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