Thursday, August 30, 2007
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
Well, okay, maybe it doesn’t look much like Christmas since the trees are still decidedly green and the thermometer is still pushing 90. And yet, here at EECM we are already gearing up for our annual Christmas Gift Program.
That’s right, it’s time to bring out Santa and the elves again. Last year, our Christmas Gift Program provided gifts to more than 800 individuals in our Hunger, Housing, and Children & Youth programs. You can read about last year’s program here, here, and here.
Now, the purpose of this blog is twofold.
#1 – it serves as an invitation to anyone who would be interested in participating in the Christmas Gift Program this year. We anticipate having even more participants in the program this year so we will need even more generous gift-givers. This is a great project for a congregation or a group of friends, but many individuals also sign up to provide gifts for an individual or family.
#2 – Sheer entertainment. I personally find it vastly amusing that it is August and we are already going full steam ahead into the holiday season. And I wanted to share my mirth with you.
And so let us all join together in a chorus of Jingle Bells…
Friday, August 24, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
If you’ll recall, back in May, I wrote a posting about our annual Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day (TOSD). And today I have a fun addendum to that story. One lucky young lady spent the day shadowing a veterinarian. She had a fantastic time and apparently made quite an impression on her mentor because he invited her to come back and intern with him this summer! Yay! This is really the goal of the TOSD program – creating meaningful and beneficial connections between our young people and working professionals.
This is a neat story under any circumstances. To me, it’s even more special because the young woman in question is a participant in EECM’s Points of Healthy Youth Sustainability and Development (PHYSED) program. PHYSED is an intervention program for extremely high risk middle and high school students. It is a new addition to the Children & Youth services – last school year was the inaugural year. The students identified to participate in PHYSED truly are on the brink of disaster – serious conduct violations at school, failing grades, very unstable families, brushes with the juvenile justice system. They are uninterested in school and angry at the world and the only future they can see is bleak at best.
The PHYSED program seeks to intervene in these young people’s lives before it is too late. EECM staff work one-on-one with students to establish trusting relationships and try to help them overcome their barriers to learning. The goal of the program is to help students replace negative attitudes and behaviors with positive ones, including setting goals and making plans for their future.
And the program is working. Success comes in baby steps but those steps are being slowly taken. Our would-be veterinarian’s story encourages us to keep working .
Monday, August 20, 2007
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! A couple weeks back, a group of EECM staff and clients followed the grey asphalt road in search of adventure and close encounters of the mammalian kind. Their destination? The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, of course!
The Pittsburgh Zoo really is one of the treasures of the city. It boasts a wide variety of animals and excellent habitat landscaping. The Zoo is buried in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from EECM (you can actually catch an occasional glimpse of the snow leopard from the road – a fact that I am positive is going to cause me to wreck my car some day), but you’d never know it once you get inside. You are instantly transported to the African Savannah or an Asian rainforest. Right now, the Zoo is particularly popular as people flock to see our tiger cubs and new polar bear exhibit.
The Pittsburgh Zoo is not only a great educational complex, it is very community-friendly. The nice people in the public relations department readily donate admission passes to worthy causes…like us! Which is how it came to pass that 12 residents and guests of Safe Haven and the Orr Compassionate Care Center, along with two adventure-loving staff members, spent a fun-filled afternoon on safari at the zoo. Wild times!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Today, I’m pleased to showcase EECM’s very own Before and After transformation – our Bridge Housing apartments. Bridge is one of our transitional housing programs. It is a one-year residential program for men who are moving from our Emergency Shelter to independent living. The program is housed in an apartment building in East Liberty and can hold up to 12 guys at any given time. Thanks to a generous grant from the City of Pittsburgh, throughout the spring and summer we were able to do some major remodeling work, both outside and inside of the building.
First off: the porches. In the pictures below, before is above and after below (although hopefully that is glaringly apparent to everyone!). The old porches were in such poor condition after years of disuse that our residents were banned from using them. Now, they are a favorite hang-out spot and make for an excellent vantage point to do a little people-watching.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Pictured at right is Mary Dawn Edwards, a member of EECM Member Congregation Tree of Life.
I have clear recollections of driving my parents absolutely batty as I packed and repacked and sorted and agonized over what to bring with me to college. In the end, I opted to bring Absolutely Everything, including but not limited to: roller blades I never used, a purple lava lamp, and several cases of ramen noodles which I never ate because, let’s face it, ramen noodles are gross.
Thanks to the generosity of several of our Member Congregations, our college-bound young people will also begin their journeys well-equipped. Each fall, our congregations hold Off to College drives to collect the necessary trappings of dormitory life. Each student is then presented with his/her own Off to College Kit. Packed into a laundry basket or storage tub they find vital gear like sheets, towels, clothing hangers, laundry detergent, school supplies, shower shoes and microwave popcorn.
Many of these young men and women have been involved with East End Cooperative Ministry since elementary school. We have watched them grow and learn and mature into confident adults and we share in their families’ joy as they take this next step.
Good luck, grads! Make new friends, have grand adventures and revel in your college experience. But, if at all possible, avoid ramen noodles.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Of the many activities John has engaged in during his time as intern, perhaps the most interesting was the night that he spent undercover in our Men’s Emergency Shelter, posing as a homeless man to get an inside look at what our clients experience at the shelter.
“I must acknowledge the trepidation that I experienced prior to my 6:30 pm arrival at the shelter. I do not take lightly the circumstances in which these men live, but I wanted to experience their reality rather than assume that our desires, abilities and capacities are in alliance… I appeared to be among the first arrivals and I tried to appear confident and yet unassuming. I immediately took a seat which offered adequate visual exposure to all the interactions between the shelter monitors and the incoming visitors. I was very impressed with the overall functioning of the homeless shelter. The monitors appeared to engage the guests in a hospitable manner. Prior to dinner the guard suggested that we give thanks for the blessings of the day. Several visitors shared community service information with the group such as the location of free bus passes, shoes, clothing, and job services and we concluded with prayer.
Shortly after 9:00 pm I received a bed assignment and was supplied with clean linen and a bath towel. I had forgotten my toothbrush, but one was provided to me. At this point, I entered the chapel sleeping area with a bit of trepidation, as I sought bunk number five. Many of the other visitors were fast asleep, watching television or engaged in a political, social and religious dialogue with one of the monitors. I preferred to observe these interactions rather than engaging in them and soon fell asleep. I received breakfast the following morning and then headed out.
I briefly considered staying an additional night…however I chose sleeping comfort and bathing privacy over the communal living of the shelter.”
John has also been visiting and interviewing our Meals on Wheels clients to get a sense of whether they would appreciate/desire pastoral calls and/or visits from members of local faith communities. He is hoping to increase the level of pastoral involvement of our member congregations in the work of EECM by providing them with ministry opportunities with our clients. Thus far, the response to his inquiries has been overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to expanding the pastoral component of our ministry.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
In the 16th chapter of the book of Exodus, the Israelites, who have been wandering about in the desert, hungry, tired and noticeably grumpy for some time now, are finally given a break. God rains down upon them bread from the heavens – literally. Manna falls from the sky, the Israelites are thrilled and there is much rejoicing. A similar thing happened here at EECM two weeks ago involving cookware, though luckily it arrived via truck rather than directly from above.
As you may or may not be aware (I wasn’t), the Spike TV mini-series entitled the Kill Point was filmed in Pittsburgh. Filming for the show wrapped up recently and we got a call from a somewhat frazzled but very nice man at the production studio (a subsidiary of Lion’s Gate Entertainment) asking if by chance we could use an Italian restaurant.
That’s right…a whole restaurant. One of their set pieces was said restaurant, which had been outfitted in brand-new, high-quality, commercial grade cookware, furniture and appliances. And now that the show was over, they had no use for those set pieces and were looking to offload them to a worthy cause. Apparently, this happens a lot; the cost and hassle involved in selling off the used pieces is more than the production companies want to deal with and so they either throw away or donate their old sets.
After a few moments of stunned silence (and a few more where my co-workers and I worked to convince ourselves that this was not some weird Hollywood joke) we heartily agreed to take the leftover kitchen pieces. And so EECM is now the proud possessor of a gorgeous eight-burner Vulcan stove, a large stainless steel refrigerator, as-yet uncounted boxes of dishes and cookware, several prep tables, a few dining tables with chairs, a bread oven and a soda fountain.
And we are thrilled and there is much rejoicing.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Written by: Kate Snyder, Executive Assistant
I have to say that, as a general rule, I don’t find random kids all that cute. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against them – I don’t loathe them in a mean, Hansel and Gretel, fairy-tale-witch kind of way. I just don’t swoon every time I’m faced with a child, like some people do. (Quite frankly, I find those Anne Geddes pictures with the babies in flowerpots a little bit unsettling.) All of this to say that I walked into the final production of Summer Day Camp last night with some trepidation – the prospect of two hours spent watching a bunch of kids I didn’t know marching around on stage did not fill me with unabashed glee.
But that was before I knew there was dancing. Because I think we can all agree that the universal exception to the “other people’s kids aren’t that cute” rule is when they’re dancing. The first act up was a bunch of six to eight year olds rocking out to a very upbeat song and I just about died. It was fabulous! And let me tell you – those kids had moves. They were up there doing complicated choreography, and doing it well.
And the show just go better from there. The campers and counselors had worked hard and pulled together a very impressive performance in five short weeks and it was a joy to witness. The theme of Camp this year was “God is Good” and all the songs, poems, dances, and skits revolved around this theme. The dance and song numbers were interspersed with an on-going drama about several teens and their families who were learning to appreciate, in their own awkward ways, the goodness of God.
For me, though, the most touching moment of the night came just before intermission when we took up a collection from the audience to support the Day Camp program. Our associate director, who has been working with this program for 25 years, is an ordained minister and a dynamic preacher. He said a few words about the history and importance of Day Camp and then we passed around collection plates. And everyone gave. I’m serious. I was helping with the offering and I did not see a single family skip the plate. These families are almost entirely low income – that’s just the demographic that we work with. Many of them only had a dollar or two to give, and yet their generosity and their obvious love for this program and its staff was really overwhelming.
So I’ll be there in the audience again next year, cheering on the children of strangers and reveling in the amazing things that can be accomplished by dedicated and caring people.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
It’s never too soon to be thinking about Christmas gifts (I like jewelry, in case you don’t have enough people on your To Buy For list…) and this year, why not support a good cause at the same time?
Check out http://www.igive.com/!!