And while I am extolling the generous spirits of those here on VR, let me add that anonymous donations have been sent by others as well. Irony and Occam did their help anonymously, too. But I know them well enough to out them!
Here are some of the other incredible responses:
1. A VR member donated his very valuable time to design the center's complete website. It is more than we ever dreamed of, including interactive areas that tell the community what we need, a calendar, map, E-newsletter for me to reach people across the country and world, a paypal donation button so people can donate conveniently from the privacy of home, and referral links for other types of help. That same member also sent a box of 120 gloves to be distributed to the homeless population living under the Claiborne Bridge in New Orleans.
2. A VR member took his kids shopping for socks and warm tops and bottoms for the homeless under the bridge. I love that he incorporated the children in the service and all the details, including posting them here. He has assured that our next generation will have a heart for people less fortunate.
3. A VR member is knitting and gathering hats and gloves for the homeless. She has also pledged a financial pledge so that we can purchase what we need for this population.
4. Another VR member has pledged to ask her co-workers and friends to help her gather up all the scarves, hats and gloves they have outgrown or no longer use. She will post them to the center.
5. And not least, the encouragement. I am blown away by how responsive this site has been. Your prayers, good will, and encouragement make really good work possible.
VR continues to amaze me every day. Oftentimes I am told how it has touched some one or some group of people in a special way. It's hard for me to fathom, as I am isolated from what VR produces beyond my reach.
I am blown away, too. I'm glad you get some of the feedback. My morning at work began with the delivery of two boxes of warm clothes and socks for the homeless program, and a monetary donation from overseas through PayPal!
You'll always have my thanks for bringing together a place for such wonderful people to meet!
Here is the second flyer that Irony and Occam did for the Center. This one is so lovely. I will use it to ask other agencies, organizations, churches, businesses, and individuals to consider a contribution to the Center. Again, I have had to edit out our name in keeping with the Center's advertising policy.
The Board at the Center where I work has charged me to generate $60,000 in extra revenue over last year. I'm very excited and also a bit nervous about the opportunity. I've put together a Plan for Positive Action that covers lots of areas where I can focus.
The staff and I are planning our first fund raising event ever! I want to share the help that my friends, Occam and Irony (Go rate her a 10 right now and tell her she's amazing.) gave me in designing flyers. The first one was for the event, a fish and chicken fry. I'll use this format to ask businesses to donate the food, paper goods, and seasonings. I'll also use it to make flyers to announce the event itself. I removed the Center's name because of our advertising rules.
OK, really not my best plan ever. People were still very grateful, but it was incredibly eerie out there at night walking among the tents and sleeping bags.
In the future, I will try to plan to always have natural light. But we gave out all the gloves. Several of the men recognized me from last time and came over to say thank you. We did find Vera again, but she said her name was Mary. She remembered Allie and me, coming over to tell me that she's met another nice lady who came to take her to church. She choked up when I asked about gloves. She said someone stole them. She sank down on the curb and said, "they steal everything I got."
We gave her a new pair to put on and I slipped her a second pair to hide. I checked her lip under the light and it seems maybe a little better. We gave her a whole bottle of Tylenol this time. She cried and told me she loved me, that she loved us all. She said, "God bless you for coming out here." In truth, I heard that a lot tonight.
One man who lives there told me we shouldn't be walking through there at night. He has to sleep there, and he was warning us, concerned for our safety. My friend, Mickey, commented later in the car that he wasn't so much surprised by the poverty, but by the civility and gratitude we encountered.
So, why the hasty, poor planning? Because 2 people have died of hypothermia under that bridge since Jan. 1. Because I had warm things in my vehicle given for them. Because if I could have fallen asleep knowing those things, I wouldn't have been able to look in the mirror.
Thankfully, we were delivered unthreatened, unharmed, and a little wiser. Most thankfully, there are some hands a little warmer under an unfriendly sky, beneath a scary bridge, inside soft gloves given by you. Thank you so much to everyone who has offered in kind donations, money, prayers, and more. You are my heroes, my encouragement, and motivation. Without you, I'd have been home tonight probably watching Law & Order and playing Scrabble.
I know some of you have sent things that haven't yet arrived. Don't worry. We're definitely going back. We had given away over 100 pairs of gloves in under 30 minutes, and that includes walk time. The need is still great. I promise to distribute every hat and glove we get. I'd also like to get some socks. Several people asked for clean socks tonight.
Well, it's supposed to dip down to 37 degrees tonight in New Orleans. Add to that the rain and wind that charges down the center of that bridge like a cavalry bringing no good news, and it's going to be a freezing night. I had hoped to get the other shipment of gloves and some hats before going back, but now I'm wondering if I shouldn't take the 100 that I do have. I need to make sure that I can take at least one other adult with me if I go.
If I can't pull it off today, I'll definitely plan to head out early tomorrow. Hopefully the other gloves will be in by then, too. I've been out in the field today for work and every time I stepped out of my car, the weather bit straight into the marrow of my bones. I just don't know if I could sleep in my heated bedroom tonight knowing how cold and wet the night will be for people in tents and blankets and that I have gloves enough to keep 100 pairs of hands warm NOW.
Today is a desk day. These are my least favorite days. The last 3 months have been budget time for the Center and my budget was rejected at the end of November. So, Dec and Jan have been slogging through spread sheet after spread sheet. This is SO not my gift. If I don't make heaven, I'll surely be an accountant in Hell. Swimming in lakes of fire would be cherry pie compared to an eternity of crunching numbers.
I have been able to get fund raising approved, though! Historically, my board has not been in favor of grants or fund raising, relying instead on our thrift store and donations - private, church, organizational, business, and other. With an increase in clients and a greater expense to operate post Katrina, it's time to do things a new way. I'm excited about the opportunity to go out into the community and talk about how they can partner with us and help.
For four years, I have wanted to host a 5K. It would give people the chance to see who we are, what we do, and have a fun day for a cause. I hope to have some good New Orleans food at the end. Along with the entry fee, I'd ask the participants and spectators to bring non perishable food. I even get to design a t-shirt. How cool is that?!
Yesterday, almost immediately after posting that journal entry, a VR member made a very generous donation of 120 pairs of gloves. He bought them on Ebay and is shipping them here.
This morning, 100 pairs of gloves were on my desk. A co-worker had shared the story I relayed over the phone when I called in. She told her brothers and they went to Wal Mart and bought all they had.
Also, my entry has gotten about 100 hits in one day. A number of you cared enough to comment and message me. I'm so encouraged always by the responses of people. We're not a callous world at heart. Most of the time, we just don't know HOW to help.
I've been criticized before about doing a one day event. They tell me that it does nothing to really solve the problem. They misunderstand my intentions. I have no delusions of grandeur. I have no power and I'm not going to fix the world. My one and only intention is to let hurting people know that somebody gives a damn. I look into their eyes and listen. I never say bullshit things like, "I know how you feel." or "Just hang in there."
When someone tells you that things are horrible, you listen and affirm that it is horrible. If they ask you for help, you offer what you can, never promising more than you can deliver. Much of the time, it's information...knowing which agency is doing what. Food is almost always do-able. I've never had to send someone away hungry yet. Sometimes food is all you can do.
But when you are genuine with people, when you truly treat them the way you'd want to be treated...with patience, they know. Who can't sniff out a phony? Yesterday we had a gentleman who said, "I hate when they get picky about the food we give, asking for different chips or cookies." I understand what he was trying to say. It can seem like ingratitude when someone doesn't accept your help with a thank you.
What I was able to share with him is that you have to understand WHO you are serving. The correlation to mental illness among the homeless is incredibly high. Most of them have a train wreck of a past and at the very least, need serious counseling that they are not receiving. Many will have addictions. Many are dealing with arrested development of one sort or another. These are the employees who cannot get along with their peers, who cannot remain employed. Very few of the homeless in extreme living conditions (like under the bridge) are there because of one bad break. That is a lie and miscommunication of special interest groups with their own agenda.
These are the folks who need beds in in-house mental health services, case workers to assure they are getting to out-patient counseling, or well-managed shelters that assess and make life plans with their residents. These are the folks who embarrass and infuriate us. These are the folks who don't have the first clue about how to be consistent. If they earn $100, it will be gone within the hour.
When you decide that this is the population you desire to help, you will need a few metaphors at your fingertips in order to keep your sanity and heart intact. The most useful one is the parent metaphor. While you may think it sounds patronizing, imagining a client as your child can be very helpful. We all like to bless our children, but we also teach. Would you reward your child's continued poor choices or would you be creative and come up with a game plan to help lead them toward better choices? Sometimes when the request for money is obviously not a good plan, buying groceries and freeing up resources for them to pay their own bill might be a better plan.
At the center where I work, I teach my staff and volunteers that we never say "no." We give a qualified "yes." Our yes often has "if you... then we'll..." attached to it. We always follow through and do what we say. Sometimes it's "If you get a job today and we can verify it, when you start and what you'll be earning, then we'll pay this electric bill." Sometimes it's teaching people a hierarchy of needs...if you can't afford to eat, a cell phone and cable aren't good choices for you right now.
It is far easier to just give them what they ask for. Real help is hard work. You have to become detectives and find out what the true cause of the emergency is. Not being able to pay a bill isn't an emergency...the WHY you can't is. We don't help the story (and boy, some of them are good.) We help the need. You don't get sucked into someone else's emotions, even when you are touched. You remain objective so that you can be of the most use to all involved.
It's not a job for everyone, but it is what I love doing. My daughter shared with me a story from her school. Her teacher was advising the students on the importance of taking a job you love over a job that simply pays well. She asked the class to raise their hands if their parents loved their jobs and were happy to go to work every day. My daughter was the only one with her hand up.
Thank you all for reading. Thank you for encouraging and helping in all the unsung ways that you do. Ultimately, this is not the story of me...it's the story of us. We're all together in a world that has pockets of loveliness and pools of misery. When we hit our own lows, the right encouragement can be the difference between personal success and failure. So, why not take the opportunities that come our way to be that encouragement to others? In as much as we will help another in a small or large way, even more, we'll walk away knowing ourselves a little better.
Even the tiniest corners of the universe are noticed.
That's one of the most beautiful things I've heard in a while. Thank you.
I hate the image of forgotten people more than anything I can think of. Even if you can't do much, you can let someone know you give a damn. One of the saddest things ever is going into a nursing home. the residents are absolutely starved for listeners.
Thank you to the VR member who just messaged me to send the gloves, hats, and scarves that her children can no longer use. The generosity is very appreciated and the lessons taught to your children serve us all :)
You are a tribute to human compassion and eternal hopefullness. One of the things I remembered about growing up, was my father volunteering as a firefigher in our neighborhood. I learned that the one thing in your life, that can get you through your day, is a heartfelt, "Thank You." I followed in my father's footsteps, volunteering as a firefighter and on an ambulance. I worked on a ambulance for rotten hours and rotten pay, but hearing people say thank you, made my heart warm. So, in case nobody has told you lately, your work is not in vain, your daughter is learning of compassion for her fellow humans through you and Lord knows we more compassion in this world. So......
I find that helping in any way you can is satisfying, even if it is buying hot food to someone who is holding a sign will work for food, or buy a pen for a dollar from a deaf person so they can help support themselves, and giving old clothing that your children have outgrown to the salvation army and goodwill. Every little bit helps, even if it isn't much!
Thanks for what you are doing! And especially for teaching your daughter how important helping others is.
Sometimes the shear number of people who need help can be overwhelming and make the task seem insurmountable. But realize that the people you did help were better off for it. You can't help everyone who needs it, but the ones you help are well worth the effort.
I have few words to express how wonderful a soul I see inside of you. You humble me with your generosity and kindness.
Wow to say the least. I'm almost at a loss of words. I guess all I can say is thank you.
The stories of the work you do always amaze me.
Your passion for your job is incredible; your compassion for those you help seems endless.
As I've said before.. you can't save the world and you can't help those that don't want the help, but you make a huge difference every day to the small slice of the world you live in... and that is a lot more than most people will ever do in their life.
Even moreso, you're raising your children to be people you and society can be proud of. Your legacy will carry on and your spirit will live with them in everything they touch.
Thank you for sharing this story, and the image!
I love you
I thank the gods for people like you
You continue to amaze.......
If there were more people in the world like you things would be better for those less fortunate.
What you do is amazing. ^_^
What a beautiful and kind soul.
You're my kind of person :) I am involved in similar things with my church- we're currently building a church in the lower 9th ward. There was no Episocpal Church there prior to Katrina... but after our church came with a van everyday with food, clothes, and bus tickets for those that needed them, they wanted one :) They currenty have a gutted Walgreen's as there church, but we're doing what we can to raise money for them.
In my view, it's been the churches (all denominations) that have done the most in our challenging Gulf Coast times.
No question, Images. The Center is 2 blocks from the lake. When we were down after Katrina, there were no contractors to be found. Churches came from everywhere to get us back up and running in the community. We saw every denomination, including Quakers! (I actually met a Quaker named Cooter!)
If we'd had to wait on insurance, contractors or FEMA, we might still be closed. The churches did amazing work in the Gulf Coast region and should get the praise they deserve.
Joli, this made me cry, but it also made me very glad to have my faith in mankind (or woman) lifted agin. Thank you so much for that and for all you do. I wish I were in a position to donate things, but sadly, I am not.
I agree with your above comments and your compassion is above most of the humans I know. Your amazing and so kind, thank god there are people like you!
Anyone who knows me well knows my obsession with T.S. Eliot and his Prufrock.
Will I never tire reading this work aloud? I can't count the number of times I have read this poem, melting into the rhythm, wearing that cadence like I wear my own favorite old jacket, wrapping it around me.
Read these two lines out loud. They aren't even my favorite lines in this work, but listen to how they sound on your lips, how the author played with the beauty of words and sound. this is how you fall in love with poetry.
"Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black."
"...I always remember my great grandmother's saying she always told me when I was eating her marvelous soup.
'Haroshova pa ne'mnoshku...' "
Good things always come in small quantities.
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