Spring appears to be near! The sheltering season at OBK is drawing to a close on April 30th. We have served approximately 157 guests this year--many families and children included. We thought things were winding down, but over the last couple of days, new folks have needed us, and we are up to capacity again. Currently we have five children and 28 adults.
Most of the winter's guests have found their way into housing, employment, reunited with family or relocated out of the area. A few have been sheltered for most of the season for various reasons. We celebrate the successes and continue to help as we can our homeless and hopeless guests find a better path.
The volunteers have been amazing this year! FSU students, in particular, really stepped up and gave a hand. As always, we are VERY grateful for our over night volunteers and staff as well.
We currently have grant applications out to United Way, Mecosta County Community Foundation, Lake County Community Foundation and Osceola County Community Foundation and are anxiously waiting for replies so we can plan our next season, or....perhaps have some limited over night access in the warmer months. Cross your fingers!
Due to the lack of single unit housing availability in the area, board members plan to take a field trip to Madison, Wisconsin to visit their "Tiny House" community for homeless folks. We feel something like this could offer a real solution and know we have the community resources to pull it off!
Please keep OBK Shelter, its guests, volunteers and Board members in your prayers as we continue to look for understanding, funding, support and material resources to solve the problem of homelessness in the community. Save your "old treasures" for our summer yard sale. It's not too late to volunteer!
As we enter a new month with hopes for an end to the bitter cold, many of the guests at OBK shelter have been rewarded for their resourcefulness and persistence and have found homes! Our family of five has found a beautiful, brand new home to call their own! We will miss the helpfulness of the parents and the laughter and friendliness of their girls. Another guest found an affordable cabin to call his own and has connected with our medical social worker, Robin Dilg, to help him navigate his serious health problems and find transportation to treatments. After being on a waiting list for months, a guest found her fantastic apartment in Reed City. We will miss her humor and enthusiasm around the shelter!
It is so rewarding to see our young expectant couple learn how to have a healthy relationship, find employment and succeed at GED testing. We have watched this mom-to-be blossom and mature in the shelter and we celebrate this family reuniting. Now, if they could just find a place to live and raise their baby due in a few short months....
The guests were treated this past week with haircuts by stylist volunteers from a local salon! The video team from FSU is getting to know the guests in preparation for filming guest stories and shelter life.
As we celebrate, so we grieve, with one of our guests experiencing a stroke and being admitted to the hospital. A young father of precious little girls and a baby on the way has had ER visits and learned he has a chronic illness that will impact him for the rest of his life. We ask for prayers for healing for these guests. Our volunteers and guests always step up to support those in need.
Although we continue to struggle with filling our volunteer schedule, many have heard our plea for help and are being trained. Some new volunteers are so excited, they are inviting their friends to come in with them!
Grant proposals are being submitted to extend our season on an overnight basis so those still living at the shelter in April will not be left without "a meal a day and a place to stay". After turning away families due to lack of space, we are looking for additional shelter space to accommodate this growing need.
And we continue to dream of a place, not only for shelter, but to truly integrate the homeless population in our community--to provide job training, employment, affordable housing, and a continued community of support once they leave the shelter family.
We appreciate all those donors and volunteers who are helping our dreams come true and hope many more will come forward to help OBK see its vision fulfilled:
"Guests will have a life of hope, joy, and self-suffficiency"
This Valentine Day weekend is the coldest we have seen this winter. Mel Trotter shelter volunteers have gone out in search of homeless folks in the Grand Rapids area to bring them in to their shelter, whether they have been formerly banned or not. That is an amazing expression of caring on this day meant to celebrate love!
OBK shelter would love to have the space to have our homeless community members who aren't looking for the "fixes" we offer to at least get out of the cold. But we just don't have the room. Last week we sadly turned away two families with children as we were at our legal capacity.
This week we have had some successes with people finding employment and housing so now have a few free beds, but probably not for long.It is obvious that the problem is a mounting one and if we are to serve people in need, we need a larger space. We are exploring possibilities in the area and seeking funding.
We are blessed with a donation of venison from the recent deer cull in the city of Big Rapids as well as a donated pig from a 4 H volunteer! We will soon have a kitchen manager and will hopefully be allocated a grant from Mecosta-Osceola United Way to fund our manager position to include a "Teach Them to Fish" program--safe, nutritious, economical family meals! Part of the grant will fund local food sourcing.
The emphasis on volunteer recruiting, training and retention has a new focus. OBK wants its volunteers to feel they get as much, if not more, than they are giving. OBK is committed to helping volunteers feel comfortable and reach their personal goals as a volunteer.Trainings are most Saturdays at 10 am--just let us know if you plan to attend.
We are delighted to welcome Miranda, an FSU student, as our new Social Activities Coordinator. Miranda is adored by guests and has coordinated children's activities, a Super Bowl party and a Valentine's Day party, complete with a great meal and cookie decorating. No birthday will pass
unnoticed at OBK this year! She gets it!
If it has been too long since you felt your heart melt for those in need, please give us a call.
The opportunity of a lifetime is just a phone call away!
Although the recent winter weather has been moderate, the need for housing continues to mount. The last two weeks at OBK Shelter were met with daily requests for help and sheltering of up to 32 people. The cots were set up for the overflow and the volunteer schedule needed to be doubled up. Continuing the pattern of earlier in the season, most of our new folks are families with children.
We continue to struggle with having enough volunteers. Since those of us who do spend time in the shelter find it fun and rewarding, it's really difficult to understand why more volunteers are not coming forward, and why those who have had training, are not signing up for shifts. We need help!
Many successes can be reported this month with multiple jobs found, housing and potential housing for some, and a continued warm and supportive environment for the guests. A guest returned from rehab a changed man!
The guests are contributing to a box for uplifting comments addressed to others which is read at morning meeting and provides much needed encouragement. Spiritual and emotional support are thriving at OBK!
We hired Maureen to staff over nights with volunteer Stephan. We are looking forward to having someone to count on for consistent supervision and helping with clerical, sanitation, and inventory needs while the guests sleep. We hope to find funding for a kitchen manager to help provide nutritious and economical meals.
OBK continues to build relationships with local church congregations and we seek an OBK advocate for each church. We hope churches will assume some of the fundraising needed and are thankful for Immanuel Lutheran's recent Swedish dinner donation and St Mary's free will offering over the holidays.
For all reading this, there is a way to help by giving time, funding, advocacy, mentoring, transportation, and prayers.
May it be so.
Our Brothers Keeper Shelter board members and staff welcome 2015 knowing it will be filled with success and challenge. We have housed nearly 100 people so far this season and are grateful at seeing families reunited, housing and employment secured, and a warm and supportive community created.
We are soon saying goodbye to our in-house chef as she moves into her new place. Our pantries and freezers are full due to the generosity of our community. We hope someone will step forward to coordinate meals and teach cooking skills. Mealtime is certainly one of the friendliest times at the shelter!
Some of the guests who have found housing are now lonely and missing the shelter community. If we had mentors to provide continued support for these folks, their transition would be much easier. We welcome volunteers who could provide this support and those who would be willing to become a payee to insure the bills stay paid and housing is secured.
Our Volunteer Director, Michelle Richardson, has trained over 100 volunteers this year! Yet we still struggle to fill our shifts. Volunteering at OBK is a calling and provides volunteers with wonderful relationships, exposures to a diverse community, and a brand new perspective of homelessness. We provide shadowing and back up support and hope we have made the volunteering experience as fulfilling as possible!
This year, with the help of foundation grants, we look forward to hiring a second part time employee. We are challenged to find housing for our guests who have poor rental history and need another chance. We dream of having our shelter community carried into a long term housing option where people are housed, supported, and integrated into their new community!
We give many thanks to all the of private donors, contributors to our fundraisers, and, most of all, our wonderful VOLUNTEERS!! Hopefully 2015 will bring continued generosity of time, talents and financial contributions to keep the people who need us have safety, hope and success!
Below is the letter that was published in the Pioneer on September 16, 2014.
To the Editor,
Rev. James Young