Monday, March 17, 2014

The LLLDBH Award

By Rob Watson

Those who are familiar with my political views might accurately classify me as Hard Core, Conservative, Gun Toting, Bambi Killing, Right Leaning Republican. As such, In this season of the Super Bowl, Golden Globe, People Choice, Academy Awards, I would like to announce the new Left Leaning Liberal Democratic Bunny Huger Award. (In the interests of full disclosure, this years recipient is a relative.)

In order to be eligible for this award one must be a Left Leaning Liberal Democratic Bunny Huger of long standing who's political views chill the political soul of Hard Core, Conservative, Gun Toting, Bambi Killing, Right Leaning Republicans such as myself. And, the actions of said recipient must be  truly deserving of recognition, admiration, and emulation. (even by people like me)

This years recipient has for the last ten years put her money where her heart is; her money, her time, and her considerable talent. She has provided for the basic (We are talking basic basic) needs of up to 30 cast aside humans. It is her methods and goals that deserve emulation.

The target population is single parent families. Head of household is usually an uneducated or under educated and, for the most part unemployable, woman. Many are targets of domestic abuse. A few men are also part of the program. One is married with children, others are single parents. Each such person is provided with tutors and training toward a GED. They must be drug and alcohol free. The children also are provided with tutors and oversight to insure their school assignments are complete and correct. The children are also provided with transportation to and from public school. The award recipient and all tutors and helpers are unpaid volunteers. There are three paid assistants that provide 24/7 on site supervision.

Cash money for this operation is raised, about 60%, through fund raising events. The remainder is gotten from grants from various charitable  organizations. All other needs and assistance are provided by unpaid volunteers of every nature. It is the nature of this assistance that inspires.

The 30 or so "cast asides" sleep in tents inside church, or synagogue assembly halls... Well, except for one very small church that clears out their sanctuary, pews and all, to accommodate the group tents... The tents provide each family with minimum privacy. The group resides at one host site for exactly two weeks. At the end of the two weeks each family packs up it's belongings and a volunteer, same guy for most of the ten years, loads these belongings into his, privately owned, large truck and moves them to the next host site. Some 40 churches and a synagogue vie for the chance to be the host site.

Along with the space for the tents, each host site provides bathroom and shower facilities. Not all churches have showers.  When the group is in a church without showers, the families who aren’t employed shower at St. Vincent DePaul Headquarters during the day and the children after school.  Due to their work, the employed parents shower after dinner at the YMCA. The host site also supplies the materials and volunteers to prepare and serve all the meals. Each host site also covers its own additional cost of utilities.

Each day begins at 5AM. All morning activities must be completed by 7AM (such that the volunteers may attend to their own jobs and homes.) Breakfast is served and everyone disperses to jobs, training or school. At the end of the day the evening meal is served and homework is done and checked. Then each family retires to its own tent.

When a person has completed their GED, some additional job skills training may be provided. The family then is helped to secure a fair job and decent housing. These folks leave the group and new people are taken in. There is a waiting list... of clients... and of churches.

Below is a section of the groups news letter: Names changed for security reasons.

5 – Dear Friends of Winter Nights Shelter,

Last Monday morning we said “Farewell” to our friends at XXXXX United Methodist Church. . . and “Hello” to XXXXX Community Church friends. . . . . .

 United Methodist Church, the Pastor  and the Coordinator  made sure that their volunteers included many youth. The Boy Scouts cooked a barbecue dinner and helped the families set up their tents on opening night. When Good Shepherd Lutheran moved in for their week at XXXX, they continued the tradition with a middle school baseball team cooking and serving the meal and inviting some of our kids to a game with them. Sue  coordinated Good Shepherd’s week. Each client received a woolen afghan.

Current Family Profile 
Mom and daughter 15 and son 2
Mom & Dad with daughter 12 and son 2
Mom and daughter 7, son 3, and son 2
Dad and son 13
Mom & Dad with daughter 11
Mom & Dad with daughter 3
Mom & Dadwith son 13, son 12, daughter  11, son 9
7 Families, 25 clients, 11 adults (6 moms and 5 dads) 14 Children
8 boys (ages 2, 2, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 13); 6 girls (ages 3, 7, 11, 11, 12, 15)

Wish List: Pillows, Wash Cloths, Bath Towels, Fitted Twin Sheets, Masking Tape, Lysol Disinfectant, Lysol or Chlorox Wipes, Deodorant (men and women), Diapers 5, & 6, and Car Seats.

Red Bean Math . One of my favorite creative learning activities happens each time we are at  United Methodist Church: Red Bean Math. It was initially Jelly Bean Math, but a few years ago the teacher had to change the fun items because we were there during Lent, and one of the homeless moms complained that her kids gave up candy for Lent! So Barbara, the teacher, brought Red Beans this year, and kids still jumped at the opportunity to count the beans!

Our Last Moments came when we arrived at St. XXX Catholic Church. The Pastor and the Parish Life Directorwelcomed the families; and the Coordinators made sure our staff and clients felt “at home.” St. YYYY Catholic Church took over the second week at St. XXXX’s., with the Pastor sponsoring the work of his parishioners, especially that of the Coordinator. St. YYYY’s location takes the prize for being closest to our Oasis. That shortens the van ride to school in the morning. Our families told me about the two great Bingo Nights and the two Bowling outings. Bbbb and Mmmm reported that both churches had a lot of volunteers to assist with activities and tutoring.