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