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Thursday, August 6, 2015

From Hope Rescue Mission to Hope Ministries

The name has changed for the better.  The location has changed for the better.  After volunteering in The Learning Center at Hope Ministries for two months this summer, I know that the whole situation has changed for the better.

I used to pray "God help me" as I walked into the mission to meet my adult education classes 20 years ago.   It was dingy  and the smell of unwashed bodies was always there. I never knew who would show up for class after a weekend because often students were asked to leave after breaking rules.

Going back to Hope has brought back memories of my former students.  Dale was my first student to achieve a GED.   When I was concerned about my own son home alone during a storm, Dale said not to worry.  His mother would leave for a week at a time as soon as he could use a can opener.  I thought, " Look how you turned out, Dale."  He had been living in an unheated garage before his residency at the mission.  He died a few years later in an apartment above a bar--alone I think. His siblings never responded to my offer to give them a painting he had made for me.

And then there was J, who may still be around somewhere.  He convinced me to sign for a safety deposit box with him at a bank downtown.  Years later, I was called because he had not paid the rent.  I opened the box with a clerk and all that was in it was two pennies.  Somehow that "two cents worth" symbolized a lot more to me.  J used to give me lottery tickets.  What would I have done if I had won?  Give it to him? 

I brought students to our local zoo a few times.  One trip with just two students was very memorable.   One, a young white woman, told me she was a nymphomaniac.  The other, an older black man, was living at the mission until he could leave to be a missionary to the Philippines, he said.  We were an unlikely trio but we had a great time seeing the animals and eating ice cream together.

Today T and I worked together in a comfortable, air-conditioned room.  There are computers available for us to use.  There are books and a copier and other supplies.  T has been faithful in attendance and we are both supported by staff.  She has made excellent progress in two months.  I am delighted and so is she.  A GED begins to seem like a realistic possibility.

I am glad to be a volunteer and not an employee of the school system any more.  No records, no staff meetings, no discipline situations--just the enjoyment and rewards of working with one motivated student.

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