Plant Seeds Now to Grow Giving Season Year-Round
This two-part series focuses on two charities on Aquidneck Island with much impact on all three communities, especially Middletown, beginning with Lucy's Hearth which serves more than 100 local women and their families.
While we all shopped like crazy, thankful to be offering our families a wonderful holiday this year, there is a segment of our community that needs our attention and continued help.
When the Holiday season ends, the difficulties facing many families in our community will not. Local family services and charities experience their most crucial funding times during the end of the year and holiday season. While it's typical to get wrapped up in ourselves and the demands of the holidays, others in our community must focus on just making it through the night, not what XBOX game or cashmere sweater they must grab up at the big sales that come with the holidays. In this world full of "me" needs, certain times of year particularly call upon us to be mindful of the season's purpose and we can call upon ourselves to think of our neighbors year-round.
Two charities, the Salvation Army and Lucy's Hearth, have a tremendous impact on the daily life of many Middletown families and they are looking for our help to continue this season of giving far into the New Year and, of course, year-round. On a personal note, I recently got acquainted with both programs and I have never seen a more grateful group of people. In this article, I'll talk about Lucy's Hearth and I'll discuss the Salvation Army in a separate piece.
At Lucy's Hearth, Jennifer Barrera has a tough but fulfilling job as the Director of the 501c3. It's a special kind of shelter. In fact, it's so much more than a shelter. Lucy's Hearth began in 1984 as an overnight shelter, operating out of a former convent on the grounds of St. Lucy's Catholic Church in Middletown. Over the years, the shelter evolved to begin providing a wide range of support services beyond housing and meals to outreach to families at high risk for homelessness.
Today, two full-time and seven part-time paid staff, along with volunteers, conduct all essential activities of the charity's four main program areas which include: Transitional housing, shelter, outreach and case management post shelter and housing, and the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP).
More than 100 local families and 415 individuals and family members take part in these programs.
This is a big number in itself and sadly, there still remains a huge waiting list of families in need of Lucy's Hearth services.
Barrera is clear about the shelter's goals. "The primary mission and purpose of Lucy's Hearth is to provide emergency shelter for homeless women and their children and to assist residents in gaining the life skills needed to foster independence and prevent chronic homelessness," she explained. "Pregnant women, single mothers and their young children who are homeless due to economic hardship, family crisis, divorce or eviction are welcomed without discrimination. Up to nine families can be accommodated at any one time. The shelter building provides 28 beds and additional cribs and cots in nine individual family bedrooms."
A large kitchen, dining room, lounge, meeting room, playroom and library are maintained and shared by all of the families in residence. Families are provided three meals daily and are expected to attend life skills meetings and fully participate in the running of the shelter while living under its roof.
There is no charge for any Lucy's Hearth program.
"Some families stay an average of six to eight months right now, while they are getting back on their feet or learning the necessary life skills to survive on their own," said Barrera.
Referrals for residents come from all over the community from social services, and churches, as well as the residents themselves.
When residents can transition to permanent housing, they may qualify for one of the three transitional housing units leased by Lucy's Hearth through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"We offer these women essential household goods to begin to set up their new home. Residents may reside in the supportive housing unit for up to two years while working toward their self-sufficiency goals," said Barrera.
When families move from the shelter into their own homes, the Hearth tries to supply them with beds, furniture, housewares, linens, food and any other supplies and furnishings needed.
The numbers are sobering.
- In 2010 so far, Lucy's Hearth sheltered 102 women and children.
- In 2009, Lucy's Hearth provided a total of 24,678 shelter and transitional bed nights.
- More than 8,500 meals were served.
- At the time of this writing on Dec. 23, 2010, there were 65 families on the waiting list for services.
The need for programs such as Lucy's Hearth grows exponentially each day. As the current housing crises continues, more and more renters and home owners at all economic levels are being displaced. Hardest hit are those already living in poverty with scarce few resources or opportunities for affordable housing available to them.
Barrera is very grateful to Middletowners "who take good care of the shelter."
This is due in large part to the generosity of Aquidneck Islanders through monetary support, federal and state grants, collection drives like the one pictured here by MOPS, or the Adopt-a-Family programs done by local churches and other organizations, schools like Silveira Kindergarten and Nursery School, or the John F. Kennedy Naval Base Child Development Center, as well as local donations from businesses and individuals.
Such community support for Lucy's Hearth is critical for the shelter to continue serving the needs of women and children in need on such a surprisingly small budget.
While these blessings are abundant, help is still needed. Perhaps as you are enjoying the week during Christmas and New Years, you can make a resolution to get involved.
Barrera says the largest need of the shelter is volunteers: "People to help after school with homework, arts and crafts, or just to go outside and play sports with the kids living here. We also need help sorting donations, small handyman type repairs/painting, or with teaching valuable life skills."
For those who are able to donate, the shelter is in need of the following items:
- Food donations.
- Diapers, baby wipes, children's toiletries especially kid's toothpaste, children's socks, underwear, snow boots and pants, good coats for moms and kids alike. The shelter also needs full size women's toiletries and gifts for teenagers, school age kids and infants.
- Home making items—pillows blankets, and gently used furniture, pictures, dishes, and silverware—"Anything that could make a house a home for someone who has nothing," says Barrera.
Donations can be made during regular business hours Monday through Friday or by appointment. For more information, please visit the Lucy's Hearth website at www.lucyshearth.org.