Call volume dipped a bit in July, but this is typical year over year, as it seems to be the time of year that everybody is vacation — helpers and people in need alike!!
As you’ll note in the chart below, big focus on furniture this month, with a full quarter of our call volume dealing with people looking to donate furniture, or looking for a way to furnish an empty place.
There were also a lot of “unusual requests,” although that doesn’t appear as easily in the data. Below you can hear us interpret what’s going on, and also look towards ways the Church might plug in to help serve our neighbors in need.
Let us join in prayer for those facing uncertainty in their families because they have lost work, or do not have enough work to make ends meet in these difficult times:
Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide us here in Whatcom County and throughout this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive a just reward for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We saw a huge flood of good will at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, but now that flush is petering out. While we have so far been spared a “worst case scenario” of need in our community, underlying problems have not gone away, and in many cases, have been exacerbated by this challenging time. And, we’re still waiting to see the full impact on our community!
What can we do, in view of these limitations and unknowns? In this video, Nathaniel and Heidi discuss how our Call Center helps with the screening process, helping to ensure that that all people we are helping through our churches are making full use of the resources available to them in the community. Effective screening and good boundaries help to make compassion ministries sustainable, especially needed in times like this when we’re looking at a future in which those serving people experiencing need will be asked to do more with less.
Five Big Needs in Whatcom County (and How you can Help)
Much of our work at Whatcom Love INC happens through our Call Center. We invite neighbors in need to call us for a compassionate ear and to be connected with resources in the local Church and in the community as we know about them.Connecting with this random sampling of neighbors experiencing need gives us data from which we can help interpret community needs for the Church and other people of good will, and encourage congregations and faith communities to respond strategically and in a coordinated fashion to respond in a way that prioritizes “gaps” in the current ecosystem of human services, targeting those needs that are currently going unmet.
As this crisis continues we wanted to share with you a few of the things that we have learned in the past couple of weeks.
Many pastors we’ve talked to are scrambling to try to connect people in their congregations with food and other necessities, and trying to set up internal systems to deal with these problems. In fact, however, the community resources available for this in Whatcom County are quite good. Besides the superb work being done by restaurants and grocery stores to ensure that we are all fed, and their efforts to provide safe access to food through special hours for vulnerable persons and expanded delivery and pick up options, the existing network of emergency food resources has adapted fairly successfully to the crisis, and is now being supplemented with other resources, such as free meals for kids from the school district. New resources have also emerged, such as the Community Helpers Facebook Group, which also now runs a hotline to connect people to help.
Church leaders may have other reasons to try to make these connections within their congregation, but it should be done for strategic reasons, and not because no other options are available. In general, however, we recommend that pastors who have a particular burden in this area support and partner with the existing community resources, continuing to work to make connections and referring people in need to the appropriate resource set up to serve them. Although the resources are strong, they are not perfect, and some people still fall through the cracks. The Church is one of the institutions that can help find and support people who have become isolated in and with their needs.
It is important to note, finally, that food security is an issue even in times where there is not a crisis, so there is still plenty of work to be done in this area.
Gas Vouchers and Travel Support
Many people have called Whatcom Love INC looking for gas vouchers, which under normal circumstances, we are able to provide through our network of partners. Interestingly, the Stay Home order seems to have increased the need for these resources, rather than decreased it — probably because so many of the usual sources of help in this area are temporarily closed. WTA busses are running for free (albeit on a limited schedule), but for a number of reasons, this doesn’t work for everybody. Many people, accordingly, are in need of gas to help them perform their essential life functions; others are seeking to return to a community where they have a stronger network and more access to support.
The good news here is that we have connected with a handful of churches who are willing to start (or resume) a gas voucher program. The bad news is, the offices of these churches are closed, or operating on a very limited basis. We are trying to find safe and sanitary drop points where vouchers (and potentially other needful items) could be given to those who qualify, or some other solution to this problem.
Furniture is not an immediate or emergency need for most of us: we can wait to replace that ailing bookshelf or broken recliner until regular life resumes. But can you imagine if you were starting from nothing? We’ve gotten several calls from people in our community who have recently been placed into housing after periods of homelessness, but that housing — of course — comes unfurnished, and they have nothing to furnish it with. This would be a difficult situation to deal with even in normal circumstances, but with everything closed, it becomes even more challenging.
Interestingly, calls from people looking to donate furniture have also increased over the past few weeks. Quarantine, it seems, has inspired more than one person into spring cleaning! There are no agencies currently accepting furniture, however, and usual donation-to-person in need connection programs like House 2 Home have also been suspended for the time being.
We’re looking for creative solutions to help people who are stuck in this situation during this time. One thing we would love to do is connect these callers to church groups who — if they might not be able to help them with furniture right away — might be able to get it lined up, and provide encouragement in the meantime.
Rent and Bills
Many bills will not be collected this month. Gov. Inslee’s moratorium on evictions will extend through at least April 17th, and with federal recommendation that it continue a further 120 days, the order will almost certainly be extended. It is not always clear, however, which bills have wiggle room, and what the consequences might be for falling behind — even on bills that are technically paused. Many people have called with questions about this, looking for help and advice.
Several helpful compilations of resources in this area already exist, and are being created almost daily. This article in the Bellingham Herald gives some helpful tips and resources, and this guide from the Department of Financial Institutions are some of the best we know of now. The number one piece of advice is calling the person to whom money is owed to reach an arrangement, which many people can handle on their own. However, this does not cover all needs. You can support your neighbors in this area through coordinated research, advocacy, help with communication tasks, and offering emotional and personal presence.
If you feel this is a skill that you have to offer, we encourage you to volunteer in our Call Center. We will also be also looking for volunteers who will be willing to coach and walk with neighbors “one-on-one” as they seek to recover and rebuild, and you can already sign up to begin the process of preparing and training for that work
Mental Health in Isolation
Several pastors in our network have members of their congregation who are suffering from various forms of addiction and mental illness. These congregants rely on their spiritual community and faith-based gatherings to help mitigate and cope with their symptoms and challenges. Social distancing has impacted these people even more extremely. Some pastors have a described feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness at watching the situation deteriorate for people in this kind of situation. How can the Church respond? What kinds of resources are available to help people whose experience of social distancing related isolation is especially severe?
Whatcom Love INC is in the early stages of developing learning circles for church leaders to help bring pastors together to explore these kinds of questions, and share ideas and resources. We’re also looking to expand our network of partners and collaborators who can help us help others help in this crucial time.
The Call for Help
Besides engaging directly with people in need through volunteer with our Call Center, we’re looking for people who might be willing to support our work by helping us do research on the needs that we are encountering, or on the other side with communications, by helping us produce short videos and compile articles like this one. Of course, you can help in a more informal way by sharing your ideas by an email or a comment: part of our purpose in compiling and sharing this material is to “crowdsource” ideas to solve these problems we’re seeing. We will also be hosting virtual learning circle gatherings to gain more ideas and connections to help us as we engage with the needs of our community. We encourage you to follow us on social media, sign up for our mailing list, and stay engaged with us as we seek to stay engaged with the community. It’s going to take all of us working together to thrive in the midst of these difficult times.
Our next Redemptive Compassion training seminar is coming up March 28th at Mountain View Christian Reformed Church!
Saturday, March 28, 2020 at Mountain View Christian Reformed Church 9 AM to 2 PM
***Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Seminar has been postponed***
In this interactive seminar style class, facilitated by Whatcom Love INC’s Executive Director, the Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Kidd, and our Call Center Coordinator, Heidi Olson, you will learn holistic concepts for grappling with real case studies using Redemptive Compassion principles.
Why do commonly-used methods seem ineffective in reducing ongoing need and bringing transformation? Many people are trapped in a crippling lifestyle of poverty and crisis and dependency; what causes this and why are our responses not working? How do we help the right way?
Redemptive Compassion® is a biblical philosophy covering how we can offer holistic help to those we serve in Christ. This training content was developed from fifteen years of working daily with people who are struggling with needs; it includes real case studies and applies effective principles for helping.
Since 2017, Whatcom Love INC has offered six training seminars across congregations in the county, introducing the language and philosophy of Redemptive Compassion to more than 300 Christians representing dozens of congregations. Our hope is that this program will serve the Church in being mobilized for local mission, to more effectively serve the least, the lost, and the lonely of our community.
Giving thanks to God at the beginning of this new year and new season, Whatcom Love INC will host a Celebration of New Ministry service to mark the installation of the Rev. Nathaniel Kidd, PhD as the organization’s Executive Director on Saturday, 29th February.
“Given the kind of organization that we are and the kind of work that we do, it is essential that we root and ground ourselves in worship,” comments Fr. Nathaniel. “Love INC is about seeing the local Church mobilized in local mission. That doesn’t happen because we work hard. That happens because the Spirit of God is at work in the people of God, making manifest the Kingdom of God, wherein we are reconciled to God and to one another because Jesus died for our sins on the Cross.”
Leaders and members of Whatcom Love INC’s 38 partner churches, volunteers and partner agencies, friends and neighbors, and all people who resonate with the burning heart desire to see the local Church united in local mission are invited and encouraged to attend and join in prayer for the new Director and the next season for this organization, which as served the community for over 30 years.
“I am hoping that this is an opportunity for people from all corners of our partnership to come together and focus on the main thing. The needs that we face in our community are too great for any one congregation, or any one entity. We can’t do it without Jesus, and we can’t do it without one another.”
The service will be held at First Presbyterian Church at 6 PM on Saturday, February 29th.
At a meeting on January 6, 2020, the Board of Whatcom Love INC began our meeting by prayerfully reaffirming our fixed and our ongoing center in Jesus Christ as an organization with the following statement:
At Whatcom Love INC, we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Without Him, no one comes to the Father.
Therefore, in all that we say, do, and are, we seek to glorify God and invite the Presence of Christ by encouraging a culture of prayer, creating an environment where conversations about our lives and journeys of faith is normal, regular, and expected, and casting a vision for the pivotal contribution that the Church and faith in Jesus Christ can make in personal and social transformation.
As a nonprofit whose missional end is social service, we serve neighbors and clients who come from all backgrounds, walks of life, and faith commitments. In this work, we collaborate with organizations that represent different faiths, and none. As much as possible, we strive to be hospitable and to respect the experience, culture, and beliefs of everyone we serve and serve with. We do this, however, without concealing or compromising who we are, whose we are, and what God has called us to be as a Jesus-focused, Church-based organization.
This is a challenge and a tension, and we don’t claim to live it perfectly. But we do claim to live it in prayer and in faith, in discernment and dialogue, in submission to the local Church, with a growth mindset and spirit of humility, as we seek to follow Jesus and the way that he has laid before us.
Please pray for us in the coming months as we seek the Lord’s favor in developing and growing our Board in numbers, faith, and solidarity!