Building Community One Person At A Time

~ Kathy McMullen, Associate Director

This is a busy time of year at GBM!  We provide holiday assistance for 250-300 families– food for a couple of weeks and new clothing and toys for children.  During this season of celebration, many families are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table.  Parents are out of work or, if they are fortunate enough to be employed, they often lose out on hourly work over the holidays.  Not only that, children who receive free or reduced price breakfasts and lunch during the school year are home and still need to be fed.  Holiday gifts are only a dream.  That’s where GBM and other service organizations come in — through the generosity of our donors and volunteers, families can get through the holidays with enough food and even some presents for the children.

It’s uplifting to walk through our office and see it filling with food and toys.  It’s encouraging to see so many volunteers here, bringing donations and packing holiday bags.  But here’s something that really inspired me:

Yesterday morning, I picked up the phone in my office.  A woman was on the other end, and she told me she had signed up for holiday assistance.  I was expecting her to ask when she needed to come in and was prepared to transfer her to the person who has the list of names and days.  Instead, she followed that with, “But that’s not why I’m calling.  I want to volunteer.”

Here is a person who is trying to cobble together a Christmas celebration for her family, but instead of turning inward, she chose to give her time to help others.  I transferred her call, but I wish I had thanked her for making my day.

 At GBM, we serve as many people as our resources allow.  We’re nowhere near the largest social service agency in the city, and we don’t aspire to be.  What we strive to do here is to keep people connected — to their homes and families and to the community that sustains them.  When a neighbor comes in with what looks like an impossibly high utility bill, we work with the utility companies to reduce the bill where possible and to make payment arrangements so the gas, electric, or water isn’t disconnected.  But we also listen for the story behind the problem.  Why was the bill so high?  Often, it’s because our neighbor fell behind in payments after she lost her job.  And then we find that she lost her job because she didn’t have reliable transportation. Her car broke down, and the bus doesn’t run the hours she needs.  If she’s living in public housing, a utility disconnect means she is subject to eviction.  We do what we can to break that cycle, through immediate assistance and by engaging our community to change the systems that keep people in poverty.

Bringing people together is what we do — building strong, engaged communities where service and justice are part of the fabric of life.  We do it every day, one person at a time.  Want to join us?  Leave a comment or email us at info@gbm.org.