Singing the praises of staff is typically not the topic of letters from CEOs. We normally write about ministry need, ministry impact, or thank those who make that impact possible. But this time, I feel compelled to tell you about the unsung heroes that make up the GraceWorks staff. This staff has been so amazing that I am often brought to tears over the ways they have “stepped up to the plate” to serve our Neighbors through our drive thru Food Pantry, over the phone help with rent and utilities, and reaching out to the community to foster awareness and solicit support.
In pre-COVID 19 days, on average, we would distribute 37 carts of food in a seven-hour day. Since we started our modified service model on March 19th of being open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 12, with an extra shift on Wednesday evening from 4 to 7, we have distributed a record number of food carts. Just this Tuesday we served 71 families with food in just three hours!
We also have also seen a steep incline of requests for rent assistance at higher dollar amounts. To give you an idea, in two full months last year (March and April of 2019), we served a total of 46 requests for rent assistance. This year, just in three weeks since March 19th, we have seen 55 requests for rent assistance, with demand increasing every day.
I am the first to admit that we are spoiled by our volunteers and that we miss them! Pre-COVID 19 we would have an average of 250 volunteers a week helping us run GraceWorks like a well-oiled machine. But, in compliance with our local, state, and federal government officials asking that we limit our contact with one another, we have asked our volunteers to only come via a personal invitation and staff who are able are working at home. We are also now only offering the essential services of food, rent and utilities and using a rotation of our 33 staff to provide these services.
For the last couple of weeks, the GraceWorks staff, regardless of their job description or what they were originally hired for, have driven and emptied trucks, stocked shelves, divided produce, bagged meat, sorted bread, packed eggs, hauled boxes, greeted Neighbors, directed traffic, pushed and unloaded grocery carts…you name it! And, they have done it all with great joy! Some have even begged to be put on extra shifts so they could serve. Others have come to me saying what a great team building experience this has been for us all.
The GraceWorks Development and Communication staff have been pushing out Facebook posts and website updates (that I hope you all have been following!). They are working hard to let you, our community, know our needs and the impact of your support. From your response they are doing a great job! So, thank you for standing with us during this crisis.
In a time where we all need to count our blessings, mine are too numerous to count. I have 33 staff members that I am so proud of! I am so encouraged to see them fully step into our mission of Neighbor serving Neighbor (many are experiencing the front lines of our ministry for the first time). Another blessing is being part of this generous community that has overflowed our cup with prayers, in-kind food donations and monetary gifts, (keep them coming, I just heard tonight as I write this that the “stay at home” order has been extended until April 30th!). And last but not least, I am blessed by every Neighbor who pulled their car into our parking lot to receive food and for every phone call placed by a Neighbor asking for help with rent or utilities, knowing that God trusted us to love and care for so many who were desperate, afraid and at the end of their rope. GraceWorks is here for them.
Your support is keeping us afloat in these uncertain times and is also growing us to serve in robust and creative ways that we could not have foreseen. We are serving more Neighbors than ever and are being knitted together as the body of Christ here at GraceWorks!
Together we are strong in grace against this nasty virus. Because our God is greater, awesome in power…Our God, Our God!
Valencia A. Breckenridge, CEO