Like the volunteers in ABCCM’s other ministries, those who serve at the Medical Ministry come from many walks of life. Many are church members who feel blessed to care for their neighbors in need. Others are retired community members who want to make a difference with their free time. Some are medical professionals who seek to address the need among the uninsured in Buncombe County, including the 30 percent of uninsured who received services at ABCCM in 2016.

One evening a month, the Medical Ministry is filled with a different population – students from A-B Tech’s nursing program, UNC’s School of Medicine, and UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC-Asheville. ABCCM enjoys having these doctors, nurses and pharmacists in training on hand to learn new skills, share information and work with an underserved population.

“Something that students don’t get a lot of exposure to is interacting with other professionals,” said Nita Kirkpatrick, associate chair of nursing at A-B Tech. “We just don’t have that opportunity anywhere else until they’re out practicing and then it’s like, here, OK, everyone needs to learn to work together!  This gives them a chance to practice that. Here, they’re all students and they respect each other. Then they get out and practice, and see these folks again.”

Students work together as a team of three – one medical student, one nursing student, and one pharmacy student – to visit the patient together and evaluate needs, care and treatment. Each group of students has their preceptor on hand to supervise.

“We don’t typically work with other students and we barely interact with pharmacy and nursing students,” said third-year medical school student Parin Nanavati. “It feels really collaborative to ask a fellow student why one thing might work better than something else, going back to what we’ve learned in school and applying it.”

Third-year medical school student Molly Duffy said the experience of working with the Medical Ministry’s patients recalls, for her, the time she spent as an AmeriCorps member working in community health. Service at the Medical Ministry also drives home the importance of learning how to be resourceful when access to certain medications or diagnostic tests is limited.

“It’s really important to learn how to use the resources in our community for people who are uninsured or don’t have good insurance, which is learning that is so valuable for us,” she said.

Nita Kirkpatrick said sometimes, the young people aren’t only students at the Medical Ministry – they’re also patients.

“Many times the students utilize it themselves,” she said. “Oftentimes they’re under insured or don’t have insurance.”

ABCCM could not serve the population it does without volunteers such as these students, who bring enthusiasm and interest to their clinic night each month. The students know their volunteer service helps patients in the long term and not just as a temporary patch.

“We’re so grateful to have churches do so much wonderful volunteer work, and here at the Medical Ministry we’re also grateful to have these students, too,” said Maia Price, the Medical Ministry volunteer coordinator.

Do you have a team that would like to volunteer at the Medical Ministry? Contact Maia Price at maia.price@abccm.org or call (828) 398-6690 to learn about how volunteers provide crucial support for ABCCM’s services for the medically uninsured.

 

Steadfast House Focusing on Trauma-Informed Care

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Survey the women living at ABCCM’s Steadfast House, and you’ll find that around 50 percent are survivors of domestic violence. It’s likely that most, if not all, have observed violence in their lives at some point. Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children in the United States, and a lack of affordable housing options is regularly reported by survivors as a primary barrier to escaping abuse, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the country. The staff and volunteers at Steadfast House for women and children are always focused on giving the residents access to programs that help address the trauma they’ve experienced. This year, Steadfast House volunteers have been at the forefront of bringing the concept of trauma-informed care to the 43 women and children undergoing their transformation there.

 “We have been making a concerted effort to become a facility that operates from an understanding of trauma-informed care,” said Steadfast House Director Angela Catania. “By providing a safe and welcoming environment, we can continue to work with our women to help move them from a place of hopelessness to a place of self-sufficiency and independence.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, trauma-informed care “organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors that traditional service delivery approaches may exacerbate, so that these services and programs can be more supportive and avoid re-traumatization.”

Steadfast House volunteers recently started a program called Steadfast Partners, which seeks to bring trauma-informed care to the level of the facility’s youngest residents. The program works to mitigate the effects of trauma by engaging families and providing a safe space for children to play, learn, grow and be encouraged by caring adults. Volunteers are consciously paired with a child in the program with whom they will be a supportive, caring, encouraging, patient, safe and consistent partner each week. Volunteers went through a day-long training session that included a discussion of trauma-informed care and how it can make a difference.

Volunteers from BB&T’s Lighthouse Project spent part of a service day painting the Steadfast House educational playroom a gentle pastel blue, which is considered calming for those dealing with trauma. A few weeks later, volunteers from Lowe have painted the hallways in similarly toned colors. Trauma-informed care colors are also planned for Transformation Village, ABCCM’s vision for ending homelessness for women and children.

“We want to make sure our environment is one of calmness and therapeutic support,” Angela Catania said. “One of the ways Steadfast House can achieve this goal is through painting our facility with trauma-informed care colors.”

Steadfast House recently introduced a volunteer-led course called Poetry of Transformation, taught by Mary Ellen Lough-Phillips, who is a Poetry as Medicine facilitator. The course will cover the basics of poetry and allow residents to share their stories with others in a safe place. It will also teach mindfulness techniques to help residents better relate to their lives.

In 2016, nearly 77 percent of Steadfast House residents who successfully completed the program remained stably housed following their exit. We know those numbers will remain strong in 2017 with the trauma-informed care approach to help support our women and children.

How can you get involved with helping transform lives at Steadfast House? Call (828) 398-6985 to speak with the Steadfast House volunteer coordinator.

A BB&T Lighthouse volunteer takes a break while painting the educational playroom at Steadfast House. The blue paint color was chosen specifically according to principles of trauma-informed care.

A BB&T Lighthouse volunteer takes a break while painting the educational playroom at Steadfast House. The blue paint color was chosen specifically according to principles of trauma-informed care.

Cleaning Out Your Closet?

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As this warm fall weather starts to turn cold, many of us turn over our closets – from shorts to pants, golf shirts to sweaters, light cardigans to lined jackets. While doing that this fall, please remember our neighbors in need! ABCCM’s Crisis Ministries are especially in need of men’s clothing and other items. Whether it’s a pair of lightly worn boots that never really fit, a heavy jacket that’s gotten a bit too small, or a shirt that hasn’t been worn in years, a Crisis Ministry client can surely make use of a donated item.

ABCCM is in need of men’s items such as:

  • Suits, blazers, slacks, button-down shirts, ties and other items for men going on job interviews
  • Lined pants, jeans, flannel or warmer shirts, thicker socks and sturdy boots and shoes for those working outdoor jobs
  • Work boots, dressier shoes and heavy-duty sneakers in all sizes
  • Coats, gloves, hats, scarves and other cold weather accessories
  • Underwear, undershirts and socks

ABCCM is always in need of blankets, coats, shoes, furniture, household items, and clothes and other accessories for women and children. Donations may be dropped off at any Crisis Ministry location including:

Downtown Crisis Ministry
24 Cumberland Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
828-259-5300 (P)
M-F 8:30am-4:30pm
crisis@abccm.org

South Crisis Ministry
10 Buck Shoals Rd., Arden, NC 28704
828-259-5302 (P)
M-F 8:30am-4:30pm
crisis@abccm.org

Hominy Valley Crisis Ministry
1914 Smoky Park Hwy., Candler, NC 28715
828-259-5301 (P)
M-F 8:30am-4:30pm
crisis@abccm.org

North Samaritan Crisis Ministry
403 Weaverville Hwy., Weaverville, NC 28787
828-259-5303 (P)
M-F 10:00am-2:00pm
crisis@abccm.org

Donations may also be dropped off at the Veterans Restoration Quarters:
1329 Tunnel Rd., Asheville, NC 28805
828-259-5333 (P)
Open 24 hours
vrq@abccm.org

Large items such as furniture can be picked up at your home or business! Call 828-259-5322 to schedule a pickup. Thank you for blessing our neighbors in need with your donations!

Trust and Care in All Seasons

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There is a time and season for every purpose under heaven.           Ecclesiastes 3:1

This past month has seen our nation and our neighbors face overwhelming calamity and crisis. I think that every church has responded with materials and funds to help with the relief effort. Shirley and I have contributed as well. 

This last Sunday, we were singing about Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. The verse “Safe and secure from all alarms” has replayed itself in my thoughts over and over – knowing and believing that God is reminding us to trust in Him and to care for one another. Even though they tell us every year that this is hurricane season, none of us could have expected to see so many millions of lives impacted with the three hurricanes thus far.

Isn’t it good to know who to call when crisis hits? When my mother had a medical crisis in the middle of the night, she knew to call on EMS. (She graciously waited until daylight to inform all her children.) When people are sick and uninsured, the churches and the working poor know they can call on the ABCCM Medical Ministry at 155 Livingston St. We will see about 100 more patients than normal this month because of the allergies and other crud that seems to be going around about a month earlier than usual. Those seeking to bridge the gap for their medicines can get them at no charge at ABCCM's pharmacy. We thank God that the churches saw a season when their neighbors with no insurance might need the help and the right treatment plan to stay on the job – and provided for the clinic. 

When a couple of young moms showed up from Florida during Hurricane Irma, we were thankful that the churches had created Steadfast House and the Veterans' Restoration Quarters to care for the homeless. Steadfast House has added a permanent family room for emergencies, not only for a hurricane, but throughout the upcoming winter months. Being able to take in a mom and her child until we can find a more permanent place for them is part of why we are here. We have just celebrated with a mom and three children moving in to their new apartment. The four month old twins immediately seemed right at home. She said she had been a little afraid of leaving our community until one of the volunteers said that her church would continue to be a part of her life. Several veterans have also moved successfully into their new homes. Each of these persons is reaping the fruit of their labor by acquiring new skills, good jobs and being able to save enough money to have a home of their own.

Our Crisis Ministries saw 60 new families in just one week at the end of September. It seems that some of our local businesses have been cutting back hours earlier than anticipated.  Some of our frail elderly have already been looking for heating assistance in preparation for winter during those early chilly nights. Many of our elderly only need help with half, or less, of the oil bill because they have been saving to fill their tanks. Others need help with preventing evictions or keeping the lights on. We are thankful that across the county, the churches had the foresight to have warehouses of food and clothes, along with household items and furniture to help those in a crisis who need a little help from their friends. The Crisis Ministries helped five different families driven from their homes by the hurricanes. We helped with gas for transportation as well as additional clothes and hygiene items. It’s the little things that folks forget, or don’t have the time to grab, that they miss the most. Thank you to our volunteers and churches for providing not only the little things, but the big things that bridge the gap. 

Every fall season, we are amazed at the wide array of colors. When God spoke to Isaiah, He said that He would give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning. We thank God for every volunteer missionary from every church and corner of our community who say to people who are struggling that God loves them and cares for them. We thank God that in seasons of affliction, He shows up in the miracle of caring, through His children in their acts of kindness. Please take time to read through this newsletter and listen to God’s still small voice nudging you to come and to care for your neighbors in need through one of these ministries.

Reverend Scott Rogers
Executive Director

Jessica's Story

ABCCM's impact spreads far and wide in our community as we fill the gap for our neighbors in need through our Crisis Ministry, Medical Ministry, Homeless Services Ministry, Jail Ministry and Veterans Services of the Carolinas. One in six Buncombe County residents are touched each year through one of our ministries with assistance such as funds to offset a utility bill, a dental extraction, a warm jacket for a child, shelter during a period of homelessness, training and education support for veterans, or a shoulder to lean on during a jail incarceration.

The impact of ABCCM's services can be seen in the story of one woman, Asheville resident Jessica Shepard. Jessica first came into contact with ABCCM Jail Ministry volunteers in the Buncombe County Detention Center. She later was a resident of Steadfast House for women and children, and was able to receive treatment at the Medical Ministry. The services and programs in those ministries transformed her life. Jessica is now stable and thriving.

Watch the video below to learn more about Jessica's story and the volunteers who shaped her transformation. There are more than 300 women and children on the waiting list for Steadfast House who are just like Jessica -- ready to undergo their own transformation.  Click here to learn more about Transformation Village, ABCCM's vision to end homelessness for women, children and families in Buncombe County.

 

 

 

The Power of Music and the VRQ

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Alex Watson, a resident of the Veterans Restoration Quarters, shared with us the path he has been on as he moves from homelessness to hopefulness and stability, including the support and strength he has found at the VRQ. 

I have always been able to find refuge and restoration in music. It's my therapy. There is safety and freedom from discrimination in the arts. This is where I find peace. My name is Alex Watson and I’m a concert pianist and resident of the Veteran's Restoration Quarters (VRQ).

A big part of my story since leaving the U.S. Navy in 2012 has been coping with depression. I had trouble adapting to find a career that suited my strengths and skills. I also struggled to develop a sense of comradery with my community that supported healthy living. I really felt like I had little purpose in life.

Since I was a child, I had a great interest in music. I began taking piano lessons at the age of 5 and continued to study, eventually graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music. My next step was joining the U.S. Navy as a keyboard instrumentalist. I was stationed in San Diego and my job was to represent the military by performing music in authorized Navy Bands. We were the soft end of the sword but it wasn’t easy. A lot of my time in the Navy was spent on the roads touring southwestern states to encourage young people to consider enlisting in the military.

By performing at ceremonies on military bases, we were tasked to uplift the spirits of sailors returning home. I truly loved my job in the military but never knew why I was so unhappy all of the time.

In 2011 I was diagnosed with depression and thought it was something everyone experienced and I just had to get over it and move on. Since my diagnosis I never took the time to evaluate how my own self care was affecting my mental health. I resisted seeking help from mental health professionals. In 2016 I moved to Asheville to start a journey of recovery and restoration.

The VRQ was a perfect resource for me to take the time needed to heal and learn to cope with the symptoms of depression. I was able to work closely with health care providers at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville to actively address my mental well-being and find ways to seek a career path that was rewarding to me.

Angela Catania and Whitney Gray were assigned to be my case workers at the VRQ. They took time to help me set goals such as financial planning and forming social networks to support mental health. I was provided the opportunity to gain additional employment training. But most importantly, I connected with other veterans who shared my story. As a former military service member, getting along with people from all walks of life is not a new thing. I feel like the other residents are my family that I can count on for encouragement. I can't help but walk through the VRQ and be welcomed by a chorus of “Good morning, how have you been?” from fellow residents. Today I feel like a whole person and someone who is contributing greatly to society.

My restoration expanded beyond the walls of the VRQ when I entered the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Competition in February 2017. I was able to find affirmation in my achievements as a piano performer by winning the first place Gold Medal for three solo piano divisions in the national competition. I have been invited to travel at the end of October to Buffalo, N.Y., through a grant and perform one of my winning piano pieces in a festival concert. This festival helps showcase how music and the arts can help veterans connect and cope with the challenges of everyday life after military service.

Although I had no job when I moved into the VRQ, I was able to gain meaningful employment as a piano instructor. After taking the A-B Tech Continuing Education Culinary Courses offered by Chef Eric Cox at the VRQ I was referred to a local restaurant in Asheville.

The support at the VRQ has helped me sustain these jobs and I am a part of an even greater network of altruism than what I could possibly do alone. The piano studio where I work provides scholarships to students who are unable to afford piano lessons. The instructors perform benefit concerts several times a year to raise money for these scholarships. Happy Jacks, the restaurant where I work, has its own charity called Kevi Bear Kids, which raises money to donate soccer balls to young people with needs in Ecuador. The owners, Kevin and Betty Lee, express that giving a soccer ball to a kid can help them be distracted from hunger and poverty. It feels incredibly rewarding to work for businesses that generously share resources with others. I'm proud to be a part of local organizations that help thousands of people each year.

Before I was able to help others, I had to help myself. The VRQ provided me with this important part in my restoration and now I’m able to give back. My goal is to host a solo piano holiday benefit concert to raise money for the ABCCM’s VRQ, veterans in need of transitional housing and employment skill training, and to support the recording of a sacred solo piano album. I’ve been blessed with a talent and training as a piano performer, now it’s time to use my skills to help others.

The benefit concert will be Saturday, December 2, 5pm at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in downtown Asheville. The suggested donation is $20. More info can be found online at www.AlexWatsonPiano.com.

I'm proud to be a veteran but equally honored to have the opportunity to share the peace I find in music with others. Music provides me with healing and as I continue to spread my roots in the Asheville music community I hope to show my appreciation for the resources for veterans and my family at the VRQ.

VRQ residents like Alex are working every day with our volunteers, churches and community partners to transform their lives. To learn more, volunteer or donate, go to www.abccm.org/veterans-restoration-quarters or call (828) 259-5300.
 

Fitting in and Feeling Called to Serve

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Linda Hicks usually volunteers every Tuesday at the ABCCM Medical Ministry. During the middle of September, however, she was at the Livingston Street clinic nearly every day.

“Normally I’m just here one day a week, but I’m working on a special project right now,” Linda said with a smile during a break from reorganizing medical files. “My parents, who live with me, were surprised that I came in on a day that wasn’t Tuesday, but they know I need my volunteering. When you get to help people and see the need, you feel compelled to do as much as you can for them.”

Linda has been serving at the Medical Ministry for nearly two years. She does a lot of behind-the-scenes work in data entry and filing, and also meets with patients when they first come into the clinic. Data entry and filing are critical to the clinic’s function, but volunteers such as Linda have the biggest impact when they are sitting across from those desperately in need of health care.

“You just feel for them,” she says. “I can’t help them medically, but I try to pick them up because they’re in a tough situation. In my heart I pray for them, because some of them come in with very sad stories.”

Linda is able to have compassion for patients because she loves volunteering at the clinic. Linda spent 25 years working for Aramark, a service company in the areas of food, facilities management and uniforms. As a housekeeping and laundry manager, she spent a lot of time in hospitals and enjoyed being in health-care settings. But moving around to seven different states during her employment meant she wasn’t always making strong connections with her work family.

When Linda retired in 2013, she took training classes at Goodwill including an electronic medical records course. During one of the classes, a Medical Ministry volunteer coordinator visited to speak about volunteer opportunities. Linda signed up as a volunteer.

“At the time I felt like I needed to do something else and when that door opened, I was led by the Lord,” Linda says. “After working so many years, this is the best job I’ve had.  I never really fit in anywhere until I came here, because this feels like family. You’ve got to love what you’re doing to do it effectively, is what it comes down to. If you do that, it will overflow to the people we serve.”

Let your love overflow to those we serve in ABCCM’s Medical Ministry! The clinic needs volunteer medical and dental providers, nurses, pharmacists and technicians, receptionists and clerical workers. Contact Maia Price, the Medical Ministry volunteer coordinator, at maia.price@abccm.org or call (828) 398-6690.

The Impact of NCServes-Western

How has ABCCM's service coordination for veterans had an impact on our community? Read more below to learn about what NCServes-Western can do for Western North Carolina!

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More Than Just a Bike
NCServes-Western Care Coordinator Emily Wheeler was introduced to Marine Veteran Roy Langford through network partner United Way. In their first interview, Emily was able to identify that many services, such as VA benefits, food, and money management skills could be addressed through a coordinated effort. She successfully linked Mr. Langford to appropriate providers in the community, including the Buncombe County Veterans Office, OnTrack Financial and ABCCM Crisis Ministry.  In addition to food and clothing, the Crisis Ministry provided Mr. Langford a new Roadmaster bike with a helmet to assist him with transportation around Asheville. We’re thrilled that ABCCM was able to provide a community effort and service coordination at its best!
Brandon Wilson
Network Director,  NCServes-Western

 

 

 

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Family Receives Medals
During the soft launch of our NCServes-Western network, I had the opportunity as a new team member to be an integral part of a referral that resulted in a heartfelt and meaningful service from one of our providers.  Waynesville resident Jane Bowman contacted the network call center with a special request for the family of her brother, Charles Everette Rector. Although the family knew he had served in the U.S. Navy, they did not know much about his service or what honors he may have earned. Through the NCServes-Western coordination center and the efforts of the Marine Corps League Asheville Detachment 1417, one of our network providers – the accomplishments of Senior Chief Rector during his 26-year career in the Navy are now commemorated in a beautiful shadow box filled with his eight medals. Larry Thornton of the Marine Corps League Asheville Detachment presented the shadow box to Ms. Bowman and the Rector family on July 21. With a tear in her eye, Mrs. Bowman told stories of Senior Chief Rector and his love of sports, his community and the U.S. Navy, and she assured us the shadowbox  is something that the family will cherish, appreciate and display for generations.
Jessica Rice
NCServes-Western Intake Specialist

Crisis Ministry an 'Amazing Opportunity' for High Schoolers

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As local students return to school, the Crisis Ministry looks back fondly on this summer, during which we were blessed with two students from the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) program. Lisi Pena and Sheila Perez, who are juniors this year at Asheville High, spent several weeks volunteering in various roles in our downtown Crisis Ministry at 24 Cumberland Avenue.

The girls volunteered at the reception desk, packed food boxes, organized the pantry, served lunch and helped in other ways. They also shadowed the Crisis Ministry counselors during meetings with clients in need. Sheila and Lisi also toured ABCCM’s Crisis Ministry sites in Arden and Candler to see the Ministry’s impact on so much of the entire county.

“For me, being here has helped me understand [the clients’] situations and how they relate to my situation,” Lisi said. “In my family, we didn’t have anything and had to really work for what we have. So when I see these people come in, I think about putting my best foot forward and helping them, too. It makes you appreciate what you have.”

As part of the CAYLA program, the students are required to report for a certain number of hours each week, must be on time, and also participate in workshops for which they receive an hourly wage for attendance from the program. CAYLA is a partnership with the Asheville City Schools Foundation and is supported in part by Buncombe County. In order to participate, students must fill out an application form, write essays, and undergo an interview.

“Overall the program just gives you experience as if it was an actual job and what you’re going to be doing in real life,” Sheila said. “You have to take it seriously.”

Students also receive scholarship funds for college through the program.

If the girls choose to participate in CAYLA again next summer they will be placed at a different agency because the program encourages participants to have a variety of experiences each year. However, both Sheila and Lisi said they would like to continue volunteering at the Crisis Ministry on their own.

“[Crisis Ministry Assistant Director Aaron Schnurbusch] told me to just come – there’s always something for you to do here,” Sheila said. “It’s nice to hear that. It’s been an amazing opportunity.”

Would you like to learn how you too can have an “amazing opportunity” volunteering at the Crisis Ministry? Call (828) 259-5300 or email volunteer@abccm.org to learn more!

Mahogany and Her Son Find a Place to Rest Their Heads

Mahogany and her 1-year-old son Daniel had been bouncing between hotels and shelter programs, and the homes of friends and family. But with winter approaching, Mahogany knew things couldn’t go on that way.

“I knew I needed somewhere for my baby to rest his head,” she says. “I needed to get into a transitional program where I didn’t have to worry about leaving and being out in the cold with my baby at 6 a.m. It’s a very bad feeling to not have somewhere stable for him. It was at that point where I got tired of going from place to place.”

Mahogany and Daniel were on the Steadfast House waiting list for four months before space opened up.  They settled in and began working on a plan with their case manager. Mahogany has an associate’s degree in early childhood, but assault charges on her record have made it unlikely she would find employment in that field. Her case manager brought up ABCCM’s culinary program with A-B Tech. Mahogany loves to cook – in fact, she has prepared dinner several times for her housemates – and she signed up.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m ready to be walking around with my book and my chef’s knives every day,” said Mahogany, who spent her teenage years in the foster care system. “I am proud of myself, and here, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while. I have people who support me and they’re happy for me and in my corner.”

Funding for civilian women such as Mahogany to participate in employment training programs like the culinary training program has been supported by the Walmart Foundation, which 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 has allowed ABCCM 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 like Mahogany who are transitioning into permanent housing and job placements. Training through TWIP leads to career tracks and jobs that pay a living wage.

 

Steadfast House: A 'Life Jacket' for Women

Leslie came to Steadfast House in a state of homelessness brought on by mental and physical health issues. While she was in a behavioral health facility, Leslie’s social worker told her about Steadfast House and encouraged her to add her name to the waiting list of more than 300 women and children. Leslie knew she could not begin to rebuild her life while homeless.

“While I was being evaluated, a social worker reviewed all the Steadfast House program information with me and encouraged me to add my name to the waiting listing,” she said. “She told me to make sure that I called each week to keep my name on the list. I truly believe it was God who opened the way for me to come to Asheville after all I had been through previously.”

When a place opened at Steadfast House, Leslie moved in and began her rebuilding process. Working with her case manager, Leslie first addressed multiple physical concerns, and then found long-term outpatient care for mental and emotional issues. Once stable, she was able to connect with social services such as Medicaid, food stamps and legal aid. To do all those things in the unstable homeless environment, and without transportation, was extremely difficult for Leslie. But the stability she found at Steadfast House allowed her to address these issues on her own time and with the support of her case manager.

Leslie has returned to school at A-B Tech to study graphic design. She is also training to become a peer support specialist. She believes it was God who brought her to Asheville and Steadfast House after all she had been through.

“Steadfast House was the ‘life jacket’ thrown out to me when I very much needed it the most,” she said. “I had ministered to homeless folks when I lived in Georgia but now I have some empathy of how really far one slides down into a sand pit and struggles to get out. Steadfast House has boosted me up onto solid, fertile ground where I can now plant my new life.”

Women like Leslie will soon have Transformation Village, ABCCM's vision to end homelessness, as a new "life jacket" of sorts. Click here for more information about ABCCM's vision to end homelessness for women, children and families in Buncombe County.

 

U.S. Navy Veteran Excels in Jobs Program

Darla, a U.S. Navy veteran who has been homeless and receives support through ABCCM’s Veterans Services of the Carolinas, is currently working at the ABCCM South Crisis Ministry warehouse through Transitional Employment Program (TEP). It’s a position that demands a lot of different skills, from working alongside volunteers to going on donation pickup runs to serving as the face of ABCCM when members of the community drop off donations.

Although she has previous work experience, Darla had typically been working just to make ends meet, without a career goal. Now that she is going to school to prepare for a career in the health and wellness field, Darla knew she needed job that would allow her the time to attend classes. She also needed to be able to take time off to go to the Charles George VA Medical Center for appointments as needed. The employment program has provided that flexibility for her.

“If you haven’t worked in a while, you have a lapse when you go to write out a resume,” Darla says. “This position allows me to work and get something on my resume, and it gives me someone to put down as a reference. I can focus on school because this program allows me to take the time I need to go to do those things. I can also take time off for VA appointments. It helps not just to integrate back into work but also with other issues veterans might have, such as mental, emotional and substance abuse. To be able to work and go to meetings really creates a good opportunity.”

The job also provides a good boost of confidence, especially for veterans like Darla who have struggled with homelessness and seeing a clear future ahead.

“Anytime I’m in a position and do a good job and get recognized for it, it feels good,” she says. “For sure it motivates you to want to do better.”

Darla’s prospects took a huge step forward recently when she received a new-to-her vehicle through Working Wheels (formerly Wheels4Hope Asheville). Our partnership with Working Wheels has helped several Steadfast House residents get into vehicles of their own, which helps along women and children in their transformation from homelessness to self-sustainability. We’re thrilled to have this partnership and excited for Darla!

ABCCM, Community Come Together for Veteran

Check out this amazing video to hear from Monique and learn about how this vehicle will make a difference for her! (Caliber Collision Changing Lanes video)

One of our veterans recently had a life-changing day, and it was a day that was many months in the making. Monique, an honorably discharged Air Force veteran, began been working with ABCCM's Veterans Services of the Carolinas (VSC) last year when she was living outdoors in a vehicle she had borrowed from a friend. Monique was homeless and unsheltered during the peak temperatures of Charlotte's hot summer months. Upon connecting with VSC, Monique enrolled in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) rapid re-housing program. And because being unemployed was also an area of primary concern, Monique became a participant in the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) to address her employment needs.

In doing so Monique set out to tackle the dual goals of securing gainful employment and permanent housing for her family. Through her dedicated efforts and through the initial supports of ABCCM’s SSVF and HVRP programs, Monique obtained a job offer that allowed her to secure permanent housing. She did so just as she reached the deadline to return the borrowed vehicle in which she had been living. With her new job and housing in place, Monique was able to earn just enough to make ends meet. The lack of dependable transportation in a commuter city still loomed large, however, making it difficult to obtain the security of a better-paying job.  Monique made multiple attempts to purchase her own vehicle.  But due to past credit issues and the inability to obtain a cosigner for a loan, transportation seemed to be an insurmountable barrier.  She was stuck.

That is where things changed for this veteran, and it happened because the community stepped up to help. Through VSC's participation in the NC Serves system with Charlotte Bridge Home, Monique's case manager learned of an opportunity for a veteran to apply for a donated vehicle through a community partnership between Caliber Collision, the Recycled Rides Initiative, and the Changing Lanes program. Indeed, there were many moving parts involved!  Changing Lanes is a program at Fayetteville Technical Community College that trains active duty military members for career-level jobs in auto repair. Through Caliber Collision's sponsorship, and Monique's nomination to NC Serves by her ABCCM Veteran's Service of the Carolinas case manager, these soldiers restored a car for one of their own.

Monique now enjoys the freedom of mobility with her professionally restored car!

It is instances like these that make one wonder what else is possible when our efforts are united in cooperative action. This story which spans the efforts of community partners from Asheville, Charlotte and Fayetteville is indeed emblematic of ABCCM's mission to do together what individual congregations cannot do separately.  

 

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ABCCM Veteran is an Academic Award Winner!

VRQ resident Toby and his case manager celebrated his recent academic award for Hospitality Management at A-B Tech Community College.

VRQ resident Toby and his case manager celebrated his recent academic award for Hospitality Management at A-B Tech Community College.

U.S. Navy veteran Toby Bollinger didn’t waste any time finding work soon after he arrived at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in November 2015. Within four days – after spending more than 70 days in jail for alcohol-related driving offenses – he was doing yard work for a local resident.  A few weeks after that, he began working for the Asheville Fire Department as a phone salesman selling tickets to fundraising events.

Toby soon found his passion, however, when he began studying hospitality, first through Goodwill’s START program and then A-B Tech Community College’s associate’s degree program. Thanks to the support and encouragement of both ABCCM’s Veterans Services of the Carolinas and the VRQ, Toby recently completed his first year of classes. He was even named the winner of the Academic Award among students in the Hospitality Management area of the Division of Business and Hospitality.

“I was really shocked. I had never been invited to an academic awards reception before and they only pick one person from each department so that was really big,” said Toby, who also works two nights a week at the Holiday Inn Asheville Biltmore East, located on Tunnel Road near the VRQ. “I really like hotel work and working with people. I just like to make sure we’re doing our job to make their stay enjoyable.”

Toby will finish the academic year with better than a 3.72 grade point average, which he accomplished despite suffering injuries last fall in a traffic accident – he did not miss a day of school or work. He also worked toward earning back his driver’s license and was elected to serve on the VRQ’s Residents Council.

Toby was able to successfully leave the VRQ in May 2017 after he was hired for a coveted position as lodge manager at A-B Tech.  In that job, he will manage six rooms that serve as training for students while also living in the facility. Toby will also able to keep his job at Holiday Inn.

He recently learned that he qualifies for a program that will support his education at a 4-year public university, where he intends to continue studying hospitality. Eventually he would like to run a resort somewhere in the Bahamas. Toby says he will always be grateful for the opportunities he had through ABCCM to help him become self-sufficient and transform his life.

“It’s the perfect starting ground. If you use it for what it’s intended to be used for, then it works perfectly,” he said. “For me, I came here because I knew there was structure, and I needed to get that back in my life. It can get you anywhere you want to go.”

Way to go Toby!  What a great inspiration you are to so many at ABCCM. Want to learn more about how you can support these programs for our veterans? 

Transforming a Building

We know volunteers can transform the lives of the men, women and children that ABCCM serves every day. Volunteers can also transform a building!

For two days in April, volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men put a new metal roof on the main building of ABCCM's South Crisis Ministry location in Arden. The men stripped off the old roof and put a new metal roof in its place. The volunteers represented Woodland Hills Baptist, West Asheville Baptist, and Price's Chapel Baptist churches.

Volunteer projects like this one are so crucial to not only help us maintain our facilities, but also allow our staff to focus on serving clients. While the volunteers worked on the roof, neighbors in need were able to see staff and volunteer counselors in order to receive food boxes, clothing, as well as rent and utility assistance. Donors continued to drop off needed clothes, furniture, household goods and other items, while staff and volunteers continued to process these items and prepare them for those ready to move into their own stable housing.

ABCCM facilities can always benefit from skilled volunteer maintenance and construction work! If you have a heart for volunteer work, please visit www.abccm.org/volunteer for more information. Just give the volunteer coordinator or program director in your favorite ministry area a call or send an email – they will get back to you with more information, or to sign you up. We need you!

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.