I am prayerful and hopeful that you and your extended family are doing well. For all of us, COVID-19 has changed the direction of our lives in how we work, live and play. It has been a challenge for all walks of life. But with this challenge I have seen the majority of our community respond with excellence, generosity and sacrifice. I’m grateful for the many healthcare professionals who have sacrificed themselves for our community, Fruit of the Loom and other local businesses that are stepping up to produce medical masks, and the many stories of banks, landlords, BGMU, WRECC and ATMOS assisting businesses and homeowners to ease financial hardship.
To the many of you who have given sacrificially, even in the face of current and future financial uncertainty, I want to thank you! To our partnering churches who continue to give to Hope House even when your giving is down, thank you. Though the context is not identical, the generosity I am seeing reminds me of the generosity of The Churches of Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8, “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part."
God is giving the Church and Hope House a great opportunity to extend hope, peace, and the love of Jesus in the midst of much fear and worry during this pandemic. At the same time, we must practice wisdom in how we associate with others for the health of our neighbor.
As we walk that tightrope, I want to thank you for adjusting with us. We've had to cancel weekly dinners that so many groups graciously provide for our residents of Program Living for Men. We've had to close our Community Store, and in turn, stop all donation pick-ups and drop-offs, and these are just a couple examples of how this pandemic has impacted our work.
Currently we have three top priorities:
1. Protect our staff, their families and our volunteers.
Relief is critical during this time of uncertainty and loss for so many. The sad reality for many is that it will take three, six, twelve or more months to rebuild their lives. Hope House will be here after the pandemic ends to help with housing, transportation to work because of a repossessed car, training to get a better paying job and manage finances, and help with recovery because unfortunately, this will cause addiction and relapse for many.
Please pray for us and consider how you can join us in the rebuilding of our community that will hopefully begin soon. In the meantime, continue checking on your neighbors, offer to pick up prescriptions and food for the most vulnerable around you, and most importantly, don’t miss this opportunity to spend time with Jesus and your family.
Praying for you and our city!
By his own admission, Richard Smith’s life wasn’t going how he’d imagined it would.
“I was on drugs, and having a hard time with life,” he says.
Smith is standing in a hallway at Hope House Ministries in Bowling Green, Ky., a local advocacy organization that assisted him with getting back on his feet following years of substance use issues. He’s wearing his work uniform, his first name stitched in cursive on a badge on his chest. He seems at ease with where he is now, and looking forward to where he wants to be.
“Pretty much, if it wasn't for these people to give me the opportunity to come here to Hope House and straighten my life up, I’d probably still be in jail today,” says Smith, a native of Morgantown.
Smith first came to Hope House in June 2019, and after six months was required to get a job to help continue his recovery. That was when he first met Meredith Hester, a job entry and retention support specialist with the Strategic Initiative for Transformational Employment (SITE). Hester was able to quickly connect Smith with a new job, and that job has played an important role in helping him plan for his next steps.
An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Inc. and funded by the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE), SITE is designed to bridge the gulf between recovery and workforce for individuals active in their recovery. SITE provides valuable career, training, and supportive services while actively cultivating second-chance job opportunities.
In her role as a support specialist, Hester cultivated a working partnership with Hope House to assist recovering individuals there with employment opportunities. She received Smith’s case as a referral, and she quickly connected him with a position working at the Bowling Green operation for Bando, a leading producer of automotive parts.
“Basically she did all the footwork. I just had to say yes, I want the job,” he says. “She sent them my résumé and stuff, she did all that. It was just a blessing for me.”
Those sorts of connections are important, Smith adds, especially for himself and his fellow SITE participants at Hope House who may have backgrounds that could prevent some employers from considering them for open positions.
“We’re convicted felons, most of us are,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to get a job because most places of employment don’t like to look at felons.”
Smith began working full-time on Dec. 16 making serpentine belts for automobiles. It’s the first time he has a job that offers eight hours of work per day and benefits like health insurance. It represented a big step, and one he may not have taken had he not been able to work with the SITE program.
“It’s quite a blessing to have a job in my recovery because now I’ve got something to look forward to every day instead of just where I was going to get my next fix,” he says.
For more information about SITE in the South Central Kentucky workforce area, contact Meredith Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-991-7248, or find program updates on Facebook at facebook.com/siteky.
This article was originally published by EKCEP.
As we continue to receive more information about the impact of COVID-19, we want to keep you updated on changes to our ministries at Hope House. Ultimately, our goal is to continue meeting the needs of those most vulnerable in our community as long as we are able. However, the spread of the virus has led to several changes to our plan that we shared with you on Friday.
Cooking for Hope
In response to the recently announced state of national emergency and urging from government officials to avoid large gatherings, the Hope House Board of Directors has voted to postpone the 10th Annual Cooking for Hope, which was scheduled for May 7. This decision was made carefully and intentionally to protect the health of our donors, volunteers, and community at large. We’re praying for you and our community as we navigate this difficult situation together. We ask for your prayers and continued support as you are able in the weeks and months ahead, and we look forward to celebrating God’s grace and provision with you at the 10th Annual Cooking for Hope in the future.
Donation Drop-Off and Pick-Up
We are no longer accepting item donations, nor are we scheduling donation pick-ups until further notice. This includes clothes, furniture, household items, and other items you may typically donate to our Community Store. However, we will still be accepting critical support to maintain operations and crisis assistance, such as monetary donations and donations of food, hygiene items, and other supplies listed at the link below:
With 25 men currently in our care through Program Living for Men, food donations are especially vital for their meals, as well as food assistance to meet community needs for our most vulnerable neighbors. Please consider making a monetary donation online at www.hopehousebg.com/donate, by mail, or in person at 112 W 10th Ave, Bowling Green, KY 42101 to support our ongoing needs. You can also support Hope House by shopping Amazon Smile and signing up for Kroger Community Rewards, which will donate a percentage of your purchases to Hope House at no additional cost to you.
Our Community Store will close indefinitely on Wednesday, March 18, at 4 PM. While we have remained open for our neighbors to shop as long as possible, we are following the recommendations of government officials to protect the health of our staff, volunteers, and community. We will still have items available for crisis assistance, but our normal shopping hours will end today until further notice. Thank you for your understanding, and we hope to reopen as soon as possible.
As we respond to COVID-19 and its impact on our community, we rest assured that God is in control and works all things for the good of those who love Him. With our hope entirely in Christ in the middle of this panicked situation, we want to remain vigilant to love our neighbor well by protecting the health of those around us. Below is more information about how Hope House is responding to COVID-19 in regards to our weekly ministries, upcoming events, and more.
At this time, Hope House will remain open and available to provide assistance in the coming weeks. Our Community Store will be open during normal hours from Tuesday through Friday, 9 AM to 4 PM and Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM, and we will continue to accept item donations during store hours. We will continue to schedule advocacy appointments Tuesday through Thursday from 9 AM to 12 PM to provide crisis assistance to those in need. Our two weekly Faith & Finances classes will continue to meet until graduation in early April, unless it is deemed necessary to cancel or postpone the class for the health of our participants and volunteers. Our next Jobs for Life class, which was scheduled to begin April 7, will be postponed to a later date to be determined. Our Ready to Work Shuttle and New Leaf Service, Maintenance & Repair will continue to operate as normal.
We are taking necessary precautions to keep our office and Community Store clean, including regular cleaning with bleach and antibacterial spray throughout the day, making soap and hand sanitizer readily available, posting CDC posters with COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, screening to prevent anyone with symptoms from being in common areas with other community members, and encouraging good hygiene and hand washing.
We understand that many businesses and families are financially burdened by the ripple effects of COVID-19 and monetary donations to Hope House may decrease during this time. However, Hope House is the exact kind of organization that people turn to in times of need, and we want to do everything we can to continue providing assistance. To be financially responsible during this economic uncertainty, we have instituted a plan to limit spending outside of immediately necessary purchases so we can respond to community needs as they arise.
If you are in a position where you need to take the necessary steps to limit your interactions with the public, we want to you exercise caution and respond as you see fit for your health. We do not want anyone to take unnecessary risk. Ultimately, we heavily rely on our volunteers and need your help, but if you are sick or have a compromised immune system, please stay home. We ask that you consider others and the importance of your long term health and the long term impact we want you to have at Hope House. If you are a regular volunteer with us and have decided to stay home, please call us so we can make provisions to cover your position in your absence.
Cooking for Hope
Currently, Cooking for Hope is still scheduled for Thursday, May 7, at Highland Stables. We are closely monitoring the situation and will consider postponing the event if necessary.
Relief Efforts for Schools
With schools closing in response to COVID-19, food insecurity is a major concern for students who rely on the two meals they receive at school during weekdays. We have been in contact with Bowling Green Independent and Warren County Schools to determine how Hope House can help get meals to students in the coming weeks. We are prepared to rearrange daily operations at Hope House to allow our staff and volunteers to meet this important need. If the school districts request our help, we will send an update with potential volunteer opportunities related to this effort.
Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates about any potential changes to this plan.
"God has taught me to be more open minded through Program Living because, in my addiction, I never trusted or opened up to anybody. But now in sobriety and following Christ, I’ve seen that you can lean on others. You don’t always have to look over your shoulder thinking someone’s out to get you. It’s okay that we have problems, and it’s okay to talk about those problems with people you trust. If you don’t talk about them, you won’t ever get through them. I’ve realized that I don’t have to use drugs to have a good time."