“ONE PERSON determined to help another is a very strong force in our community.” – Norman Archibald
This wasn’t your ordinary benefit lunch. It featured a panel which included an excellent cross-section of representatives from across our city. The thoughts, comments and specific data presented were amazingly informative and thought-provoking. Norm Archibald, our mayor, posed the prepared questions.
The gathering was a success because of the fact that, in itself it was part of the solution.
Hearing detailed, specific information from “live” people about a complex issue was invaluable in raising awareness and becoming more informed about how we can meet each others’ needs in our community. This kind of putting our heads together just doesn’t happen too often.
Sharing wisdom specific to their areas of expertise with the issue, hopefully there was a good amount of new and useful information for everyone to take away. To hear all these perspectives together, hopefully will help us all go back to our areas of influence and circles of interaction and be able to continue the conversation about poverty in intelligent, sensitive and pro-active ways.
I’ve listed the participants’ professional roles along with in parentheses, my own summary phrase re: their areas of expertise and experience.
Ms. Jenny Goode, CEO, Betty Hardwick Center (mental health)
Mr. Mike Mikeworth, Prog. Director, West Texas Innovation Network (mentorship and entrepreneurship)
Dr. Peter Norton, Medical Director, Taylor County Health District (medical issues)
Mr. Stan Standridge, Chief of Police, Abilene Police Dept. (crime, law enforcement perspective)
Mr. Jack Rentz, President & Owner, Rentech Boiler Systems (business sector, internships)
Dr. Audra Ude, Asst. Superintendent, Abilene Ind. School Dist. (education & related concerns)
Mr. Anthony Williams, Councilman, Abilene City Council (government)
Poverty is a complicated issue.
Panhandling, lack of employment, mental and physical health are all related issues.
I attended this fundraiser thanks to a friend’s invite, on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 to benefit the expansion of the Christian Service Center, which for years has been a central place in town for helping people who need it, with among other things, clothing, food, referrals to other agencies (job training), and support like “seasonal comfort” (as listed in their brochure) – which is blankets, heaters, fans, etc.
They’ve been doing good work operating out of some quite small, inter-connected buildings.
I have personal experience with the CSC, when I brought a family recently arrived in Abilene with the International Rescue Committee from South Africa by the Center to collect a minimal wardrobe to start out their lives here in Texas. The CSC provides this service free of charge for all families relocated here with the IRC.
I like the way the CSC refers to people as neighbors in their brochure and how Jim Clark, the director’s way of speaking was also with that frame of reference in his introduction. Also from the brochure:
“At the CSC people realize they are not just clients, they are friends; … welcomed in … and treated with respect, compassion and as persons of dignity.”
The CSC has recently been given a former church building (Woodlawn Church on N. 10th near Mockingbird) to be used to expand their services. The building needs renovation, including reconfiguring some rooms, and being brought up to code.
Thus, the fundraiser.
Main Points ~ (culled from the best of my notes)
From the video presentation that opened the event, interviewing several folks who have been previously homeless, or struggling with drug addiction, etc:
– “The homeless community, we stick together, look out for each other … one person would stay awake…”
– “People on the street got a degree in manipulation!” (so you go back to the lifestyle)
– One man said that when he saw things like “Abilene In Need” (fundraisers, helping events), “I’m an outsider, I feel like.” — I’m not sure if this means because we separate “them” and “us” when we talk about “the poor;” or because he meant that being without the usual tenets of society, he felt outside of things.
– Mike Mikeworth opened the panel by saying that he had spent time preparing for the event by looking up Bible verses that had the word “poor” in them, and found Matthew 5:3 which says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (NIV) The New Living Translation takes it a step further, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.“
So he took this to mean that we can identify with everyone, with every person in the world and in Abilene, including those struggling with what we define as “poverty,” instead of comparing ourselves with and finding ourselves “better than.”
He also spoke of “extracting giftedness,” from each person.
– Audra Ude from Abilene Independent School District spoke about wanting to partner more with the community in areas of “mentorship and guidance for children.”
– Anthony Williams spoke about focusing on “infill redevelopment,” citing 320 vacant acres inside city limits, and specifically targeting 5 different communities for this in our city. 2 of the 5 already have neighborhood associations, and a “huge decrease” in crime has been the result in one.
I believe Connecting Caring Communities is involved with this effort. Their focus is moving into blighted neighborhoods and attempting to improve relationships.
– I found Jenny Goode’s comments of special import and interest in terms of the complex web of issues related to poverty:
She said that trauma and abuse experienced as children and never addressed or treated, has a huge impact on lives.
She said that RECOVERY & “mental health First Aid” has to be worked into and integrated with every other attempt to address this set of problems in our society. That an acknowledgment of the fact that mental health, trauma and “bad things” are a part of the human experience is vastly important. She also mentioned that “the caring investment of a single, human person was the difference” in many lives. She also highlighted, “Seeing the potential in a person – the light and the hope for recovery.”
– Others spoke of “engendering hope.”
– Dr. Norton mentioned “medical, mental, spiritual poverty” and, “an attitude toward women as second rate citizens.”
The below organizations were also mentioned:
– Big Brothers, Big Sisters (individual mentoring, children)
– The Noah Project (domestic & family violence/shelter)
– Boys & Girls Club (after school, mentoring kids & teens)
– Christian Women’s Job Corps (job skills, mentoring)
– Stan Standridge opined that “We need a detox center, bad.”
Describing what happens when an individual is drunk or otherwise physically incapacitated (drugs) and a trained police officer is required to “babysit” (my term) the person, after picking them up for public intoxication, instead of the officer going back out to handle more important issues. Detox centers can also offer more possible progress towards sobriety to the person with the substance abuse issue.
He also encouraged people to move from, “charity to philanthropy” and instead of giving out money on street corners (“contrary to our ordinance”), donate to helping organizations. He pointed out that panhandlers can receive about $40 for 4 hours of work – so it’s profitable, in a sense.
– it was mentioned that knowing people is necessary, to know needs
During the question section:
– Jenny Goode shared that there are resources available at Betty Hardwick to help with “psycho-social rehab” and for “social skills issues.” [This made me again think of the value (and difficulty, but reward) of one-on-one personal relationships.]
Someone brought up the question of the problem of entitlement.
– Stan Standridge said that the military broke the mentality of poverty for him, but it can be a person that does it.
– Anthony Williams shared that he was “not sure that most poor people want to remain poor” — thus addressing underlying attitudes about the issue.
– Mike Mikeworth brought up the issue of fatherlessness, and issued “a call out to men that can ‘father the fatherless’.”
It was stated that hopefully there would be new and further ideas, partnerships and initiatives resulting from the lunch.
The new CSC facility will have a multi-purpose room for community use.
Jim Clark encouraged attendees to “be dream-boosters” and to “rebuild, restore and renew.”
“Perspectives on Poverty” video shown at the luncheon, interviewing clients of CSC:
Excellent summary of this luncheon, Heida. Thank you so much for writing this. I pray that many people in Abilene will read this blog post — and join us in helping those in poverty that will help them the most. Jim Clark