Values and Underlying Beliefs
Human services organizations have values and/or underlying beliefs that help stakeholders (e.g., patrons, management, staff, and clients, etc.) understand what the organization represents. These values and/or underlying beliefs are typically reflected in the organization’s mission. Consider The Salvation Army’s mission statement:
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination (The Salvation Army, n.d.)
An organization’s values and/or underlying beliefs shape the services provided. For instance, the Salvation Army’s dedication to God is the primary value or underlying belief that shapes the organization and its services. The Salvation Army offers programs that discourage the use of pornography, rehabilitate adults addicted to drugs and alcohol, and fight human trafficking.
To prepare for this Discussion, select a human services organization in which values and/or underlying beliefs have shaped its mission and services.
With these thoughts in mind:
The Assignment: Write on 2 Organizations (One of your choice and the other on Ministry with Community at http://www.ministrywithcommunity.org/) : Write a description of the value(s) or underlying belief(s) that have shaped the human services organization of your choice and the Ministry with Community. Explain how the value(s) or underlying belief(s) for each organization have impacted the organization’s mission and services provided to clients. Be specific and provide examples.
Support your Discussion assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation. You are asked to provide a reference list for all resources, including those in the Learning Resources for this course.
Note: I have attached information on the Ministry with Community below, and you can also locate it at: http://www.ministrywithcommunity.org/
Notes on Ministry with Community (http://www.ministrywithcommunity.org)
I remember it was within the first few months that I worked here and I was out back by the dumpsters in the back of the building and there’s a woman who we still serve to this day. She came out in back of the building and she looked around and she asked me whether I had seen a piece of rolling luggage. And I had seen it, the last couple of days it had been sitting there and I had been curious about it. And on this occasion, it wasn’t there and she looked at me. She wasn’t sad, she just looked right at me and she said, “Well, I guess I’m back to nothing again,” and walked back into the building. And at one time, of course it broke my heart but it afforded me some insight into how far a person can go when losing all of their belongings. It’s just something that happens. And that really stoked the fire in me to continue to work with people to make sure that people like that woman have a home and have a safe place for all their belongings.
We serve anyone in the community. There is no requirement. There is no referral process. You can walk in and a three-piece gold lam’s suit and receive services. We primarily serve people who are experiencing homelessness, poverty, mental illness, people who are in the thralls of substance abuse. In the last two years with the economic turmoil, we have really found that we’re serving a broader population.
People who have lost their jobs and use our meals as a way to make their budget stretch, they are coming in for help with job applications and job searches. We are seeing more people who have been foreclosed upon and who have found themselves homeless for the very first time and don’t know what the resources are. And a critical role that we play in the community is that first place that will welcome an individual and point that individual in the direction of all the services that are available.
We call those we serve members because it’s somewhat cold and inaccurate to call them clients or consumers. We really see the reason community is in our name is because we are a community. I would even say that in many ways, we’re like a family. In a family, you have family members, you don’t have family clients.
We were formed around a philosophy of unconditional acceptance and we practice that in every aspect of our operation. We do not believe in placing barriers to service. If someone is in need, if someone needs a meal we believe that person should be able to walk right in off the street, not fill out any paperwork, not wait, not make any promises or engage in any ceremonies can come right in off the street, sit down and have a meal.
Living on the street dealing with homelessness, dealing with issues of mental illness is a very dehumanizing process. And we’re the first step in a long series of steps to help someone start to feel human again, rebuild their sense of dignity and self-respect, and then we have an opportunity to work with our partners to move them on to job training or get people into housing or get people into recovery programs. But it all starts here and it all starts with the philosophy of hope and acceptance and respect.
I’m doing my thing, anything to promote happiness I’m for.
Ministry with Community started right here on the north side of Kalamazoo little over 30 years ago in the basement of the North Presbyterian Church. Some very bighearted women identified a need in the community for meals and they started feeding people on Sundays and that grew to feeding people throughout the week. Eventually we moved into our current facility. It is been added onto on several occasions. And it really has been an evolution dictated by the identification of needs in the community. We work very closely with other human service agencies in the area to ensure that there’s no duplication of services, but as we have become more mature and robust as a community serving those in need, we have identified areas that we can help provide the services that are needed.
I came to Ministry with Community first as a teenager. I volunteered here, my mother used to bring her student groups down. I was always very active in volunteering as a young person and throughout college. My first job after college was actually as a high school teacher. And I found my way back to Kalamazoo and back to Ministry with Community.
I had been doing freelance graphic design and web design work and found that there is, found out that there was a need here for help with finances and with the new computer system. And so I just started working on a part time basis to help get those systems working well, and I found that reignited my passion for serving people. I was asked to take on more responsibilities. I finally became a full-time employee and just evolved within the organization.
People who are embarking on a career in human services have to be ? it takes a very special kind of person. You have to have a lot of patience, a lot of compassion, you have to be willing to work and maybe not receive the gratitude that one might feel is due and mainly just a lot of passion. If you don?t have passion for it you?re certainly not going to survive for very long and you?re going to be very unhappy. But those who thrive on giving of themselves and helping others will do very well.
As executive director my main role within the organization is to be its champion and cheerleader in the community. My job is to go out and speak to groups of all sizes and educate them as to what Ministry of Community does and how many people we help. Most people are surprised by the breadth of services that we provide. We are well known in the community for being a soup kitchen, but we have really become a critical resource center above and beyond our very critical food service. I also work closely with our fund development team to make sure that raise enough money every year to continue operating. And we are a unique organization and that we do not receive the majority of our funding from the government from any particular religious community. We really are funded by individual donors who donate between 25 and 100 dollars on an annual basis. So it’s those thousands of supporters on the community and it really is the support of the community that keeps us operating
It’s been a great education for me having to deal with issues of management and human resources. It’s not what someone necessarily expects to do going into the human services field. I think many people anticipate that they will be in the trenches changing lives ? and a lot of people are and that’s really, really important ? but there need to be people in those organizations who are dealing with policies and procedures and insurance and benefits administration and all the not terribly exciting but complex and important infrastructure that keeps an organization running.
Striking the balance between practicality and idealism within leadership in the nonprofit sector is very difficult because hopefully if you’re working to help people, your inclination is to give everything of yourself to help people. When it comes to keeping the organization operating, you often find yourself in the position of having to say no in very difficult circumstances, deciding whether this person gets a long-distance bus ticket to get into a residential treatment program versus this person who we can’t buy a bus ticket for to go to their sister’s funeral down in Indiana.
That is a really difficult decision and unfortunately you have to construct your policies in such a way that ensures that the organization can continue operating in perpetuity or for as long as it’s needed. And there are always going to be circumstances that rest right on that line that tear your heart out a little bit that you have to make. But without people willing to take on the difficult rolls, these organizations couldn’t continue to exist.
The beginning of our very robust human service agency infrastructure really started with the psychiatric hospital that’s here in town and when they started to downsize their operations, there were a lot of people who were released into the community who were not deemed a danger to themselves or others, and those people did not have the skills or wherewithal to provide for themselves. It’s why we have the shelters that we have, it’s why we have the adult foster care facilities that we have, and it’s really what’s turned Kalamazoo into an expert in helping people who otherwise are unable to help themselves. So there is kind of a indigenous in sheltered population now and Kalamazoo and that’s the population that ministry with community really started to serve.
We serve between three and 500 meals every day at breakfast and lunch. We have shower facilities that are available for use. We distribute personal need items ? toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, anything that you need to feel good about yourself in the morning.
We have laundry facilities that are free to use. We have hairdressers who volunteered to come in. And once again, all of that is about restoring somebody’s self-image and sense of self-respect, we serve as the mailing address for several hundreds of people we have phone lines that are dedicated to our members use. Above and beyond that, we have social work services and supportive counseling-anyone can walk in off the street and see a social worker, whether it’s to get help filling out a job application or whether it’s dealing with issues of substance abuse. We refer people to other agencies so that they can receive the specific help that they need. Whether it’s community mental health or housing resources or goodwill for job training.
We provide supportive services for those who are seeking employment. We have an employment van that leaves every morning at 5 AM to go to day labor agencies, Michigan Works, and then other important agencies like Social Security and DHS. We will actually help someone who gets a new job with two weeks worth of bus tokens so that they can get back up to that job before they get the critical first paycheck and can start paying for their own transportation.
We’re a daytime shelter. Our operations are specifically designed to compliment those of the overnight shelters there in town. Some shelters focus on individual adults, some shelters focus on families. And we work to make sure that people who come to our facility who don’t know about those shelters are informed.
We believe in the housing first model, we believe that getting people into their own home is the most critical first step in gaining employment and a successful recovery. So we work very closely with agencies that help provide housing.
Given our philosophy of unconditional acceptance, we do not ask people to prove who they are when they walk in the door. We do not ask people to fill out copious paperwork. We don’t believe in putting barriers to service.
Our biggest ongoing challenge is always money. It’s always making sure that we’re able to raise enough money. Fortunately, we do have a wonderful base of donors. We?re not dependent on any one donor, whether it be a foundation or an individual or a business. It is always a struggle to make sure that we do everything that we can to keep our message and our mission in the public eye.
Our funding primarily comes from individual donors who get between 25 and 100 dollars annually. We received tremendous support from the faith community, from the business community, from the nonprofit community as far as foundations. We are a United Way agency. And it’s important for our continued existence that we have a very diverse set of income streams. We like I think all other nonprofit agencies in the past two years have seen the support from individual donors decrease and that’s very understandable. People were feeling the pressure of the economic downturn. They were looking towards their own ongoing financial liability. And, so they donated a little less.
I think that we were fortunate in that the community recognized that our organization was on the front lines and still is on the front lines. Just because the economy may be turning around, people in this community don’t have jobs, people in this community are still being foreclosed upon. So, we’re still dealing with the fallout. And the community recognized that.
I’m so grateful for the forward thinking of the United Way and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation for putting together the Lifeline. The money that we received for our meals program allowed us to continue serving meals from that point and we’re still using that funding.
The other amazing thing about the Lifeline initiative is that they had the combined power of the foundation and the United Way working together. I think that was a very compelling argument to make to potential funders for the Lifeline initiative. And I think it’s indicative of the way Kalamazoo works in general when there is a need, different agencies will come together to meet that need, rather than each disparate entity working on its own and maybe and possibly failing.
I do think being in Kalamazoo helps shape the way we provide our services and the way we operate because of that overwhelming sense of cooperation and collaboration, we do not compete with other agencies. I have certainly seen communities especially where there is competition for dollars. And once again, we really strive to reduce duplication in services.
When you work together especially to approach potential funders or other potential partners, it is indicative of how healthy the nonprofit sector is. So, working together is absolutely always the best option. And we actually couldn’t do the work that we do without our partner agencies.
I often find myself having discussions with people who bring up issues of enabling. Do we enable the homeless and unemployed population and Kalamazoo? If we were more stern with those people, then they would be more inspired to work harder to find employment or leave our community.
All you have to do is spend the day here and you will hear stories upon stories of how people are desperately seeking work. I think it’s a basic human drive to support oneself. And people feel that way strongly. Those people who are unable to we need to make sure are able to access the resources that are available and are very civil and very benevolent society. We have to give people second chances and that a lot of what we do here at Ministry are second and third and fifth chances. But we don’t give up on people.
I think that many people who work in the human service field have to hope that they won’t have jobs in the future. Of course we want everyone to be unemployed but I would love to live in a Kalamazoo where we don’t need to have Ministry with Community; and not having Ministry with Community means that all those people who we serve have gotten jobs, have gotten homes, have gotten the care that they need. That would be terrific. We will continue to exist as long as there is a need to exist. But I think I speak for the entire staff when I saw we will happily get our resumes in order and lock the doors if we are no long needed. And I think that’s a goal that everyone should have.
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