Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 blessings

It’s hard to believe that we are just about to enter a brand New Year. Where in the world did 2010 go? As we close out this year, I am most grateful to God for sustaining His ministry through 2010 and bringing Hope Alive to a much brighter place financially than we’ve been in the past 3 years. It’s just one more confirmation from our heavenly Father that He is in control and intends for us to continue serving the growing number of homeless families searching for help and embrace them with God’s life-changing love offering them hope and a future.

As I look back on this year I’m especially grateful for our dedicated staff that goes far above and beyond the call of duty. Few know that all of our staff – whether they work daytime, evenings, or weekends – have helped to fill gaps in overnight coverage since September. The dedication of these wonderful women is truly inspiring and I am blessed every day to serve alongside such amazing servants of God.

Also this year, we’ve been blessed with the addition of new developmental assessments for our resident children participating in our child development programs. These new assessments – conducted initially upon intake and then quarterly – measure developmental progress and milestone achievement as well as identify developmental delays that require special services or individualized care and nurturing.

And as always, I am grateful for the ministry that God provides for the women and children who call Hope Alive home. Hope Alive’s residential program has proven to be effective in addressing the diverse and complex needs of our families and moving them forward in their journeys to health, wholeness and stable permanent housing. Each family – despite their length of stay – finds hope of a future. I find such encouragement in my own life journey from our moms who face overwhelming challenges head on with such courage and determination. They are among the most inspiring women I know.

I know that I speak for the Hope Alive staff when I say that the opportunity to serve at Hope Alive is life changing by strengthening our daily walk with Christ and seeing who He is and what He is able to do in and through us. I treasure the times like this morning when the staff gathered around our children to pray for the day and they all chime in with a loud "Amen!"

I want to say a special thank you to Sharon May who is leaving us after 3 ½ years of faithfully loving our Hope Alive families to spend more time with her grandchildren and to Doree Lynn Miles who has committed her gifts and talents over the last 4 ½ years to help make Hope Alive what it is today. We will dearly miss both of these wonderful ladies and wish them God’s richest blessings.

In these last few days of 2010, I encourage you to take the time to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings this year. And may we look forward to the New Year with anticipation and excitement at what God will continue to do!

(If you are interested – or know someone who is – we are searching for Doree Lynn’s replacement as our Development Coordinator. Check out the job posting on our website at

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wishing for a do-over

As I’ve shared in earlier blogs this month, I’ve been watching for holy moments this Christmas season when God reveals Himself to us in special ways. Unfortunately, God gave me one this week and I rushed right past it. After a Tuesday morning meeting, I parked my car in downtown Frederick to pick up some donations for Hope Alive from my friends at the Dancing Bear Toy store. After dropping my quarter in the parking meter, I ran across the street and walked down the sidewalk to their store when I saw a poorly dressed man with long hair and gray beard. He had a Styrofoam coffee cup in his hand. As he neared the trash can on the sidewalk, he placed his coffee cup on the wide rim of the trash can and reached down into it to rummage around – most likely looking for food.

Sadly, I didn't even stop to ask if he needed help or something to eat. After leaving my friend's store, I briefly glanced down into the same trash can wondering if he found something to eat and then headed back across the street to my car. As I turned to unlock my car door and get in, there he was again – standing near my car with the same coffee cup in his hand. He didn’t say a word, but just looked at me. I hesitated, but then hopped inside my car and pulled out into traffic and drove away leaving him behind - or so I thought.

As I headed north on Rt. 15 toward Hope Alive, I started to think about him again and God reminded me about an important lesson He taught me while working at the Frederick Rescue Mission 10 years earlier. God showed me through a holy moment that my loving Him is dependent on how I love and serve those who are needy and living without hope. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:35-40, that when we love and serve the “least of these brethren of Mine” that we minister to Jesus Himself. By reaching out to those in need we meet Jesus face to face.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this missed holy moment and found myself wishing for a “do-over”. This opportunity is gone, but I know I won’t let the next one go by without reaching out to the one in need with love. May these last two days before Christmas be filled with holy moments that fill us with God's love and peace ... especially the most holy moment we can experience by embracing the miraculous gift of God's Son Jesus who came to give us life. Merry Christmas!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas baby

On Tuesday morning we welcomed our newest resident to Hope Alive. This was not a new family moving in, but the birth of a newborn baby welcomed by her mother and big sister. Each resident mother and staff member was thrilled that our baby had finally arrived. Jody - our Family Ministry Specialist - couldn't wait to get to the hospital to meet our youngest resident and brought back photos on the digital camera to share. It's not only a new addition to this one family, but to the entire Hope Alive family. This new mother received several visits from other resident moms and staff making her feel especially loved. She'll have many hands to help when they return to Hope Alive.

I hope you are still looking for holy moments as we approach Christmas. Here's another one that I experienced right after my blog posting last week. Last Thursday's Gazette featured an article about Deer Crossing Elementary's "Kids Care Club members help the homeless". Here's an excerpt from the article.

"The club currently has about 120 children signed up, spanning kindergarten through fifth grade. The club meets monthly and regularly works on projects to help others. As part of this month's project, students decorated boxes to collect personal care items to help support Hope Alive, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps homeless women and children. Students are collecting toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, shampoo and conditioner to donate to the shelter. They are also accepting baby care products such as shampoo, lotion, diaper cream, and children's socks, gloves, hats and other similar items. To drive the lesson home on Friday, the students learned about homelessness and the difference between a want and a need." One young student said, "I want a ferret, so I'll need ferret food. I'm also lucky to have my bed."

No one at Hope Alive even knew this was happening. For me, reading the article was a holy moment realizing there were 120 elementary school children in Frederick County who had spent their after school hours with one mission in mind - to help others.

What an inspiring testimony of the power of God's love working through young and tender hearts to make a difference in the lives of struggling families right here in our own backyard. Click here to read the entire article

In our last week before Christmas, stay focused on the real reason for the season - Jesus! May you and your family know God's love through the indescribable gift of His Son who came to give us life and hope! Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, December 10, 2010

Santa's workshop

I think I’ve seen more Santa’s Workshops advertised this year than ever before. Traditionally they are holiday shopping experiences for children to purchase reasonably priced gifts for family members. Last year my granddaughter shopped for her mom and dad, younger brother, dog Remmie and grandparents at the Santa’s Workshop in her elementary school. I still have my treasured votive candle, cologne, and reindeer bread basket she bought especially for me. But what’s most meaningful is the love that she expressed through her gift-giving.

Here at Hope Alive we too have a Santa’s Workshop each year. The sign went up this week on our conference room door where shopping bags of donated gifts are sorted so our resident moms and children can shop for each other. With little or no income, Christmas shopping is a luxury homeless families cannot afford. So Santa’s Workshop gives our moms the dignity they deserve by allowing them to provide gifts for their children. More importantly, it’s an expression of an outpouring of love and hope! They are overwhelmed by the gifts given for them! They can hardly believe that strangers care so much for families they have never met. We know this is just one more way God reaches into their hearts and souls to embrace them with His life-changing love!

Thank you to all who make this lavish expression of love possible. Thank you for keeping hope alive for each precious life we serve. My prayer for you is that you will know God’s indescribable love by receiving the gift of His Son Jesus this Christmas. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holy moments

Yesterday, I received a weekly e-mail update from my church. Reading through the information about worship and activities for next week, I clicked on the YouTube link – Hallelujah in the Mall – “to put some lift in your holiday spirit”. As I watched the video, a peaceful feeling came over me. The video showed an outbreak of the Hallelujah Chorus from choir members strategically seated in the mall’s eatery. As the shoppers caught on to what was happening, a holy hush came over the crowd. The highlight for me was a brief moment captured by the videographer where a mother lovingly reached down to hold her young child’s hand. By the end of the Chorus, many of the observers were on their feet singing with the choir and lifting holy hands in praise to God Almighty. It was a holy moment in the midst of the Christmas rush. (Check out the link at

This is the essence of Christmas. We need to put aside the busyness of the season – the absorption in the shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and parties - and reach out in love to create holy moments offering praise to God for the indescribable gift of His Son Jesus who came to offer us peace and eternal life.

At Hope Alive, we experience holy moments almost every day with the lavish outpouring of love and compassion that we receive this time of year – from the bountiful Thanksgiving meal provided for our resident families to the hand crocheted caps and blankets made by loving hands for our two new babies on the way to the caring notes of encouragement and support written by donors and volunteers. Through every act of kindness and love, we experience the presence and love of God – truly a holy moment!

Please take time to share your holy moments with us and others to help us focus on the real reason for the season. May you and your family be blessed with a peace-filled holy holiday.

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

P.S. Remember to use GoodShop - - for your online holiday shopping (complete with coupons) to take the stress out of your days. And by choosing Hope Alive as your charity, your gift giving will also benefit our resident families!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Much to be thankful for

Tomorrow is turkey day, but more importantly it’s a time to stop and give thanks to God for His abundant blessings in our lives. We have much to be thankful for!

The middle of last week, a new family moved in to Hope Alive – a beautiful young family who has been struggling with housing instability and multiple challenges since they were displaced by hurricane Katrina over five years ago. As an ex-marine, this young mother was determined to find a better life for her family so she left New Orleans with a baby and young son to live with family members in our area.

Since then she’s been moving from house to house. Throughout this time, she continued working, walking 3 miles each way. They hadn’t slept in a bed since June except for the week in the Econolodge before coming to Hope Alive. Her son has been in 11 schools, but now with the stability they’ve found at Hope Alive he can begin to enjoy his childhood. He just learned to ride a bike for the first time yesterday. Her preschooler danced through our children’s center this morning saying she just loves her big new house. In one short week, this mom has accomplished more than most moms do in their first month here.

Her one wish for Christmas was a bed and a roof over their heads. Thanks to God’s love and faithfulness, their wish was granted in time for Thanksgiving. Tomorrow will be an especially wonderful day for this family.

You can read her inspiring story online in tomorrow’s Gazette. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? I know it does me. We take so much for granted and easily forget about the basics of life that most of us are blessed with in this country. I pray that tomorrow will be a time of reflection and gratitude to God for all He has done in our lives and the marvelous ways He cares for us each day.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him; bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5

Happy Thanksgiving! Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"I got the house!"

“I got the house! I got the house!” These words echoed through the halls at Hope Alive first thing Monday morning. One of our resident families ready to move to our after-care phase had been patiently searching for “affordable” housing in the Thurmont area. The call she had been waiting for came Monday morning. This is one of the major milestones a Hope Alive family can achieve while participating in our residential program, but it’s only the first step in a brand new life filled with hope and a future. They are moving out this weekend absolutely thrilled to have their very own place to call home. And the best part is they are still close to Hope Alive and the support network she’s created for her family. In her excitement over the news, she raised her hands to thank God for all He has done in their lives.

The other "news" we received this week was pretty discouraging. Jody Julian (our Family Ministry Specialist) received a ruling from the Department of Social Services that our newest mom's participation in GED classes would not satisfy the state of MD’s requirement for 20 hours per week of “approved activity” to qualify for Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) ($560 per month for a family of three). The state of MD blesses welfare recipients with a $500 cash award when passing the state GED exam, but makes no allowance (for women with children under the age of 6) to fulfill the class and study time required to pass the test. If she were taking college classes, however, she would be credited with one hour of "approved activity" for each credit hour taken in addition to an allowance for study time. If her children were over the age of six, she would be required to do 30 hours per week of "approved activity" to receive TCA benefits, but she would be credited 10 hours per week for time spent in GED classes and on homework. Make sense? Not to us!

So what does all this mean for our young mother who is committed to working hard to change her life? It means this young mother will be spending 20 hours per week in GED classes plus homework time to prepare for the state exam plus 20 hours per week of community service to satisfy the "approved activity" requirement plus 36 hours in a job readiness program next week plus directed job search for 40 hours over the following 3 weeks plus her mental health appointments plus appointments for her children’s physical health plus social service appointments, etc. And don't forget about her children that she needs to feed, bathe, love, and play with. But with Hope Alive’s assistance and God’s faithful provision, she will earn her GED, land a descent job, and one day shout, “I got the house!”

This is just one issue in a growing list of injustices we are discovering within the “system”. Thanks for your interest and continued support in the important work God has called us to do. I won’t be writing next week, but check back the week of Thanksgiving. Thanks for reading!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hope is where I'm supposed to be

Two weeks ago a new family moved in to Hope Alive. Their first week with us was a huge transition for this young mother and her two little preschoolers - new house, new bed, new people, new day care, new home! The staff lovingly worked with this family to help make a smooth transition. For the first couple of days there were many tears from her children as they tried to figure it all out. But it wasn’t long before they had made new friends with our other youngest residents, were enjoying the playground and feeling at home.

Yesterday I watched these two young children in Abba’s Angels (our child development program for infant through preschool). The little girl was happily preparing breakfast in the play kitchen. She and her “guest” were eating honey buns and apples. Her younger brother was busy babbling to the staff as we assembled for prayer. Both of them excitedly joined our prayer circle to hold hands with the new adults in their lives that they have so quickly come to know and trust.

These are just a few of the comments their mother has made since they arrived … “I knew I needed to consider a solution to moving from place to place. When I called one day and “HOPE” appeared on my caller ID I knew this is where I am supposed to be.” “Beside a couple of family members, I have never trusted anyone to care for my child as much as I do Miss Ashley.” “What I like about this place is no one looks down on you because you are homeless; they just understand.”

This family has started attending a local church. Mom started her GED classes this week knowing her children are safe and well cared for. In just a few short weeks, this young family has found new stability in their lives and hope of a future. Thank you for making this possible by your support and interest in the work God has called us to do. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Next step of the vision

For the past month, God has been stirring my heart again for the next step of the Hope Alive vision. With three families graduating from the residential program this year, we are reminded that the lack of affordable housing in Frederick County remains a major barrier for our families that are prepared to be on their own. Of the four families that have graduated from Hope Alive, only two are able to maintain housing in Frederick County.

Our first resident family is moving from temporary rental housing – provided by a generous donor for two years – to permanent affordable housing just across the state line in PA. We celebrate their achievement, but are troubled that this mother can’t afford Frederick County’s fair market rent on her own ($1,461/month for a two bedroom apartment) and is forced to move her family away from the community that has so strongly supported them for the past 3 ½ years. She’ll be able to commute to her permanent full-time job, but she’ll most likely be searching for a new faith community and transferring her children to new schools. Hope Alive is still only a phone call and short drive away so we will continue to offer our emotional support as we always have. We’re finding that even though our families move out of Hope Alive and successfully complete the after-care phase, we never sever the ties. We will always be family!

Don't get me wrong - we have more than enough to do right now, but with Hope Alive’s improving financial stability I’m praying God will make a way for us to remove this significant barrier by exploring affordable housing options in 2011.

If you are interested in learning more about this need or joining with us in this effort to eliminate one more barrier to self sufficiency, let me know. I'd love to talk to you! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, October 22, 2010

God appointed reunions

Last night was Hope Alive’s annual Resident Achievement Banquet. What a blessing to celebrate the Abundant Harvest that God has produced in the lives of our resident families! As promised, it was truly an inspiring evening hearing the successes and testimonies shared by our resident moms. There was not a dry eye in the house. Check out today's Frederick News Post for a photo and coverage of the event

Also last night, God appointed reunions for two of our residents that He orchestrated “behind the scenes”. This past Tuesday, a new family moved in to Hope Alive – a young mother with two preschool children. Reconnecting with her brother who had been in prison and then a halfway house is one of her immediate goals that she shared with Jody even before she moved in. God ordained that reunion to occur last night! Her brother knew she was referred to Hope Alive, but didn’t know she was already a resident. He attended last night’s banquet at the invitation of his pastor friend and mentor that he had connected with while in prison. Needless to say, they were both shocked and ecstatic to meet each other face to face in this unexpected place and time. It was an emotional reunion!

Secondly, one of our graduate moms was walking past my table to go to the buffet line, when she stopped in her tracks having recognized my guest as her ESL classmate from last year. My guest had passed FCC’s dental assistant program this past spring and her state licensing exam so I asked if she'd be willing to tutor one of our Hope Alive graduates who had completed the dental assistant program the previous year but was too nervous to take the state test. My friend said she’d be happy to work with her. To my surprise, the two women I was trying connect already were and God appointed their reunion last night. God is always two steps (or more) ahead of us in working out His plan in our lives!

Were these reunions coincidental? No way. I believe God perfectly appointed these two reunions to occur last night in His perfect timing! Isn’t our God amazing? Yes indeed!

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Highlights of the week

Each week I consider what highlight of the week I should write about in my weekly blog. But this week, I found myself starting and restarting this blog way too many times having difficulty focusing on just one topic to write about. This week has been an array of activities and experiences. Here are the highlights …

On Monday, we received notice of a $15,000 grant award to Hope Alive from the Foundation for Spirituality and Medicine. This Foundation supports the work of organizations that focus on the integration of spirituality and health. Our foundation of faith in Christ undergirds everything we believe and do and is integrated into every program component area offered to our resident families – one of which is health management focusing on our resident families’ acute and chronic physical, dental and mental health issues. We are so grateful for their belief in our mission and generous support of our work.

Also on Monday, we had two new additions to our ministry team. Susan Hagelin started as our new full-time children’s preschool teacher. Ashley, our Children’s Ministry Director, is overjoyed to say the least! Debbie Dunn started her year of service as the new Volunteer MD Coordinator. Praise the Lord for answered prayers!

I spent the day in Washington, DC on Wednesday participating in the Library of Congress’ Combined Federal Campaign agency fair. I had the pleasure of talking with many Library employees and answering their questions about Hope Alive. Tearfully, one woman told me about a young mom and her child who she is housing in her tiny apartment. She said she wouldn’t be able to help them much longer, but they didn’t have any where else to go. She was grateful to hear there is a place like Hope Alive that might be able to help this young family.

On Thursday, one of our youngest residents was home sick from school. He proceeded to tell me that he had thrown up at school the day before in the computer lab - all over the computer keyboard, mouse and even got some on his hand. He’s feeling much better now. His description made me feel a bit queasy myself. Also on Thursday, we had a photographer here taking photos for the November issue of Elegant Living featuring Karlys Kline and the Women’s Giving Circle she founded here in Frederick County. As part of the story, they wanted to highlight one of the many nonprofits that the Women’s Giving Circle generously funds. Hope Alive has been one of their selected charities for the past four years. Karlys enjoyed meeting our youngest resident during her photo session with us.

At Thursday’s staff meeting, Jody announced that one of our resident moms was just elected to be the HeadStart parent representative from the Emmitsburg center to the monthly Frederick County meeting. We are all proud of the commitment this mom has made to her child's education. Way to go mom!

On Thursday evening, volunteers from Frederick Community College’s AAWCC chapter (Association of American Women in Community College) were here for their monthly visit including dinner and a special activity for the children. Moms and kids alike enjoyed the dinner they provided and the opportunity to create painted wooden picture frames.

And as we close out the week, we’re busy with the final preparations for our Resident Achievement Banquet next Thursday, October 21 at Dutch’s Daughter. This is by far my favorite Hope Alive event of the year. There’s usually not a dry eye in the house as our resident women are recognized for their achievements and share their inspiring stories of courage and hope. There’s still time to reserve your seat, so check out our website for more information at Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Honoring our staff

Well it’s finally sunny today after days of chilly temps, rain, and dreary skies. I don’t know about you, but I feel much better after waking up this morning to see the sun!

This week I want to honor Hope Alive’s incredibly dedicated and gifted staff. Everyone who serves on Hope Alive’s ministry team is fully committed to serving Christ and those in our care. They make personal and family sacrifices to be here. It’s definitely not for the paycheck!

Our staff works unceasingly with our resident families to teach, guide, and coach each mother and child on their daily journeys to health, wholeness and stable permanent housing. The struggles each woman faces often feel insurmountable, but with God’s unconditional love and acceptance, each mother finds strength and determination to press on toward hope and a future. Our staff loves and nurtures the children in our care so their families are strengthened and they can grow and develop to their full God-given potential.

Sound like a fairy tale? It’s the truth and the honor I have every day to serve with such incredible women – Ashley, Doree Lynn, Jody, Laura, Missy, Rhonda, Sharon, and our on-call staff Amanda, Cathy, Rachelle, and Tricia. They are amazing women – each offering such wonderful gifts and talents that allow us to truly serve as the Body of Christ. I praise and thank God for their love for our Savior, commitment to sacrificial service, and their dedication to God's people in need. We’re thrilled to welcome two new ministry team members next week – Susan who is joining our children’s staff and Debbie who comes to us from Volunteer Maryland.

Don’t forget about our upcoming Resident Achievement Banquet on Thursday, October 21. I hope you are planning to attend – it’s an inspirational evening you won’t forget. Check out our website at or call us at 301.241.4005 for more information or to make your reservations. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's a miracle!

Are you ready for the total? Today is the day we said we’d announce the total monies raised in response to the Ausherman Family Foundation Challenge Grant. As of today, we’ve received $36,326 in new gifts from our faithful and generous donors! When you consider the Foundation’s matching grant of $25,000 plus their initial $25,000 operating grant they awarded, the total in new funds raised since mid July exceeds $86,000! Thank you to our friends at the Ausherman Family Foundation and everyone who participated for believing in our mission and making this possible. I don’t know about you, but I believe this is a true miracle of God!

Back in the spring of this year, our financial picture was discouraging. Yes, we’ve always believed that God would provide for this ministry, but what He’s done far exceeded my hopes and prayers. What an amazing God we serve!

Thanks to this abundant blessing, we are able to fill once again to capacity. However, we cannot get too comfortable as the work of serving homeless women and children not only continues but has become more urgent than ever before. Just today we received four calls from homeless families living in motels or doubled up with family or friends.

Thank you for making this possible and being a part of this amazing journey of faith. We serve an absolutely amazing God and we know without a doubt that with Him all things are possible! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, September 24, 2010

What's a mother to do?

Today is Fair Day. In Frederick County, it’s practically “un-American” not to go. Frederick County Public Schools are closed so kids can attend. But what’s a mom to do when you have very limited income?

For some Hope Alive families Fair Day has been a long-standing tradition for their families. But due to their present circumstances and very limited finances, each mom is encouraged to set very strict boundaries for their families. So Jody – our Family Ministry Specialist – works with each mom to set a very tight budget for the day designating a small fraction of their limited income for a fun family outing and leaving all other monies at home for current expenses and designated savings. They talk with their children before going – explaining that they’ll be visiting the animals and exhibits and not riding the rides. They eat before leaving and take snacks in a bag.

So you may ask, “why go at all”? Well, it’s important for our moms and children to make family fun time a priority. They don’t take summer vacations and seldom get to visit fun places so this one day can be a big treat. And when they go back to school on Monday, for once they feel like the other kids at school and they can talk about their trip to the Great Frederick Fair.

About the family I mentioned last week ... they moved in on Tuesday and now have a home! Check out my blog next Friday. We’ll be announcing our Challenge Grant total! I hope you’re planning to attend our upcoming Resident Achievement Banquet on Thursday, October 21 at Dutch’s Daughter’s. I promise it’s an evening you won’t forget. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Offering hope to the hopeless

First thing Monday morning, a young woman came to our door with her 3 year-old. She and her two children are living in a car since loosing their housing. That morning she was referred to Hope Alive by the Housing Authority so she drove out immediately to see if we could help. Jody – our Family Ministry Specialist – met with her and started an intake. The mother explained that her older son is in school every day and she allows him to ride the bus after school to the neighborhood where they lived so there’s some familiarity to his daily routine. She picks him up from the bus and they ride around for a while and spend the night in the car.

Near the end of Jody’s intake with this mother, the three year-old started to cry and said she wanted to go home. The mother explained that they’d be leaving soon, but instead of going home they needed to ride around a little while longer. Jody was able to offer her hope since we have room to take in this family. Tuesday was the mother’s and child’s birthdays.

Can you imagine living in a car with your children? Can you imagine your child coming home from school not knowing where you’d be sleeping that night? Can you imagine spending your birthday homeless with no gifts or means to celebrate?

Even with the flood of calls we’re receiving, we never become calloused or insensitive to each caller's desperate situation. Jody never completes a call without offering the woman hope – either through referrals to other community services (as limited as they are) or by offering prayer and encouragement. Please pray for each homeless family in our community – and across this country – that is struggling to survive and that more funding and services become available to meet these critical needs.

We are blessed by the generous outpouring of support we've received in the past two months that is enabling us to serve as many families as possible this year. To hear about the dramatic life-change our resident families experience and the abundant harvest God is producing in their lives, please plan to join us at our third annual Resident Achievement Banquet on Thursday, October 21 at Dutch’s Daughter’s Restaurant. It’s an evening you don’t want to miss! Check out our website at for details. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, September 10, 2010

We're getting closer!

The Ausherman Family Foundation's $25,000 Challenge Grant to match all new donations dollar-for-dollar to Hope Alive is still in process. How can you help? Visit for more information and stay tuned for our final update on Friday, October 1! In addition, God has brought us a full-time Volunteer MD Coordinator – an Americorp program through the Governor’s office – at a minimal cost to Hope Alive!

With God’s faithful provisions enabling us to lift our intake freeze, there’s one remaining barrier to Hope Alive filling to capacity. We have an urgent need for additional children’s ministry staff in order for us to serve more children. As a licensed center by the State of MD, we are required to maintain strict child to staff ratios. Check out the job listings below and contact us if you or someone you know feels called to join our ministry team. (We also have a need for on-call Residential Assistants.)

CHILD CARE PRESCHOOL TEACHER - This full-time position is responsible for the successful implementation of programs and activities for Hope Alive’s infant/preschool program under the direction of the Children’s Ministry Director. Applicants must be 19 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent and a 90-hour Certificate of Completion in acknowledged Child Care-COMAR required classes and be qualified as a child care teacher in a preschool center by MD Office of Child Care, and have a valid driver’s license. Experience working with infants is required.

CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER AIDE - This part-time afternoon position (15-20 hours per week) is responsible to assist with programs and activities in the children’s center working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers under the direction of the Children’s Ministry Director. Applicants must be at least 16 years of age and have a valid driver’s license. Experience working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers is preferred.

ON-CALL RESIDENTIAL ASSISTANT - This "as needed" part-time position is responsible for oversight of the program services and safety of the residents and the property during evening and weekend shifts. Applicants must be 19 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent and a valid driver’s license. Experience in a residential setting is preferred.

To apply for the positions listed above, go to our website at and complete a Hope Alive employment application and send a resume and cover letter to or call 301.241.4005 for more information.

Please help us spread the word about our push to reach our Challenge Grant goal and our urgent need for children’s ministry and on-call staff. Also, keep in mind we are depending on the generous outpouring of support we’ve experienced to continue as we approach year-end and plan for services in 2011. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back to school blues

Our resident children are back to school, but their first week wasn’t the school start that we hoped for.

Last week, one of our youth broke his ankle during football practice. To say he’s disappointed is an understatement. He’s tempted to disregard the doctor’s instructions and cut off his cast and return to the field. It’s difficult for an active youth who has the talent to be the star of his team to “rest” and “take it easy”.

One of our youngest school-age children went off to public school for the first time. Her first day went smoothly and she came home telling her mom she loved school, but on her return trip home the second day, the bus had a minor accident. The school principal called Hope Alive to notify her mom about the accident and the bus delay. When asked if someone could come pick her up, the principal replied, “no, all children have to stay on the bus until the investigation by the police and school system is complete." It was nearly 5:45pm when she finally stepped off the bus to meet mom at our driveway – hot, tired, and very hungry. She told her mom, “the bus ran over a stop sign, but didn’t kill it!”

During their first week in the after-school program, our school-age residents complained about how heavy their backpacks were as they trudged up the driveway. They complained about the snacks that were prepared and they didn’t mind telling you they’d prefer not to do homework. (Keep in mind these are all boys!) They sheepishly admit though that they like school and their teachers and are making new friends.

We are grateful to God for the stability He offers each family at Hope Alive and the hope of a promising future. Contrary to statistics for homeless children, our youngest residents DO attend school regularly, improve academic performance and grades, identify and address learning disabilities and developmental delays, and progress toward high school graduation!

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, we are searching for a full-time preschool teacher and a part-time aide to expand our children’s ministry staff to meet licensing regulations to meet the needs of our youngest residents. Help us spread the word. We can't take more children until these positions are filled. Check out our website at for details.

And one more update … we are more than half way toward our $25,000 Challenge Grant goal! You can find information on this special dollar-for-dollar matching grant opportunity on our website too. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, August 27, 2010

Intake freeze lifted!

Thanks to the generosity of the Ausherman Family Foundation and the response and faithfulness of Hope Alive’s donors, we are able to lift our intake freeze and fill once again to capacity! In July, the Ausherman Family Foundation awarded Hope Alive a $25,000 emergency operating grant and a $25,000 Challenge Grant matching dollar for dollar every donation we receive – resulting in $75,000 in much-needed funding to serve as many homeless families as possible this year! Thanks to the outpouring of matching gifts from our generous donors, we are almost at the half-way mark (in just one month’s time) to reaching the $25,000 match! The outpouring of gifts from our friends and the Foundation is allowing us to serve more homeless families with a family of five moving in next week! Thank you and keep spreading the word about this special opportunity so we meet the $25,000 goal (and beyond) as quickly as possible!

Lifting our intake freeze presents a new challenge – the need for additional children’s ministry staff to maintain child/staff ratios (required by state licensing regulations) as our resident population grows. Our summer staff returned to college in mid August and our recruiting efforts this summer have been unfruitful in bringing qualified applicants to our doors. You’ve been so effective in helping us spread the word about the Challenge Grant that I’m hoping you can help us with our staffing challenge. The positions we need to fill as quickly as possible are a full-time preschool teacher (with a 90 hour certification) and a part-time (afternoons) aide. More information on these positions can be found on our website at on the “Get Involved” page or by calling us at 301-241-4005. We know God’s timing is always best so we wait – trusting and believing that God will bring us His servant to join our ministry team to meet the needs of our youngest residents.

Enjoy the beautiful weekend weather as summer winds to a close. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Graduation celebrations

Graduation in August? Not traditionally, but at Hope Alive we are thrilled to celebrate resident graduations any time of the year! Tomorrow we celebrate the most significant milestone that a family can achieve while at Hope Alive – graduation! In fact, we not only have one graduation to celebrate tomorrow evening, but two! You may have read these families’ stories in our August issue of Hope Matters. Their official “move out” dates were in June and July, but these two special moms and their children wanted to graduate together and with their busy lives it was challenging to find an agreeable date. Tomorrow evening, their life-change and many achievements will be celebrated as they have successfully transitioned to independent living!

What’s especially encouraging to me is the list of guests they have invited. These are their new support networks they have formed for themselves since coming to Hope Alive – volunteers, colleagues, new friends, new families that have embraced them as part of their own, and family relationships that have been mended and reconciled.

As I’ve mentioned before, when a family graduates, it’s not “good-bye”, but “see you soon” because we remain in what seems like constant contact. These moms call to tell us of their successes and struggles and appropriately ask for advice and support when needed.

It will be a wonderfully inspiring evening filled with tears and laughter and thanksgiving to God for all He has done in their lives!

Don’t forget our dollar for dollar match going on right now – thanks to the generosity of the Ausherman Family Foundation. Check out our website at for more information and help us spread the word! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Family homelessness strategies

I read a very interesting blog this week by Ralph da Costa Nunez, President of the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, that encouraged me in our work at Hope Alive. He states that rapid rehousing – an iteration of the Housing First strategy – has become the dominant trend among the homeless policy and services community. Rapid rehousing’s 2009 federal legislation, Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) and Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH Act), have changed the approach to family homelessness. The legislation's goal is to move the homeless as quickly as possible into permanent housing with access to support services. Granted, this strategy has proven successful in helping chronically homeless single adults exit the roles of homelessness, however, it's been much less effective when applied to homeless families.

He cites in his blog, “Rapid rehousing applies the same Housing First principle to all families, regardless of needs, and despite the fact that the causes of family homelessness are complex and families often face multiple barriers to self-sufficiency. The strategy’s short-term focus on housing ignores the multi-faceted realities of these families’ lives – relegating adult education, job training, income supports, domestic violence issues, or health problems to secondary importance. Data are beginning to show that rapid rehousing may have serious longer-term consequences for families and family shelter systems … they have not been effective in achieving the long-term goal of permanently transitioning families to self-sufficiency. Clearly, reducing the shelter census should not be the goal – permanent self-sufficiency should be.” In fact what’s happening in New York City is that recidivism rates for families returning to homelessness are skyrocketing to a projected 179% by the end of this fiscal year.

AMEN brother! So what does this mean to Hope Alive? It means we stay the course in our mission of providing transitional housing and comprehensive support services to empower women and children with Christian values, dignity and the skills they need to live self-sufficient lives filled with hope and a future. We have not and will not be swayed by government dollars or dictated trends and priorities. Housing first is not our primary objective and we stay committed to addressing the root causes of family homelessness and offering the most effective and innovative solution that helps families exit the roles of homelessness once and for all.

I encourage you to check out his very thought-provoking and informative blog – “One Size Does Not Fit All: Rapid Rehousing and Homeless Families” – at and share your thoughts. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homeless trends

A woman and her two young children sleeping in a laundromat? Here in Frederick County? Sounds impossible in this day and age, but unfortunately this was reality for one homeless family that called Hope Alive this week.

I’ve been blogging a lot recently about the alarming increase in the number of homeless families calling us for help – 45% increase from January to July of this year compared to the same period last year. Sadly, the callers are becoming more desperate than ever before.

Here are some trends Jody Julian, our Family Ministry Specialist, has seen in recent calls for services. More homeless families are …

* persistent in calling multiple times as their homeless crisis has not been resolved,
* living doubled up with friends and family members in subsidized housing – placing their subsidized housing in jeopardy,
* calling us having already accessed all available services,
* moving from county to county and even across state lines, hoping to find help,
* calling from out of the region and other states,
* facing homelessness due to foreclosure.

So what do we do? Thanks to the Ausherman Family Foundation’s generous operating grant and $25,000 Challenge Grant matching dollar for dollar every donation we receive, we are able to lift our intake freeze and help as many families as possible.

You may be wondering what happened to the mom and two young children sleeping in the laundromat. Fortunately, the first agency they contacted – the Frederick Community Action Agency – sent out a staff member to confirm their situation (as they prioritize their intakes based on their emergency situation) and they were able to take them into the City shelter right away.

Please pray for the families that are struggling to survive right here in our own backyard and pray for the families we serve to fully embrace the opportunity for life-change and exit the roles of homelessness once and for all. We are so grateful for your support that makes this possible. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, July 30, 2010

Achieving our mission

I’m excited to announce that Hope Alive’s program committee is nearing the completion of our first formal evaluation of our program services. The program committee has been meeting for weeks with staff, residents, program graduates, and volunteers to conduct interviews and complete questionnaires that were developed to measure our results and determine if we are achieving our mission.

The committee members have dedicated countless hours to finalizing a quality evaluation plan, creating questionnaires, interview questions, and data collection tools, contacting staff, residents and volunteers and scheduling and conducting more than 50 interviews. I am so grateful for the committee’s professional expertise, dedication to this process and commitment to our mission and the leadership of Ingrid Manfredo.

Results are scheduled to be released in August. I’m not expecting an A+ report card, but recognize that the purpose of this process is to identify what’s working and what’s not so we can continue to improve the delivery of our program services to more effectively meet the needs of homeless women and children and empower them with Christian values, dignity and the skills they need to live self-sustaining lives filled with hope and a future.

Don’t forget to let your friends and family know about our $25,000 Challenge Grant from the Ausherman Family Foundation matching dollar for dollar every donation we receive! Help us spread the word and check out our website at ttp:// for more information on this tremendous opportunity to raise critically needed funds to serve a growing number of homeless families in our community! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How God works

As a Christian ministry, there are two questions we are commonly asked: “Are your religious activities mandatory for residents?” and “Do you serve women of other faiths?” The answers to these questions are “no” and “yes”.

Spiritual activities and church involvement is optional for every mother and child who comes through our doors. Our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is one of our four core values. It’s because of our foundation of faith in Christ that we serve God’s people in need and embrace them with His life-changing love as the key to change and transformation. We live out our faith daily and love every mother and child with God’s love until they want to know the God who loves them for themselves.

We serve women (and children) of all faiths or no faith at all. A spiritual review is part of our family needs assessment to determine (among many other things) a family’s spiritual background and if the mother has a desire to grow in her faith during her time at Hope Alive. Then she decides what those spiritual goals are for herself and her children.

From an email I received this week from Jody Julian, our Family Ministry Specialist, here’s one example of how this happens.

“I overheard a preschooler speaking to a volunteer as they were doing a puzzle together in our children’s center. The volunteer commented that the man in the puzzle was Jesus and the young child said, ‘I have never met Him before.’ To the volunteer’s reply, ‘You haven’t?’ the child said, ‘No, my mommy has never taken me to see Him before.’”

“The next day I was going over the schedule for next weekend with the mom. She had made changes in her daughter’s schedule in terms of meeting up with a family member so her daughter could go to church. A few hours later she also came to me and told me she was so excited because in our recent clothing donations she found a “church dress” that fit her perfectly and her daughter has never had a church dress. It was also a “coincidence” that there were matching shoes that fit too. This Sunday she plans to talk to the pastor as one of her first identified goals is to get her daughter baptized.”

See how God works? No pressure, no mandatory participation. We remain faithful to our calling, obedient in service, and continue to live out our faith each day as a testimony to the lives we touch and He works in each mother and child’s life as He wills.

Please keep those questions coming and let me know if there’s something in particular you’d like to hear about in my blog. And don’t forget about our $25,000 challenge grant from the Ausherman Family Foundation matching dollar for dollar every donation made to that amount. Help us spread the word! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, July 16, 2010

Great news!

I have great news! It's no secret that like many other nonprofit organizations, Hope Alive has faced difficult financial challenges for the past two years. We have been open and honest about our financial position while aggressively working to find solutions. Of course, the smartest solution is to increase income while cutting expenses. Since 2008, we've cut our expenses by more than 30% yet maintaining core services while expanding our fundraising initiatives.

We are thrilled to announce two generous grants from our friends at the Ausherman Family Foundation - an immediate $25,000 operating grant and a $25,000 challenge grant that will match every dollar raised up to $25,000! The result? $75,000 in much-needed funding to continue our desperately needed services for homeless women and children in the community! Praise the Lord!

Needless to say, we are thrilled by the Foundation's continued generosity, commitment to our mission, encouragement, and for their creativity in leveraging donor dollars. Please spread the word about this incredible opportunity and help us meet the $25,000 goal as quickly as possible!

God never fails to amaze me in the ways He faithfully provides and answers prayers. Hope Alive is His ministry and vision and we know our future is in His hands.

If you can help with a donation that will be doubled, go to our website and click "donate now" and indicate that it's in response to our "challenge grant". Spread the word! Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ready to serve

Just back from vacation, I returned to Hope Alive on Tuesday refreshed, rested and ready to serve. I thought I'd get a week to ease back into the work of the ministry, but the needs of homeless families in our community abruptly brought me back to reality. Just today, we received calls from four homeless families who are struggling to survive in our community. One mother and her two year old are living in a car, two families are living in a motel, and one mother and her 14 month old are facing eviction. Despite our need to operate below capacity because of our staffing and resource limitations, the needs are too great so we’re starting the intake process for two of these families in emergency situations. From January to June of this year, we’ve seen an alarming 43% increase in requests for services as compared to the same period last year.

At the same time, we are refreshed by the life-change our resident families are experiencing! This month we are celebrating two families’ graduations from our residential program. One family moved on to independent housing last month, but she wanted to wait and share the celebration with the next family that’s graduating this month. Both of these families – along with the other families who have successfully moved from Hope Alive to independent housing – are healthy, whole, and living self-sustaining lives filled with hope and a future. And one of our teen residents just came back from a week at Christian camp as a changed young lady. She wants to go on a mission trip later this year to a third world country ready to serve others who are in much greater need than her family.

We continue to trust God completely to meet the needs of homeless women and their children. Through the power of His life-changing love and the ministry of Hope Alive, life transformation is possible and women and their children are finding hope of a future.

Vacation is wonderful, but I am grateful for the privilege of serving God’s people in need. Thank you for your support and commitment to our mission. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hope and a future

Last Friday we celebrated one of the most major milestones families can reach while at Hope Alive. After a year and a half of program participation, a mom and her two children excitedly moved all their worldly belongings to their new apartment. But even more importantly, when they left Hope Alive last Friday they walked out of our doors feeling loved, accepted, happy, healthy, self confident, and well-equipped with skills to meet the world head on and live self-sustaining lives filled with hope and a future.

This family has accomplished so much since walking through our doors. The mom completed a dental assistant certificate program at FCC while continuing her employment as a CNA. She learned to manage a budget, resolved debt including paying off her car loan, and made significant strides in increasing her savings for a brighter future. They addressed multiple physical, dental and mental health issues and now are healthier than ever before. The children’s school recognized their excellent attendance and character qualities and they flourished in our children’s programs while mom learned more about their growth and development and effective parenting skills. This family has grown in their faith and love for the Lord and now they are active members in a local church. The mom has established a strong support system in new friends and her church family that they can depend on.

They’ll continue in our after-care program for an additional year, so when a family graduates, we never say “good-bye”, but “see you soon”. It’s never easy to part. The staff, residents, and volunteers are a family and when one family graduates it’s a celebration of their successes as well as time of many tears as they leave “home” to stretch their wings and fly.

I’ll be off-line for a couple of weeks while on vacation and won’t be posting blogs unless I’m truly inspired! I pray God blesses you this summer with time for relaxation and refreshment as He has for me and my family. Until later …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A word of encouragement

Last week was an unusually stressful one at Hope Alive. In light of the trials we’ve been experiencing and what many of you may be facing in this difficult economy, I’m feeling the need for an encouraging word as I write this week’s blog.

A week ago, we had to discharge a family from the program which is always terribly painful. Then last Wednesday, one resident mom had extensive dental surgery and by noon the same day another mom was taken from her GED class to the emergency room for severe abdominal pains. Our staff scrambled to provide care for these mothers’ 5 children after our children’s center closed – not knowing when the mom in the ER would return to Hope Alive. And then on Friday, one family graduated and moved out which is always a day filled with hugs and tears.

Besides responding to the daily challenges and needs of our resident families with a skeleton staff, we’re feeling tremendous pressure from our tight financial position with recent underfunded and unfunded grant proposals including our Frederick County grant which was not reinstated in the County’s FY2011 budget despite the recommendation by the Grants to Human Service program. Thankfully three of the County Commissioners said they would commit at least a portion of the balances left in their personal expense accounts to Hope Alive to help with this shortfall. As an unfunded FY2011 nonprofit, we’ll most likely be excluded from applying for FY2012 funding.

Despite our ability hold expenses to a very bare bones minimum – including staffing – we are still operating with an 11% deficit from January to May of this year. This may not seem like much, but we’re going into our traditionally lean summer months so this deficit will continue to increase through August.

In the midst of all this, we know God is faithful. Last week He reminded me about the story in the Bible of Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-36). When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were terrified, but Jesus immediately called to them and said “Take courage; it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus called to Peter asking him to “come!” and Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the wind and the waves around him, he became frightened and began to sink. At least he had enough sense to call out to Jesus and when he did Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of Peter. When they got in the boat the wind stopped.

It’s so easy for us to take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on the circumstances and trials of life and when we do, we are overtaken by fear, doubt and discouragement. Jesus calls us to “take courage and do not be afraid” reassuring us He is with us and in control. I find when I readjust my focus to the Savior, then fear, doubt and discouragement disappear and I’m embraced with His peace and hope.

I pray that as you face life’s trials that you will call out to Jesus and step out of the boat to walk on the water to Him – paying no attention to the wind and waves - realizing that with God all things are possible! Until later this week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, June 4, 2010

God works in mysterious ways

The outcome of our appeal to Frederick County’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) did not produce the result we expected, but God works in mysterious ways. I watched the BOCC’s work session Tuesday morning to see what the final outcome would be after addressing the Board last Thursday morning. I had asked the Board to reverse their decision to eliminate our funding from the County’s FY2011 budget and vote to reinstate our $6,678 grant-in-aid.

As the budget discussion started, Commissioner David Gray said he wanted to allocate the $1,500 balance in his personal expense account to Hope Alive. Commissioner Hagen agreed with Commissioner Gray’s proposal and said he would like to do the same, but split his allocation between Hope Alive and one or two other charities whose funding was also cut. Commissioner Gardner also supported the idea, but asked that the Board revisit this in two weeks after the finance office could verify the actual balances.

As I sat and watched this unfold, I immediately sensed God’s hand in this – not reinstating the funding as we had prayed and hoped but providing for the needs of the ministry in His sovereign way! God bless them for their commitment to and recognition of Hope Alive’s mission and service to Frederick County.

On a different note, we were notified this week that the state of Maryland has made a policy change (effective May 1) that now allows recipients of Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) – which most of our resident families receive – to have cash resources that exceed the previous limit of $2,000. What this not provides is for TCA recipients to have cash reserves in case of emergencies and to save for the future. This is great news for our families as they strive to save money for first and second months rent and security deposits so they can exit homelessness and have a better chance of maintaining independent living.

Often the work of this ministry is challenging, so it was nice to have some encouraging news this week! Please continue to keep us – and the growing numbers of homeless families needing help – in your thoughts and prayers. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, May 28, 2010

County grant update

Here's an update on Hope Alive's County grant status. I learned on Monday that the only opportunity we'd have to appeal the board's decision to cut Hope Alive's grant would be at the Board of County Commissioners' weekly work session. Resident Monica and I attended Thursday morning's session and both spoke on behalf of Hope Alive.

I emphasized the significant increase we're seeing in requests for services with a 36% increase from January to April over the same period last year. I talked about our current financial position of operating on a bare bones budget from a 28% reduction in 2009 forcing us to reduce the number of families we can serve in 2010 until we raise more funds. I stressed our need for the County's recommended $6,678 grant-in-aid so we can continue offering core services for our community's homeless families. As I told the Commissioners and shared in last week's blog, this grant equates to 508 bednights that we cannot provide this year if the grant is not reinstated for FY2011. I asked the board to reverse their decision and vote to reinstate the recommended grant-in-aid to Hope Alive.

Commissioners Gardner, Young, and Gray recognized the important service Hope Alive provides to the community and praised us for the significant work we've accomplished in our short 3 1/2 years since opening our doors. Monica followed my comments by sharing her devastating struggle of homelessness and said that without Hope Alive she would be dead - literally. She eloquently urged the Commissioners to vote to reinstate our grant so no other family would have to face what she was able to avoid.

You may have read in Thursday's Gazette the formal stand the Commissioners have taken against Commissioner Thompson's actions of requesting 12 nonprofit organizations to sign letters of credit for repayment of their grant awards to fund the employee's retirement trust. Hope Alive was one of those nonprofits that received Commissioner Thompson's email and letter of credit. Thankfully, Citizens Services and Commissioner Gardner confirmed that this was not sent from the board and Commissioner Thompson acted alone. No further comment here about this strange action by our esteemed public official.

The Commissioners have heard your voice - so thank you so much for your advocacy on our behalf. The final budget vote will occur next Tuesday, June 1. We are so grateful for the support and encouragement received through this process from so many wonderful county employees, elected officials and of course our wonderful Hope Alive supporters. When Monica and I left the hearing room, we felt completely at peace - leaving it in God's hands as to what the final outcome would be.

I've written a lot lately about the needs we're seeing in the community. May will be one more month that we'll see more than 30 requests for services so the increase over last year continues to rise.

Have a great holiday weekend. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, May 20, 2010

County cuts Hope Alive's grant

You may have read in today's Frederick News Post that Hope Alive’s recommended $6,678 grant from Frederick County Grants to Human Service’s program was eliminated from the FY2011 County budget based on a 3-2 vote by the County Commissioners (Commissioners Gardner and Hagen voted against the cut). According to the News Post, Commissioner David Gray changed his vote yesterday to partially restore funding to the Frederick Arts Council and the Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic. We are advocating on our behalf – and ask that you help in this effort – to have Hope Alive’s $6,678 grant restored to the FY2011 County budget. Here’s why …

1. Hope Alive is a “first-tier” primary service provider for Frederick County's homeless population. Frederick County needs Hope Alive to serve the growing number of homeless families.
2. From January to April of 2010, Hope Alive saw a 36% increase in requests for services over the same period in 2009.
3. The County grant of $6,678 may only be 5.6% of our operating budget for family shelter services, however, the impact will be significant with our already strained operating budget that has prohibited us from operating at full capacity in 2010.
5. This grant amount represents 508 bednights that will not be available for Frederick County’s homeless women and their children.
6. We already have an underserved homeless population in Frederick County and this will further reduce available services to meet the desperate needs of homeless families.

We understand the County budget balanced before the cuts to nonprofits were made. These cuts go against Frederick County’s Grants to Human Services program recommendations. There was no appeal process or time for public comment for affected nonprofits.

Please help advocate for Hope Alive’s critically needed shelter services by contacting Commissioner David Gray by close of business Monday, May 24. We know that with God all things are possible. Thanks for your committed support to Hope Alive and the families who are struggling to survive right here in our own backyard. With your help, let’s watch what God can do! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Da ... Da Da Da Da ... Da ... In case you didn't recognize that tune, it's Pomp and Circumstance - a song we're humming a lot these days at Hope Alive.

Next week we're celebrating two major graduations! One resident mom is graduating with her high school diploma from Frederick County Public School's Adult Education Program. Earlier the same day, another resident mom is graduating from Maryland's Drug Court. After much hard work and determination to change the course of their lives, these two very special women have much to celebrate! Other women at Hope Alive - and especially new families to the program - are encouraged by these women's accomplishments and believe their own lives can be different with the same determination.

As I've shared in recent blogs, the needs of homeless families in the community are increasing significantly. January to April of this year was a 36% increase in phone inquiries from homeless families over the same period last year. In the past week, we've heard of three families - including a total of 9 children - living in motels. We rushed one family through our intake process as they were on their last day of motel placement by the Department of Social Services. Their next move would be to the streets. This new mom is starting her GED work next Monday - a dream she thought she'd never fulfill. And with the example of our two graduates, she'll be even more encouraged on her new journey to hope and a future.

More graduations will follow soon with two more families successfully completing Hope Alive's residential program! I thank God for giving us reason to sing!

Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, April 30, 2010


Last night was one of Hope Alive’s most exciting fundraising events ever! Visions for Hope – a silent auction of children’s artwork – was impressive! We had a record number of people attend as well as an overwhelming number of entries of children’s ceramics, photography, painting, stonework, photo frames, jewelry and more. Every item was purchased by bidders raising much-needed funds to support Hope Alive’s children’s ministry for our youngest residents. And all proceeds were doubled by a generous anonymous donor offering a matching gift up to $5,000!

Many of the young artists attended including Hope Alive’s children. The expressions on their faces were priceless as they watched adults outbid each other in an attempt to win selected artwork. One local business bought a series of sponge paintings made by Hope Alive children to hang in their offices. Each child left with such positive feelings about themselves and their abilities.

Thank you to everyone who made this event such a wonderful success … our event sponsors, artists, attendees, contributors, and our incredible special events committee!

Just a quick update on my previous weeks’ blogs this month ... April has resulted in the highest number of phone calls we’ve received in any one month since opening more than 3 years ago. Our average number of monthly calls from homeless families has been 18. This month was nearly 40! Please continue to keep the growing numbers of homeless families in your thoughts and prayers and ask God to sustain them in their daily struggles to survive.

If you haven’t been to Hope Alive recently for a visit, think about joining us this Sunday, May 2 from 1 to 4pm for our Open House. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and come by to say hello, meet our families and staff, and enjoy a tour and light refreshments. Visit our website for driving directions. Hope to see you there!

Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, April 24, 2010

From hopelessness to hope

As I've shared the last couple of weeks, we continue to receive record numbers of phone calls from homeless families searching for help. Every day we hear heartbreaking stories from more than 30 families already this month - a record number since opening our doors more than 3 years ago. One mother even came to our doorstep in tears saying that 3 of her 4 children were living with family or friends until she could find housing. Her fourth child was hospitalized for mental health issues. It's difficult to hear the hopelessness in their voices. We are doing everything possible to help more families despite our limited resources at this time.

In contrast to the hopelessness we hear every day, we are encouraged by the achievements of the resident women and children we serve at Hope Alive. This week, one mother reached a major milestone. After more than a year of hard work, she earned her high school diploma through Frederick County Public School's External Diploma Program (EDP) - a dream come true! She's already ordered her cap and gown for her May graduation! And then last night, Jody Julian (our Family Ministry Specialist) and I couldn't have been more proud with six Hope Alive women and one of our staff being recognized at Frederick Community College's Donor-Scholar Reception with all seven having received scholarships this year. One of our moms was even a keynote speaker. You could have heard a pin drop as she shared her journey from homelessness to hope.

Also this week, our resident children are preparing their final pieces of artwork for our Visions for Hope event on April 29th! It's not to late to join us for this special opportunity to meet our talented young artists and support their efforts. For more information, check out our website at or give us a call at 301.241.4005.

Please keep the overwhelming number of homeless families searching for help in your thoughts and prayers. We trust God will provide for our needs so we can help as many families as possible this year. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, April 16, 2010

Responding to the need

My blog last week – “needs on the rise” – shared with you the increasing number of calls we’re receiving from homeless families in our community. On average, we receive about 20 phone calls each month. As I mentioned last week, this past January we received the second highest number of calls (30) since July 2008. Mid way through April, we’ve already received 20 calls from homeless families – each in desperate situations and struggling to survive.

So how do we respond? Jody – our Family Ministry Specialist – talks with each woman who calls to assess her family’s circumstances and then compares their needs to our available resources. Do we have bed space available to accommodate their family size? Is there room for the children in our children’s programs based on their ages and our staff/child ratios required by state licensing? Do they have any other housing options available … family or friends they can stay with at least temporarily? What’s most concerning to me is the trend we’re seeing. As shared by many homeless service providers, the numbers of homeless families needing shelter is increasing at an alarming rate.

What we’re doing in response is working to raise more funds so we can provide the staff and resources needed for the increasing inquiries and provide referrals to other community services, operate at capacity to help as many families as possible, and effectively serve our growing number of graduate families in after-care. You can help us help others by spreading the word and supporting our efforts such as our upcoming Visions for Hope event on Thursday, April 29 at the Delaplaine Visual Arts and Education Center in downtown Frederick. This event … kids helping kids … is a silent auction of children’s artwork to benefit Hope Alive’s children’s programs. It promises to be a fun event for the entire family.

Yesterday I saw a few examples of our resident children’s photography that they’ve entered in the Visions for Hope silent auction. Their photos are stunning! I could hardly believe they were taken by our very own 6 and 8 year old residents. Check out our website for more information and come meet our young artists. Together we can respond to the needs and make a difference! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Needs on the rise

This past January we received 30 phone calls from homeless families needing help – the second highest monthly total since opening our doors over 3 years ago. We are already well on our way to what may be a record number of inquiries this month with eight calls received in the last 72 hours. Despite our official intake freeze, we are going to fill a few spaces – not to full capacity though – to help meet some of the need we are seeing in the community. The families we are hearing from have children ranging from infants to teenagers. They all face one or more of the issues common to homelessness such as domestic violence, substance abuse, lack of affordable housing, inability to earn a living wage, and even mental illness. It’s discouraging for our Family Ministry Specialist to hear the desperation in their voices and not have the resources to help each one. She provides referrals to other community services, but there are never enough shelter beds available in the community so much of the need remains unmet.

I recently received a call from a firm in Baltimore that is conducting a survey of service providers in the Washington metro area to assess the needs of homeless families. The information he is gathering is disturbing. Montgomery County reports they have 50-60 homeless families on the streets every night that their shelters are unable to serve. Fairfax County reports seeing a 60% increase in need from 2008 to 2009. The caller promised to keep me updated on his findings, but he suspects the number of homeless families in the Washington DC area is increasing significantly.

We are grateful for the outpouring of support we receive from the community which not only keep our doors open in this difficult economy, but is providing the additional support we need to serve as many families as possible in 2010. Please continue to keep the many many homeless families who are struggling to survive in your thoughts and prayers. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, April 2, 2010

Let the sun shine!

In preparation for Hope Alive's solar energy system installation next week, our project coordinator and faithful volunteer - Dawn Nelson - presented "Solar 101" for our resident moms and children. She brought a small 5 watt solar panel to explain how solar energy works and talked about the system being installed on Hope Alive's roof. She solicited the moms help in serving the volunteer crew during the install. For fun, she brought solar-powered windmill kits for the children to assemble and test.

I was surprised how engaged everyone was - children and moms alike - and how determined they were to put all of the parts of their solar windmills together properly to make sure they would work. When the first windmill was completed and the flood light turned on for power, the "propellers" started to turn and everyone cheered! Soon all the windmills were working. One school-ager took hers to school on Thursday to share with her class and sat with it outside on the Hope Alive sidewalk after school to watch it spin in the sun. What a great learning experience!

Please plan to join us for our solar energy system "unveiling" on Tuesday, April 20 at 2pm. We are especially grateful for the generosity of our project partners - BP Solar, Crum Electric, and Glory Energy Solutions - for their donated time, equipment, materials, and labor! We are excited about the reduction in electric costs that we'll soon realize and the start of a smaller carbon footprint.

My prayer for you this weekend is that you and yours will experience the risen Christ as we celebrate His resurrection and the new life that He gives by faith. May God's Son shine in your lives. Happy Easter!

Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, March 18, 2010

So much to celebrate

This week’s weather is so refreshing. What a change from just a couple of weeks ago. I trust Hope Alive’s good news and highlights this week will inspire you as well!

Last Sunday, our resident teen received a trophy for his basketball team’s first place tournament finish. Then early this week, our youngest resident learned to pull himself up to a standing position and started to crawl today - there's no stopping him now. The following day, our soon to be 3 year old achieved a major milestone in our “Potty Training Academy”. I won’t go in to further detail on this one, but needless to say he was a very proud little boy. Yesterday, one of our school-age children announced she was writing to God to let Him know just how she's feeling. This is a giant step in her healing process.

One resident mom passed her driving test today and couldn’t wait to share the news with staff and volunteers. For the first time ever, all of our resident moms at Hope Alive have their driver’s licenses. Last night, our recent graduate family returned for dinner and a visit. We sure do miss them, but we're so thankful they are doing well.

And we top off the week with a third birthday celebration for one of our preschoolers today. Wow! Many weeks at Hope Alive are challenging, but this one has been especially fun and rewarding with so much to celebrate.

Enjoy the beautiful sunny warm weather this weekend. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, March 12, 2010

Intake freeze

By now you may have heard or read in our March newsletter that we have instituted an intake freeze at Hope Alive. This means that even though we have beds available, we do not have the resources or staff required to continue to operate at capacity. Jody - our Family Ministry Specialist - is not only intensely working with our current resident families on a daily basis, but she also serves our growing number of families in the after-care phase with more graduations scheduled in the coming months. Families graduating from Hope Alive's residential phase are a great cause for celebration, but our reality says we can no longer do more with less.

Our 2010 operating budget provides for three new part-time staff positions to work with an increasing number of families, but until we can increase our income and solve our cash flow problem we are forced to maintain an intake freeze. For Hope Alive - as is typical with nonprofit organizations - half of our charitable gifts are received the last 3 months of the year during the holiday season. We're working hard to correct this by raising an additional $55,000 by June!

This decision is painful in light of the phone calls from homeless families we continue to receive. We just want to ignore our reality and take them in anyway, but this isn't fair to all the families who already call Hope Alive home. Above all, we don't want to jeopardize the core services they already receive that are so effective in moving them forward to health, wholeness, and stable permanent housing.

Please help us spread the word and join us in our efforts to serve as many homeless families as possible in 2010. One fun way you can help is to attend our upcoming Visions for Hope event on Thursday, April 29. This is a silent auction of children's artwork - including our own Hope Alive kids - to support our children's programs for our youngest residents.

Check out our website at or call us at 301.241.4005 for more information. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Graduation celebration

Today, we celebrated a major milestone with a family’s graduation from Hope Alive’s residential phase. In January – after a year and a half – this young mother and her preschooler moved back to the community to live on their own for the very first time!

During our celebration today, it was wonderful to hear the funny stories shared by our resident families, staff and volunteers and the heartwarming ways this family impacted so many lives. It was inspiring as we recalled and applauded her for all the wonderful accomplishments she has achieved – college courses, completion of a substance abuse program, debt resolution, compliance with all legal issues, working two part-time jobs, success as a parent as well as all the developmental milestones her daughter reached. But the biggest changes we celebrated are those that occurred in her heart. She came to Hope Alive over 18 months ago with poor self esteem, distrust, and an “I can’t do it” attitude. Now she is supporting herself and her daughter with self confidence, high motivation, and commitment to success. She has opened her heart and found healing and learned that she can trust others. She admitted that even though she still doesn’t receive the praise she wants from her family, she knows she always has an extended family that is there for her and her daughter with encouragement and unconditionally love.

This is what the Hope Alive mission is all about … embracing homeless women and their children with God’s life-changing love and empowering them with Christian values, dignity and the skills they need to live self-sustaining lives filled with hope and a future.

What a privilege to be a part of the Hope Alive family and to watch what God can do in each heart and life! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, February 26, 2010

What a week!

What a week it has been! In addition to the busy schedules our families keep, we had some significant news and events here at Hope Alive.

To start the week off, one of our resident moms announced that her name was at the top of the City of Frederick subsidized housing list. She struggled with the decision she needed to make – whether to take the housing opportunity at a very affordable rent or to remain at Hope Alive to accomplish her remaining goals to ensure her future success. After feedback from the staff and weighing the pros and cons, she made the wise and difficult decision to postpone her graduation from the Hope Alive program and decline the housing opportunity she knew she wasn’t ready for. She’s accomplished so much in her six month residency at Hope Alive, but has more goals she wants to achieve!

On Wednesday morning, one of our two-year olds jumped off the bed and hit his head on the bed frame leaving an inch-long cut. His mom rushed him off to the emergency room while other mothers got her two older children breakfast and off to school. This little one braved the ER procedures to receive 3 stitches on the back of his head. I think his mother was more upset than he was!

Later that same day, one of our 8 year-olds asked if the staff could pray for her friend’s mother as she was facing surgery the next day. This young child had already asked the other moms in the house to pray for her friend’s mom too. It’s wonderful to see such a tender young heart interceding for the needs of others.

On Thursday morning, one of our resident moms called from the Frederick County court house to announce the judge is scheduling her for graduation from the drug court program and asked if she would provide her testimony to the court next month about how her life has changed. She’s ecstatic – and rightly so – that she has successfully completed four years in drug court and is now able to publicly celebrate her sobriety and life change!

And last night the emergency room had a second visit this week from Hope Alive residents. One of our moms went to the hospital late last night with an acute and extremely painful medical emergency. She was treated, released, and returned to Hope Alive about midnight thanks to the committed and attentive moms and staff caring for her.

And to end the week, one of our resident moms gave me a copy of a thank you note she wrote to a local foundation that provided a college scholarship for her full tuition this semester. In her letter expressing her gratitude for their generosity, she wrote “I hope to achieve many different goals, one being receiving my R.N. and two becoming a productive member of society.” She shared with the donors that she wants to show her children that “they can do anything that they want to in life.”

What a week. We have much to celebrate and much to be thankful for - for achievements, for successes, for sobriety, for healing, for tender hearts, and as always for God’s divine provision! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The big dig

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had enough snow this winter. What we’re left with after this second blizzard – as Fox 5 news is calling it – is The Big Dig. In an attempt to change my attitude about this latest storm, I started to think about the positives … my family and our Hope Alive families are all safe, we didn’t lose power, and we stayed warm and had plenty of food on hand.

As I thought about what else God wanted me to learn from this experience, He showed me that our resident families’ lives are similar to these snow storms. Like the blizzard conditions we saw on Wednesday, our families come to Hope Alive overwhelmed and barely able to survive their day to day struggles. Much like the mounting snow, they feel trapped, desperate and hopeless. With The Big Dig that’s required after the storm, resident families regain stability in their lives as each mom and child bravely addresses their complex issues and plows forward toward healing and recovery. They begin to believe that the storms they’ve experienced will come to an end and they find freedom from despair and hope once again. Then like the sunshine after the storm that melts the ice and snow, their lives are brighter and the pathway becomes clear with their destination in sight.

I am so proud of our resident moms and children – especially this week. Despite being confined under one roof together for days, our families had an exceptionally peaceful time together. The moms initiated art projects with the children for the upcoming Visions for Hope event in April. They worked in teams to clear the snow from the sidewalks and cars and to care for all the children. And a houseful of children actually got along – imagine that! Today they are all thrilled to get outside and have some fun!

Special thanks to Philip Millison of P&M Transmissions in Sabillasville for plowing the Hope Alive driveway and parking lot from last weekend’s storm and his work the last 3 days to clear the six foot drifts.

Until next week ... stay safe and warm ... and happy digging!

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Help for Haiti

Last night, 13 of our resident moms and children gathered in the dining room to put together hygiene kits for Haiti. One of our volunteers – Miss Dawn – who comes every Wednesday evening purchased all the required items for the kits. The moms and children worked together “assembly-line” fashion filling the Ziploc bags with towels, soap, toothbrushes, band aids, and other basic hygiene supplies. Both moms and children felt so proud that they were able to help others. It was an especially important project as one of our resident moms is originally from Haiti and still has family and friends living there (see my previous blogs).

After the assembly was completed, Miss Dawn put all 40 or so hygiene kits in a pile and gathered everyone around to pray over them. The sweetest prayer was from one of our 8 year-olds who asked God to keep the people safe.

Like everyone else, we’re preparing for the snow storm – stocking up on groceries, filling extra tubs with water in case the power goes out (so we can flush toilets), and having enough activities to keep energetic children busy. (Remember we don’t have TV at Hope Alive!) Keep our families in your thoughts and prayers – several moms and children are recuperating from illnesses and we’re praying they get well and stay well!

Enjoy the snow and stay safe and warm. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great news to share

I've got great news to share with you this week. Last week I wrote about a resident mom who heard that family members in Haiti were safe, but she was still waiting to hear from others. This week she received more great news that all her family members' lives were spared. Since they all lived in Port au Prince, it's really a miracle that among the estimated 200,000 dead that her family is alive!

A couple of weeks ago, I shared great news with you of a young mother and her child who graduated from our residential program after a year and a half of hard work, dedication, and determination. We've heard from her several times since she moved out and she and her young daughter are doing very well. We'll reunite with them in a week to celebrate her graduation!

Six of our resident mothers started classes at Frederick Community College this week. Three moms received full scholarships! For two moms, their financial aid was in question, but it came through at the last minute and they were able to head off to classes the first day with everyone else.

Also this week, five of our resident children received awards at school. One child received a Character Counts award for respect. Boy, was his mom beaming with pride! This child, his sibling, and three other resident children received attendance awards! One of these children missed 21 days of school in one year before coming to Hope Alive with her mom.

We are so very proud of all their accomplishments and mostly grateful to God for the dramatic changes He brings to each life. In the midst of this great news though, several moms and children have been sick, so keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Monday, January 18, 2010

God answers prayer

Our attention this last week - like the entire nation – has been focused on the devastation from the Haitian earthquake. This tragedy hit close to home as one of our resident moms was born in Haiti and has family still living there. Soon after the earthquake, she got word that an aunt in Port au Prince was safe, but no word came about other family and friends. She waited for days trying to remain calm, checking available online websites for updates on survivors, and praying for her unaccounted family members.

The news reports are grim with tens of thousands missing and the dead unidentified and buried in mass unmarked graves. Her hope diminished with each passing day. As we and the country prayed with her, she tried to remain strong placing her trust in the Lord. Then finally last Friday, she was able to make contact – her uncle, aunt and 3 cousins are all fine! She still waits for word from other family members, but her hope is strengthened. Praise the Lord for answered prayers and the lives that have been spared!

Please continue to pray for her as she waits for word from others and processes this devastation to her homeland and the people she loves. Pray her Hope Alive family provides the support she and her children need through this traumatic experience. And pray God brings good out of this tragedy as His word promises and that relief will quickly come to those who are suffering.

Let us remember that we have a God who loves us more than we can ever imagine and hears our prayers. May we place our complete trust in Him and take every care and petition to the throne of grace! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director