Community Mission of Hope is a local outreach program to help those in need, aiding the community in partnership with many other programs around the city.
“The problem is you’re struggling, and you find yourself in your car, and now all you can think of is that day. So you can no longer plan for your future; you’re so physically and emotionally exhausted that all you can think about is where you’re going to stay for the night,” Maegan Bourlett, executive director of Community Mission of Hope said of a family that came to them in need.
Community Mission of Hope has a large staff of volunteers that serve weekly. The needs cover a range from feeding the homeless, helping them into housing, finding jobs and giving them physical and emotional support.
“When someone comes in, we treat that individual person. That’s the one thing that separates us from other places,” Bourlett said.
Frank Szostkowski first started volunteering by helping pick up food from local stores. He volunteers three days a week.
“They needed me more here, and so now I help with the food coming in, and it gets weighed in categories. You’ve got produce, meats, dairy, stuff like that. And then it gets fed into the computer,” he said.
Angela Johnson also volunteers. She uses the computer to help in assisting the people that come in for food.
“People come in and I greet them,” she said.
They come in and bring their card, which helps tell the computer what they get.
“If you are a senior and you’re on a fixed income, then we’d make your card good for six months to a year, and then we do a face-to-face to make sure you’re OK,” Bourlett said. “If someone comes in and they’re in an emergency situation and they’re looking for another job, we’ll give them a three-month card, and in three months we want to see if their situation has improved, have they been able to get into a job, are they able to pay rent,” she said.
“They get eggs, milk and meat once a week and canned goods once a month. So somebody might not want their milk one day, so the next time they come in, they can get it if we have it,” Johnson said. “It’s whatever we have. Everybody puts their stuff in; it gets weighed and then they put the fresh fruits and vegetables, breads and desserts in and then its moved to another side to have the perishables put in.”
It takes a lot of people volunteering each day to assist. The food pantry also works with special needs groups too, including CareRight and People’s Care, offering opportunities to work alongside these groups.
Dana Connolly is a volunteer caseworker who helps those who come in for help. Connolly was once in subsidized housing and understands what it’s like for people.
“A lot of volunteers here have experienced similar situations,” she said.
That is why she helps, she said; she’s glad she is able to now that she is retired.
People can come in and look through a job book to also see who is hiring.
“We do have jobs that will hire you if you have a felony on your record, so we give those to people if that’s an issue and they can’t find work as well,” Bourlett said.
Community Mission of Hope also helps people who need emotional support and guidance on budgeting. For the most part, the nonprofit helps with permanent housing, but they can also help with immediate shelter, working alongside places like Project T.O.U.C.H.
Community Mission of Hope works alongside the city too.
“We like to look at it as we serve the city; they support us,” Bourlett said. “They have their own homeless area and outreach, so we all want to make sure we aren’t doubling up on efforts. If they’re working with a homeless person or vice versa, we want to make sure both know about it.”
More of their outreach projects and ways to volunteer can be found at www.communitymissionofhope.com.
Community Mission of Hope will be hosting their 10-year anniversary Sept. 21, at Wiens Family Cellars. Find more information and purchase tickets on their website by clicking “GALA” at the top of the homepage.
“Come partner with us to end homelessness and end hunger in our valley,” Bourlett said.
Lexington Howe can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.