Helping Families In Whatever Ways They Need
Picture this: a humble, two-level ranch home in a typical suburban cul-de-sac. The same folks have had this house since 1986 and its walls have witnessed tears and laughter, desperation and hope.
Now imagine a semi-truck—a Harvester’s delivery truck—pulling into the cul-de-sac, then offloading pallets of food into the basement of this humble structure, where it stays until volunteers carry it all upstairs to be parceled out to folks who rely on the food for sustenance.
This is the reality for Metro Lutheran Ministry (MLM). More than 2,000 families were provided emergency assistance from that humble two-story ranch last year alone. It’s where people have flocked for food, school supplies, and assistance with rent and utility payments.
“The need just continues to grow,” says Operations Director Starla Brennan. “Thirty-four percent of kids in the Northland get free or reduced lunch. Countless people don’t have bank accounts and need help with basic financial literacy. We’re seeing a very real need for case management in addition to emergency assistance, and we need more space for that.”
Brennan says that MLM helps everyone, regardless of faith or religious affiliation, and many churches in the area refer people to MLM for help with a variety of problems.
“There are so many stories of need, I could list hundreds. For example: last month we helped two families,” says Brennan. “In both of those families, the children had been separated from their parents. In order to be reunited, they have to be stable. They have to have a grasp on their finances and have a home. The kids have to have beds. It’s not just one step to helping them.
When we work with people who are in crisis, they’re never in just one crisis,” says Brennan. “They’re in several simultaneously. Unemployment means someone can’t pay rent, or buy food; divorce often means issues with eviction and problems for kids at school. Every situation is unique and nuanced, and it takes time and individual attention to help them.”
What MLM does is powerful, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires more space than they currently have; more office space, more space for staff, and more space for clients to gather, talk, and learn how to break the cycle of poverty.
“Our goal is to help stop this cycle,” says Brennan. “To deal with the increased volume of people who need help means that we have to expand our services from emergency assistance to case management. We go into a client’s home to teach them how to cook, how to budget, how to navigate their world successfully. It’s powerful, but it requires more space and more resources on our end.”
Brennan says the Northland community has been generous with support.
“The Northland community has really stepped up to help with funding. We’ve received grants that were only possible because we were able to raise the required matching amount, and we couldn’t have done that without the support of those here in the Northland.”
Brennan credits Jeani Wells, Emergency Assistance Coordinator, for knowing the Northland community intimately and understanding the resources available to help clients in need.
MLM operates almost exclusively on contributions, grants, and individual donations and serves residents at seven locations in Clay, Jackson and Wyandotte counties. They recently held a fundraiser to benefit a new Northland Service Center, which will provide a larger space with more capacity to help those in need.
“It’s easy to talk about need in a broad sense, but what we really focus on is each client,” says Brennan. “Here’s an example: one mom just graduated from our year-long program. She is a domestic violence survivor with two sons. She came here to Kansas City because she was fleeing an abusive husband. She didn’t know anyone, and it wasn’t long before her husband found her. Before she went through the program, her boys were moving from school to school and had disciplinary issues. She juggled jobs and struggled with finances, and lived in fear. Now she and her boys are settled in. They are doing well in school—excelling, actually—and she learned how to stretch her budget to provide for them.
They are the reason we do what we do. They are the reason we need to grow, because there are so many others who face instability and fear and have no safety net of support.”
To learn more or donate, visit MLMKC.org