Our Fabulous Food Pantry

crab apple towerOften, volunteering in our food pantry is not glamorous. There is a lot of time spent waiting. Waiting, not knowing who woke up hungry today and will decide that they need help. Waiting, not knowing how many people will arrive in our food pantry with a voucher or when they will appear. Waiting, ready to help.

But then someone does arrive. It’s a family of one and then a family of five and a family of three in rapid succession. Food is bagged, carts filled, and the families leave, grateful for the help. Usage of our food pantry and all of the pantries in the Emergency Food Pantry Consortium is up in comparison to previous years.

Then there’s a knock at the back door and one of our volunteers is there with the latest food Darrelldelivery from Tri-State Food Bank. There is a burst of activity as the pickup truck is unloaded and the food is stored away safely. We’re grateful for our drivers’ dedication. They pick up our food on Mondays and Wednesdays, week after week, in rain and snow and ice and heat.

We’re losing a couple of our long-term delivery drivers: Darrell Megli and Bill Schmidt have both decided it’s time to retire. We are thankful for all their years of service (so many years that no one remembers exactly how many there have been). Luckily for us, there are new volunteers who have stepped up to take their places.

While a food voucher is required in order for someone to receive a full food order, there are some items available to anyone in need. We keep our bread rack and fresh produce area stocked for anyone to take what they can use.

Visitors can also request dog or cat food for their pets, thanks to the Tuly Fund which was created in memory of one of Patchwork’s beloved canine neighbors. The pet food!food makes it so our neighbors don’t have to choose between feeding their pets or feeding themselves. Additional donations of pet food or money are always welcome.

There are also pastries available if someone asks. Sometimes they’re perfect for special occasions, like last week when a woman came in and asked for a cake because it was her birthday. Shawn found an appropriate cake in the food pantry and presented it to the woman while singing happy birthday. The woman said she was going to take the cake home and would put 53 candles on it for herself.

 

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Traffic

It’s been a busy morning at Patchwork.

Last night there was a deluge in Evansville, complete with  strong winds, torrential rain, and storm warnings. As I open the doors, I hear one of our regulars comment, “It feels so good inside here.”

I talk to everyone as they sign up for showers and pick up soap, shampoo, and towels. One man borrows our hair dryer to dry his clothing. He’s sleeping outdoors in a tent, spent a miserable night dodging leaks, and is glad for Patchwork this morning. We chat about the weather.

A man who is new to Patchwork discovers that he can take a shower here and exclaims, “Hallelujah! Thank God for small favors!”

A couple people use the phone for important phone calls. Someone asks me to look up a phone number for him.

We brew the fifth pot of coffee of the morning as a list of nine people wait patiently for their turn in the shower.

Another man comes in to shave. I don’t recognize him right away and I ask, “Have you been here before?”

“Yes, I was here this summer with another guy–tall, skinny, grey hair. He’s the one who told me about this place.”

“Oh yeah, that sounds familiar,” I say.

He’s happy to have someone to talk to, and he tells me the story of his summer. He’s been homeless and has alternated between the shelters, the outdoors, the hospital, and (briefly) jail. He says he didn’t mind living outdoors during the summer, but now that it’s gotten rainy and colder he’s contemplating his options. He says that if he hadn’t been able to come to Patchwork this morning, he would have attempted to shave off three days of stubble on the banks of the Ohio River. He says it feels good to be clean-shaven again. He’s optimistic. He’s been waiting three years to get disability payments and anticipates that it shouldn’t be too much longer before they’ll come and he will be able to afford housing.

Another man wipes up counters and washes coffee cups in the kitchen. He noticed that our custodian wasn’t here today and he wants to help out. He was a child in Patchwork’s children’s program in the early 1980’s, and he remembers the time before the Washington Avenue Temple burned down. He has fond memories of Ruth Doyle and of Calvin Kimbrough playing guitar. “It’s always a pleasure to come back to Patchwork,” he says.

The next day, I’ve found an old photo album for him to look at.  He flips through the book: “There’s me on the swim team. There’s me in the spelling bee. I won it two years in a row. There’s my sister–there are more photos of her in here than there are of me!”

He tells Shawn that this is one of the best days he’s had in a while. He’s gotten to relive fond memories and he got some warm clothes out of our little clothing bank.

He shows the book to his friends who are sitting around a table, eating donuts, and drinking coffee. He tells them, “Too bad you didn’t come here as a kid. You could have done all this stuff, too!”

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Patchwork Art Additions

On Tuesday, October 28 at 5:00 pm, you’re invited to help us celebrate Patchwork’s impressive art collection.

Most notably, Patchwork has a new sign to mark the Meetinghouse at 100 Washington Avenue. Our old sign had begun to look dilapidated and it failed to really convey Patchwork’s character. Its replacement was the perfect project for this summer’s Sculpture Weeks. Over the course of two weeks, a group of youth and adults worked with visiting artist Rob Millard-Mendez to design and create a new and improved sign. They began with brainstorming, made design decisions, scaled a drawing up to full size, cut the backing, made ceramic parts, assembled everything, and painted.

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The result is a fun and colorful piece of art. The sign is in the shape of a giant hand to symbolize the fact that Patchwork is all about giving. Each finger tip is embellished with ceramic images that symbolize the things that Patchwork does in our community: the arts, gardening, worship, learning, and arms hugging a heart.

Patchwork’s name and address are spelled out in mismatched “ransom note” lettering with a colored rectangle behind each ceramic letter. The posts supporting the sign will be painted to look like pencils, symbolizing the learning that takes place at Patchwork. An idea to put a flower box at the bottom of the sign was transformed into creating permanent flowers using the burner grates from Patchwork’s historic old kitchen stove.

The Giraffe

On the 28th, we will dedicate the new sign and celebrate the other art that was created or refurbished this summer including The Giraffe, The Bike Rack, and Susan Fowler’s art to remember Art Garden Weeks. Please join us!

To learn more about our art, head over to our online art gallery. There you’ll also see updates including the name of last summer’s river sculpture and documentation of the Driftwood Orb as it became part of the soil over the course of two years.

If you enjoy art, please add our Holiday Sale to your calendar. It is coming up on Saturday, November 8 from 9:00 am-3:00 pm. We’ll have a unique mix of art by local artists. The children in Patchwork’s Art & Company have already begun creating nativity sets to sell at their art booth at the Holiday Sale.

holiday sale web ad

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The Reverend Nurse is In

Several years ago, John Rich began to think about what Jesus’ ministry would look like had Jesus lived today instead of 2000 years ago. John thought about all the healing that Jesus did and wondered what it would look like with our modern medicine. In thinking about it more, John felt called to live such a life, providing healing to both the body and the spirit by becoming a nurse as well as a minister.Health Minister John

Now he is ready to embark on a new project that embodies this vision: a Health Ministry at Patchwork. Activities will formally begin in January 2015, but planning has already begun.

The Health Ministry will offer a holistic approach to health and wellness for individuals and the community. It will provide classes, health screenings, support groups, healing rituals, health care advocacy, a small resource library, and personalized health/spiritual consulting. Clients’ health strengths will be just as important as their health needs. John hopes to capitalize on those strengths to create communities of healing. Neighbors will become health care providers for each other by sharing recipes, exercising together, giving emotional support, and helping each other navigate health care systems.

A few weeks ago, Darlene shared a story of what this looks like in practice. Over the past few years, Darlene has fought hard to become healthier and to stay out of a wheelchair, despite considerable John and Darlene HM picleg and foot pain. Recently her foot pain had grown so bad that she feared she would be forced into a wheelchair once more. One Sunday, John led a series of healing rituals as part of the Patchwork worship service and Darlene participated, asking John to pray for the healing of her feet. The next day, she went to a foot doctor who discovered that the pain was caused not by arthritis or neuropathy as another doctor had suspected, but by simple calluses which he was able to remove that day.

The pain was lifted, and Darlene felt the presence of God healing her in an unexpected way.

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A New Year After School

This place is happy,” a woman visiting Patchwork told me. “I sent my children here every day, and I KNEW they were safe. Now they’re in their 30’s and 40’s.”

P1170645A whole new group of children is finding that Patchwork is a safe and caring place for them as we begin a new school year in the Arts & Smarts program. Activities began on September 2 with tutoring for grades 1-5 and leadership training for grades 6 and up. The younger children in grades 2-5 will join the fun in arts and other activities starting on Tuesday, September 16.

There is already considerable demand for tutoring. One mother stopped in to register her child a few weeks before activities began.

“Last year it made such a difference,” she said. Her child began last year getting C’s, D’s, and an F but turned those grades into A’s and B’s and a place on the honor roll. “I give Dixie, her staff, and my mother the credit for that,” she said.

To keep up with the demand, Dixie would like more tutors, particularly for the popular time slots: 3:15-4:00 and 4:00-4:45 Monday through Thursday. P1170762You can volunteer for as little as one session once a week or you can come every day! Contact Dixie if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, the Junior Leaders and Teen Volunteers have been in training to learn how to be good leaders. Many of the Junior Leaders and Teen Volunteers have been part of our Arts & Smarts programming for years, beginning as participants in grades 2-5.

Leadership Team members are expected to:

  • Introduce themselves to the children and make them feel welcome
  • Be a good role model and respectful of others
  • Have an enthusiastic desire to work with children
  • Treat the children with respect and dignity and without discrimination
  • Be dependable, reliable and punctual with all the traits of a professional
  • Show positive behavior and attitude
  • Accept job responsibility
  • Serve as a positive role model at all times

P1180053And where might these Junior Leaders end up some day? A few weeks ago we had some work done on our fire alarm system. Part way through the job, one of the workmen came into the main office and introduced himself to Shawn.

“I’m Mathew. I used to come here when I was I kid,” he said.

Sure enough. Those of us who had been around the children’s program in the 2000’s recognized a kid who had been a Bike Club participant and an “I Am A Promise” singer.

Jane Vickers thinks he may be the first child to return as an adult workman fixing the building. I don’t think he will be the last.

 

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Giftedness

Last week at Patchwork’s Sunday worship service, Jean let the group in a meditation on Paul’s words in Romans 12: 3-8:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;  ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;  the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”

Jean encouraged the group to look around the room and create a list of the gifts of the people they saw around them. The list was affirming and an accurate depiction of the multitude of gifts that it takes to keep a place like Patchwork running. We need and appreciate them all.

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At Patchwork, we are poised on a season of change and are using our gifts to make it happen. Around us, school has started for children in K-12, for college students, and for their teachers and professors. The world has grown steamy with tired, end-of-summer heat. The tomatoes in the garden have begun to die off, the potatoes are long gone, and the zinnias are six feet tall.

Our after school Arts & Smarts Children’s Program will begin next week. Both Tutoring (Grades 1-5) and Leadership Training (Grade 6+) begin on Tuesday, September 2 while full Arts activities (Grades 2+) begin on September 16. Registration forms for children, teens, and adult volunteers are available on our website (www.patchwork.org) and in our main office.

2014-15 Arts & Smarts announcement

Meanwhile, mornings continue to be busy with our neighborhood hospitality and visits to our food pantry. Lately we have had many mornings when our guests drink 6-8 pots of coffee and take 8-12 showers. This has left our shower and coffee supplies depleted and we would welcome the following items:

  • Travel size shampoo and soap
  • Razors (double blade are sufficient and preferable to single blade)
  • Deodorant
  • Ground coffee
  • Coffee creamer
  • Sugar

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First Impressions

A woman parks by our garden and gets out of her car with her cell phone glued to her ear. She walks in Patchwork’s alley door and proceeds, on a mission, through the building to the front door. She never pauses her phone conversation.

“What? Where are you? By the front door? No. I’m at the front door. Well, I don’t know where I am, but it looks like a fun place,” she says into her phone.

I manage to flag her down and we establish that she is, in fact, in the wrong building. Hers is a great compliment of Patchwork, though. We work to make this a welcoming place for anyone who enters.

On Monday, a woman comes in to find out if just maybe we have some bags of school supplies left after Saturday’s Back to School Sale. We’d sold 181 bags on Saturday, but we have 3 bags left and she gratefully purchases two for her children. P1170476Another woman sees the last bag and is ready to take it but finds out that it costs $8 and she can’t pay. A man waiting with the first woman overhears and quickly pays for the second woman’s school supplies without her noticing. We tell her that the bag is hers to take and she is surprised and thankful.

Someone stops by to pick up some dog food for her pet. We’re one of the few places where you can find it for free thanks to the Tuly Fund which was established by the Blackford’s Grove Neighborhood Association in memory of Tom Loesch and Billy Hedel’s dog Tuly. Recently, we’ve gotten a donation to buy more dog and cat food in memory of Rocky, Sophie, and Spank. You can donate, too.

Later in the morning, Dee greets a group of men by name as they sign in for showers. Some days we have 10 showers and some days we have 0. This is a day with 10.

“Are those your fightin’ pants?” she asks one man wearing military camo shorts.

“No, this is my concrete jungle outfit,” he replies.

“What kind of toiletries would you like?” she asks another man.

“Soap. Shampoo.”

“Razor?” she asks (we don’t always have them in stock).

“Yeah.”

“Here’s some gourmet soap,” she says as she hands over a thin, pink round.

“It smells nice. Is this one that they made next door?”

“Yes,” she tells him. Our guests have been happy to receive handmade soap: seconds and trial formulas from our neighbors at Soap Solutions. They have noticed that the Soap Solutions house smells like essential oil even from the sidewalk and are interested to get to try the products.

A man comes in to get food from our food pantry but is not eligible because it has been less than 30 days since his last food order. Dee starts looking through a list of independent pantries for one that wouldn’t require a referral but would be close enough for the man to reach on foot.

He sits by her desk and chats while she calls around until she finds one that will work. He gets up to leave and announces with satisfaction, “It was a battle, but we won.”

 

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