Thursday, July 31, 2014

Programs Matter: Matters of the heart

By Interim Case Manager Frenchie Pulluaim

It sounds like such a simple phrase, but it is so much deeper.  Many of our families come into our community with broken hearts.  Most people in families had their hearts broken early in life and never found the pathway to healing.  When these people grow up with their baggage from youth, they create relationships built on poor foundations and hopes of being loved and accepted.  They attach themselves to people that resemble those people that never cared for them, loved them or knew how to accept them, but they hold on for dear life. 

Matters of the heart can lead to physical and medical issues and leave families devastated.  It is so important that when we listen to people and their conversation sounds simple, or we think their problem should be easily fixed; we must  understand that matters of the heart are very complicated.  It is not the spoken word that is important, it is the unspoken word.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Children Matter: New Role, Same Mission

By Children’s Program Coordinator Josh Chittum

Nearly one month ago, I bid a difficult goodbye to my class of 3rd graders for the summer knowing I wouldn’t see them in the hallway on their first day of 4th grade. For a variety of reasons I had decided to leave the teaching profession, at least for the time being
Because of the arbitrary privileges granted to me in life, I knew I could walk away from employment and everything would most likely turn out okay. That sentiment is startling to think about when juxtaposed with the situations so many of our families find themselves in at Community LINC.

The frenetic pace of teaching didn’t leave me with sufficient space or time to ruminate and meditate on those Big Questions, such as why I have a plethora of privileges amidst so many injustices in our world, nation, and city. And while the transition from the classroom to my new position has hurled me through the air with the speed of a cosmic event, I’ve found myself 10,000 feet in the air studying and obsessing over my position in life
Among such an abundance to be fortunate and thankful for is the fact that I now find myself at an organization whose ideals and values so closely align with my own. Three of those shared values I’d like to highlight with the space I have left. (And no, I was not offered a signing bonus to say these things in my first blog post.)

One basic shared value - of monumental importance - is the commitment to justice that Community LINC carries out every day. While I am certainly interested in philosophizing and analyzing abstract arguments, this isn’t a theoretical or academic notion of justice. This is the everyday, face-to-face, sometimes exhausting struggle that hundreds of families take with us each year. While I did walk away from the traditional classroom, I did not, nor will I ever, walk away from this march and I am thrilled to join a team that has walked farther, and harder, and probably smarter than I have because I will learn so much from them and we will make a difference as a team.

Second, the staff here clearly values the people staying on our campus as individuals. I don’t hear generic client terminology or talk of faceless data points and numbers. I hear the names and stories and hopes and dreams of the men, and the women, and the children completing our program. I hear words to empower the individual, messages to encourage folks to lead the way to their individual goals and aspirations. We will be right behind them, but not in front, not dictating their path. And just as important, I see institutional value placed on staff as well - value placed on our time, our ideas, and our mental well-being.

And finally, Community LINC provides a vehicle for positive relationship building. There are many reasons humans are the most successful species on earth, but one reason is that we don’t find solitary shelter underneath sea-shells. We cooperate with, we learn from, and fellowship to each other. This is one reason why we have youth in Aftercare that literally walk a mile from their new home just to come to program night and maintain relationships with mentors, teachers, and friends.

Without allowing for strong relationships and valuing individuals, the World of Justice we are trying to build simply won’t happen. Thank you Community LINC for letting me be a part. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Employment Matters: Tenacity and Hard Work Pays Off

By Employment Services Job Coach Constance Taylor

When my current participant and her family entered our program, she had faith that she would find another job. She knew it would require a lot of hard work and time.

At least seven years ago, she divorced her children’s father and decided to focus on raising her young children using child support knowing she couldn’t find a job that would pay enough to cover child care. They moved into a single dwelling with several other adult family members and pooled their resources.

After the death of two of those family members, the pool of funds decreased drastically. They were unable to pay their rent on time and were evicted.

It was time to become self-sufficient.

She arrived in the employment lab each day before 9:00 AM, which demonstrated her eagerness and desire to secure employment. We created a resume and set up profiles on several job sights. Although, she had no computer skills and very little experience,  her strong interpersonal and communication skills were a good fit for the retail industry. 

Finally, I told her, I thought it was time to “hit the street” as we call it in the lab. It took one day of applying at various retail stores and she received a phone call from a small neighborhood merchant who was willing to give her a chance.

She secured employment in less than one month of her search because of her sincere tenacity and hard work. She is excited about the opportunities in her future.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Poverty Matters: Dare to Dignify

By Jeremy Lillig, CSJA, Managing Director, Bright Futures Fund

In my work with Community LINC and serving as the Managing Director for another nonprofit, I’m oftentimes reading essays and theories, both historical and current, on the issue of poverty.  Sometimes they cause me to stop and reflect.

Such was the case recently when reading one of my favorites on the topic, the late legend Dorothy Day.

While reading one of her essays she states, “We need to always be thinking about poverty, for if we are not among its victims its reality fades from us.  We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.“

This premise of this quote may seem obvious but when I stopped to reflect upon it I was reminded that we really don’t like to talk about it.  We do distance ourselves from it.  At times it’s almost as if we say “If I don’t know about it, it’s not really a problem.”
So what do we do?  How can we too be victims of poverty?  In the question so lies the problem.  We have lost our sense of community.  In a world in which we only see news that we want to on our smart phones and which community is defined by social media we have become more insulated than ever. Our opportunities to understand or even to listen to the struggles of our fellow person become difficult or nonexistent.  Perceptions are defined by anecdotal rants on Facebook and Twitter helping to define new stereotypes and generalizations to the plight of all.  How often have we in Kansas City heard someone complain about Jerry on the Plaza asking for a “down payment on a cheeseburger?”

Obviously I don’t have to answer to eradicate poverty from our society otherwise I would have done so long ago.  I do however have a few suggestions as to how we might help ourselves to help others.  The “little ways” can be extremely powerful and effective. 

1.  Treat people as people.  Don’t refer to people in poverty by slurs such as “bums,” “gangies,” or even refer to someone as “that homeless person.”  If you encounter someone find out their name,  or at least smile at them, make eye contact.

2.  Help to preserve dignity.  Answer someone who is panhandling.  If you can’t or prefer not to give them money say “I’m sorry I can’t help you today.”  Don’t ignore them as if they don’t exist. 

3.  Go and volunteer once a month.  Help out at Community LINC, St. James Place soup kitchen, etc.  Serve, talk with people, etc.  You’ll be amazed at how much you connect with people.  You’ll be thankful that you did.

These three suggestions are not revolutionary but they do require a revolution of our hearts in order to see them happen.  It takes effort but our lives will be all the more rich because of it.

In closing I leave you with the words from the inspiration for this post, Dorothy Day: 
“Suffering, sadness, repentance, love, we all have known these. They are easier to bear when one remembers their universality.  Life can be a lonely experience.  We don’t know what is going on in the depths of the heart and soul of another.  We scarcely know ourselves.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Volunteers Matter: It's in their faces

By Volunteer Coordinator Lonny Cohen

While giving an introductory presentation to a volunteer group of Rockhurst High School students recently, I was struck by the looks on these impressionable faces.  I saw the interest and the passion, but I also saw the faces of our next generation of Community LINC supporters. They are bright, they are compassionate and they did not mind breaking a sweat as they carried furniture and mulch and swung a shovel and pushed a broom. These are the next generation of Community LINC leaders.
Another face of our future is 17-year old volunteer Brooke, who comes faithfully each Tuesday night to help with the toddlers at our children’s programing. She’s great with the young children that attend the Tuesday night group and the young children seem to like really like her. 

In the next few weeks, we have several more opportunities to see more of the future of Community LINC when another group from Rockhurst High School comes back and a Youth Group from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection spends the day working on projects that are needed in the community.
Community LINC’s future lies with these young volunteers. Involving and educating them will pay off for years to come.