Adaptive Change: Empowering our Neighbors-in-Need!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  On behalf of Samaritan Ministry – and all our participants whom we continue to serve in this health crisis – I am so very grateful for your support.  I am especially grateful for what you have given or pledged since March 12, our first-ever VIRTUAL Next Step Breakfast – produced here at Samaritan Studios, i.e., our NW office conference room on Hamilton Street! Special thanks to our wonderful team which featured testimonials from participant Antoinette Green and volunteer Gloria Ducker, as well as a prayerful and passionate welcome form Bishop Gene Robinson, a heartfelt reminder of who we are and what we do from yours truly, and a powerful closing invitation from Rasheen Carbin who invited your committed responses. And GREAT kudos go to our pro bono videographer, Jay Mallin, who turned on a dime to produce this for us! If you haven’t seen it, click here!

As you may have guessed, the timing of our Next Step Breakfast production coincided exactly with Washington area stay-at-home-orders in response to the emerging health crisis. So, we pivoted to engage our participants in a new way – trying to be the change we want to see! And, I’m proud to say, we adapted in our outreach to YOU, sending you weekly e-blasts describing how we are responding to our participants given the changes wrought by the crisis – and many of YOU RESPONDED with your time, talent and treasure, further empowering us to creatively adapt!

We describe it as, Going the Extra Mile for Our Vulnerable Neighbors! So, what does that mean? Under normal circumstances, Next Step casework and STRIVE employment training put the onus on a participant to initiate and communicate. Now caseworkers reach out to participants, engaging them on the phone given the physical and technological limitations. That “rescue response” includes weekly SWAT team outreach where teams of a Lead Caseworker and 1-2 volunteers hand out participant mail, face masks, food, toiletries, gifts cards – and set up appointments with participants who may have been hard to reach.     

More recently, our adaptive response included the launch of our first virtual STRIVE job readiness training class (described elsewhere in this issue), with an impressive 10 participants now approaching graduation next week from the training. Plans are underway for our next TWO simultaneous trainings, at the end of May (it’s easier to run two smaller classes than one big class).

Our data underscores the need for and impact of all this extra engagement:  In the absence of the in-person, face-to-face Next Step coaching for which we are known, we saw the number of “sessions” with participants since February rise by 25% over 2019 – contact being only by phone and Internet, with face-to-face contact limited to the outreach described above.  Even with social distancing we increased contact with our participants!  

In short, this response over the past two months has been our RESCUE response due to the health crisis – and our Next Step Breakfast “Crisis” Appeal mirrored that response. 

But now we are beginning to imagine our shift to a RECOVERY response and, perhaps by the end of summer, we can imagine seeing participants again. And, just like the Next Step Breakfast appeal supported the rescue response, now we see a campaign to support that recovery response with our participants, many of whom we hope will be able to regain employment soon!

Launching in a few weeks, the Empower our Neighbors in Need Campaign will replace our Empower the Homeless Campaign.  It will address how we are guiding participants to find sustainable employment, affordable housing, and education in a competitive, and challenging post-pandemic culture, especially in this region where socioeconomic differences are exacerbated by the crisis.  As we begin to worship in real community – hopefully sometime this summer – we will be inviting you – individually and as Partner Churches and Schools – to empower us to SUSTAIN our neighbors-in-need in what we hope will be a REAL RECOVERY for them.  

I will continue to share our progress with participants in weekly blasts, as well inviting your response – as we all begin to recover ourselves and reach out to our neighbors in need, just as Jesus invites us to do in the story of the Good Samaritan!

Great thanks again to those of you who have responded to our appeals so far – I really, really appreciate it and, even more importantly, our participants appreciate it! 

In the Spirit of the Samaritan,