Thanksgiving Blessings

P1320520It’s Thanksgiving–the time to take stock of all that we’re thankful for. At Patchwork, it feels like a good time to reflect on all we’ve done in the past year of service to our neighbors and our community. We are thankful for everyone who has helped us to provide these services including our staff, our volunteers, and our funders. May the blessings continue into the new year!

Here’s what we’ve accomplished in a year:

The Patchwork Central Emergency Food Pantry – Our food pantry served 1776 individuals from 972 households by distributing almost 20 tons of food. Each food order includes 3-4 days’ worth of food per person, meaning we distributed approximately 21,000 meals-worth of food. Households must receive a referral in order to get food, and we issued 415 referrals at Patchwork rather than asking those in need to make an extra trip to another referral agency.

Arts & Smarts After School and Summer Children’s Programming – 116 children and youth in grades 1-8 attended at least one day of Arts & Smarts activities. A total of 130 days of activities were offered, resulting in 2492 individual afternoons of creativity, learning, and growth. Of these children, 82% belonged to low income families. Additional teen volunteers received leadership training as they volunteered in the Arts & Smarts program. Daily activities included one-on-one tutoring, visual arts experiences, gardening, cooking, robotics, leadership training, substance abuse prevention, and reading. Through these P1310519activities, children gained important skills for life and developed relationships with caring adults.

Neighborhood Hospitality – One service Patchwork provides to our neighbors is simply our presence in the neighborhood. We call it neighborhood hospitality. Last year, we logged approximately 7632 instances of hospitality. These include cups of coffee, phone use, visits to our small “clothing bank,” packs of diapers, bread, fresh vegetables, and referrals to other local agencies better equipped to assist the individual with his or her needs. It also included 1037 showers for individuals who, for various reasons, had no other access to shower facilities. Sometimes this hospitality is simply having a staff member able to lend a respectful listening ear to hear our neighbors’ frustrations, anger, or celebrations.

Bike Shop – Patchwork’s Bike Shop was reorganized by volunteer Pete Emery in May, 2015.The Bike Shop is open Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30-noon. On average, 2-3 drop-in clients visited every day for repairs or to receive bikes. In the five months that the shop was open, we repaired and gave away 18 bikes to individuals who needed them for transportation. We also did numerous other repairs (both simple and complex) to bikes to return them to road-worthy condition.

Sozo Health Ministry – The Sozo Health Ministry began operating in January, 2015 to promote health and wholeness through weekly health screenings, education, advocacy, non-emergency medical transportation, and spiritual care. It is coordinated by Rev. John Rich, RN. In its first nine months, it provided 274 total health encounters
for 81 total P1310399clients. Total direct contact time was 327 hours. Services included 51 instances of transporting clients to medical appointments. They also included 11 occasions in which staff identified emergency health situations in clients, and 911 was called or the client was transported to an ER.

Building Use – Patchwork provides space for other organizations who, like us, are working to make a stronger, healthier, and more peaceful community. Many people pass through our building on a weekly or monthly basis to visit these organizations. Last year, these groups included: Narcotics Anonymous, the Blackford Grove Neighborhood Association, the Evansville Friends Meeting, and the River City Food Co-op.

Community Garden – Patchwork maintains an urban garden next to our building, and we have since 1995. Not only does the garden provide pleasant green space for our neighborhood, it serves as an educational tool to use with the children in our programs and it provides fresh vegetables for any of our neighbors who care to harvest its produce. Many are surprised to hear that they are welcome to take what they can use.

Worship – Patchwork holds weekly worship services on Sunday evenings at 5:15 pm. Services are ecumenical and completely volunteer-led. Worship has been important at Patchwork since its beginning as a neighborhood ministry in 1977.

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Kind Words

On Tuesday, BP1320186ill Hemminger provided a wonderful feast of bean soup and bread for the children in the Arts & Smarts Program. But it wasn’t just any bean soup and bread! It was soup prepared from beans that the children had harvested from our garden a few weeks before and bread that Bill made himself and baked in our outdoor bread oven. It was warm an comforting food–fitting for autumn and the upcoming season of thanksgiving and joy.

We hear many thank you’s at Patchwork. People are very grateful for the services they receive from us. It’s always good to hear, but equally encouraging is the gratitude from people who receive no services from Patchwork.

We received one such note in the mail this week that included the following
encouragement, “We are grateful to you for the work you’ve P1320504been doing in this community…the hundreds, probably thousands, of children and adults you’ve helped and enriched for so many decades.”

And, last weekend I learned a wonderful story about one family who makes art to sell at our Holiday Art Sale. The family is Indian and lives in India but has friends living in the Evansville area. The family in India makes beautiful, multi-colored socks. They make a living (in part) by sending their socks to their friends in the United States to sell. The family in India knows that Patchwork’s Holiday Art Sale is one place that their socks are sold, and they are very happy to know that 30% of all of their sock sales at the Holiday Art Sale are given to support Patchwork’s programming. They’re excited to be able to help out a great community organization a world away from their home!


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A Beautiful Day in Our Neighborhood

Patchwork has been out and about in our neighborhood, lately. It’s been particularly wonderful with all the new activity and businesses opening on Haynie’s Corner.

Un Birthday PartyLast Friday, our Junior Leaders (teens in middle school and high school) enjoyed a Team Outing on a beautiful autumn day in Haynie’s Corner. The outing was a reward for the Leadership Team’s good work over the last month serving as role models and assistants for the younger children in our Arts & Smarts program.

Officially, the outing was an Un-Birthday Party, since the day was everyone’s un-birthday. The group (all wearing silly hats, of course!) walked the block and a half to the Haynie’s Corner Fountain where we played games and exchanged un-birthday gifts. Then we enjoyed a picnic of appetizers from the Bokeh Lounge and an un-birthday cake baked by one of our volunteers.

The following Sunday, Patchwork was back at Haynie’s Corner for a bike ride organized by Pete, the bike guy, to raise awareness for Patchwork’s Bike Shop. A group of about 30 riders gathered for a trip down the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage and back to the Bokeh Bike RideLounge for refreshment afterward. The bike ride also raised some funds for Patchwork’s Bike Shop so Pete can restock on tires, tubes, and (hopefully) some bike locks.

As busy as the Bike Shop has been, Pete definitely needs to restock. So far, we’ve given away 25 bikes and done numerous repairs. Pete averages 2-3 walk-in customers every morning that the bike shop is open in addition to his work rehabbing bikes to give out. Currently, he is  in need of used adult bikes and additional volunteers who are experienced in bike repair.

Coming up soon, you’ll have your own opportunity to explore our beautiful neighborhood and to support Patchwork. We’ll host our annual Holiday Art Sale on November 6 & 7. The Holiday Sale features 100% handmade artwork by local artists including the children in Patchwork’s Arts & Smarts program.

Holiday Art Sale art cOn November 6, you can visit our Sale from 6 pm-9 pm as part of First Friday in the Haynie’s Corner Arts District.
The sale continues from 9 am-2 pm on Saturday, November 7. During lunch on the 7th you can also visit the Empty Bowls fundraiser happening at Kirby’s. Admission to the Holiday Sale is free. 30% of all purchases will be given to Patchwork to support our programming.

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Sozo Health Ministry Update

pain reliefJohn and Mary remain busy with Health Ministry clients. They continue to follow up with people who have sought them out and have had new clients referred to them from primary care facilities around town.

Their work exposes the limits of the health care that is available to impoverished people in the United States. Medications require extra levels of approval, specialists’ instructions are difficult to understand, clinics are located all across town, doctors’ orders are impossible to keep while living on the street. When individuals do not get the care they need, when they cannot get transportation to the clinics and pharmacies who will help, when they are intimidated by the system, they live with their illnesses while their problems are compounded until they are hospitalized, costing everyone a great deal of money.

The Health Ministry works to intervene, monitoring health conditions, providing transportation so people are able to keep their appointments, and following up. Here are a few stories to illustrate the needs met:

We’ve helped one client find a new Primary Care Provider and establish care. At the first appointment, we advocated for this client, who has been health suppliesexperiencing significant symptoms that have not been relieved by medications and other means. The doctor,
patient, and health minister came up with a plan to refer the patient to a new kind of therapy. We have already taken the client to the first therapy appointment, and are seeing promising preliminary results. While all of this was going on, we were also making sure the client had transportation to see his specialists and to the pharmacy to make sure he has the medications he needs.

One new client was recently released from incarceration and had a plethora of health care needs. We helped him establish care with a Primary Care Provider, transported him to his appointments, helped him fill his many new prescriptions, and advocated for him with the pharmacy and insurance company.

Another regular client is a homeless individual who uses our transportation and advocacy services regularly. His doctor ordered a particular kind of medical monitoring that was complicated by his situation of living in a homeless shelter. The Health Ministry not only provided transportation, but coordinated between the doctor’s office, monitoring center, bandagesand homeless shelter to ensure that the monitoring could be done effectively with the least disruption to the client or the shelter.

With the changing weather come sniffles, sneezes, and allergies to add into the mix of the usual scratches, bug bites, and other minor ailments we see regularly. The Health Ministry has a limited supply of donated items to help give people a little relief from these discomforts. They are small things, but to the people suffering, they make a huge difference.

Our screenings on Monday mornings have been busy, too. Over the summer, we identified two individuals with dangerously high blood pressure and transported them to the ER. Who knows how long they were walking around with this condition that could have led to a heart attack, stroke, or other major health problem. Just this week, we had a client showing symptoms that were very concerning, so we transported him to the ER, where they admitted him to the hospital and got his condition under control in about 48 hours.

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Living by the Arts & Smarts Creed Official

P1300619Recently, I needed to summarize the spirit of Patchwork’s Arts & Smarts children’s program in two minutes or less. I decided to read “The Creed Official,” the official Arts & Smarts code of conduct that the children recite every day as part of their snack time ritual.

The Creed was written a few years ago by participants in the children’s program, though there are several addendums that our current participants have added to address conflicts as they have arisen. The Creed reads:

The Creed Official

  • Listen and be safeP1300685
  • Follow directions and stay with your group
  • Be nice & respectful
  • Use good manners
  • Have a good attitude
  • Be respectful of others’ art
  • Keep your hands to yourself
  • Do your best and have fun
  • Use nice words—no cursing

Addendums (repeated as call and response)

  • If you want to feel good… You gotta do good.
  • If you want to have a friend… You gotta be a friend.
  • Live life… On purpose.
  • No whining… Ever.
  • Do what you’re told… When you’re told.
  • Treat other people… The way you want to be treated.

The Creed sets high expectations, but the children work hard to follow it while they’re at Patchwork. On multiple occasions, I’ve had adults comment that their jobs would be much more enjoyable if they and their coworkers followed the creed as well as the children at Leadership Team Logo bPatchwork.

We’ve just completed two weeks of Leadership Training for our Arts & Smarts participants in grades 6 and up. These teens make up our Junior Leader Team who are expected to model good behavior to the younger participants, to assist these younger participants whenever they need help, and to work together as a team. In appreciation of their efforts, they get to do special activities designed just for them on a regular basis.

The teens in this year’s Junior Leadership Team will be great leaders and this should be another great year in the Arts & Smarts program. Activities are now open to all: tutoring for children in grade 1 and up, and arts and other activities for children in grade 2 and up. Participants must be registered by a parent or guardian, and registration forms are available on our website ( and in our main office.

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Changing Seasons

The seasons are changing here at Patchwork. There’s a touch of fall in the air, and next Tuesday our Arts & Smarts children’s program will start up again for the school year. The building is very quiet in the afternoon, but in the air there is the promise of a crowd of children’s voices.P1300581

Dixie is preparing the tutoring room, Jane and Elisa are planning art projects and activities, and they’re all meeting with interns from the three area universities.

There is still an opportunity to register children for both tutoring and other activities, and we need more high school and adult volunteers. Additional information and the appropriate registration forms are available in our main office and on our website

Once the children’s program begins, the level of activity at Patchwork in the afternoons will again rival that of our mornings. Lately, it’s an understatement to say that mornings have been busy. Take yesterday, for example:

A stream of our regulars stopped through the building for coffee, for a shower, for food, and for conversation: Mark, Michael, Scott, Lisa, Hershel, Brian, Cheryl, Carol, Alice, Randall, David, Mathew, and more.

Billy Hedel was here visiting and changing light bulbs in preparation for an exhibit of his Hurricane Katrina series. His artwork is on display as part of the Haynie’s Corner Arts District First Friday event this Friday, September 4 from 6 pm-9 pm. (Stop by and see us!)


Patchwork’s retired Office Manager Jean learned the ropes on her first day as a food pantry volunteer.

A man came for a food order and introduced himself as having been one of the kids in the photos hanging on the walls. I ask his name, and he says it’s Shawn. I tell him that I’ll let Calvin and Nelia know that he was here because they’re always glad to know when former kids return.

“Tell Calvin that I was asking about him,” Shawn says with a friendly smile. “He’ll remember Arthur and me because we were bad.”

Pete sends two bicycles out the door with new owners. Another man pokes his head into the main office to say, “Thanks again for that bicycle you gave me last week. P1300482It’s the best bicycle I ever had. Thank you. You guys have helped me out with so much.”

A case worker for Southwestern Behavioral Health talks to our guests about services she can offer, and some are interested in learning more.

A man inquires in the main office, “Is that guy here today…the nurse? I’ve got something I need to ask him about.” It’s not officially a Health Ministry day, but we stop John on his way out the door to pick up a prescription for another homeless man. John consults with the first man, who is very grateful.

The building stays lively, and I am glad.


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A Decommissioning

August 1 & 2 saw a unique and wonderful gathering of people at Patchwork. Old friends who moved away nearly 25 years ago, toddlers getting their first introduction to Patchwork, and many Patchwork regulars gathered in our big room for stories, laughter, music, photos, plenty of food, and some tears.

Saturday evening Group

The occasion was the Decommissioning of Patchwork’s Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) unit. The unit had been part of Patchwork since 1988. It was one in a national network of similar units in other cities: the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), a program run by the Mennonite Church that offers participants an opportunity to live out their faith through community service. Participants serve for 1-3 years and receive room and board in exchange for their work in community organizations.

Unfortunately, the national MVS organization has seen significant declines in enrollment over the past several years, and in response the national staff decided to eliminate 10 of the 21 MVS units nationwide, including ours.

Patchwork gained a lot from our MVS unit through the years. VSers participated in Patchwork worship services, they were present in our neighborhood (where the MVS unit was always located), and they worked for either Patchwork or one of our partners in the community. They contributed energy, ideas, imagination, and hard work. They received opportunities for leadership and life lessons from Patchwork’s Worship Community members, from their co-workers, and from the people whom they served. The entire Evansville community benefited in large and small ways: the Arts & Smarts children’s snack time rituals, our volunteer record system, many of the art pieces around our building, Patchwork’s tutoring program, Patchwork’s work on bikes, the River City Food Co-op, and Patchwork’s current leadership. After their service in Evansville, our Mennonite Voluntary Service Workers (VSers) returned home to places like Kansas, Ohio, Oregon, Manitoba, and Colorado.

So it was with sadness that we gathered on August 2 for a worship service to Decommission our MVS unit. There were songs, scripture readings, prayers, and communion. Then John Rich led us in a Litany of Decommissioning, which included the words, “We look to the future, to God’s future, and know that the Evansville MVS Unit is not dead, but will rise again in new and surprising ways. It will rise again in moments of service and song, in acts of mercy and justice, in organizations and programs that will not even know the debt they owe Evansville MVS, and in lives transformed that may not even understand the connection.”

If you have stories or thoughts about the continuing legacy of the Evansville MVS unit, both in your life or others’, I encourage you to share them with me.


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