2 Dec
2016

At FaithWorks, tis the season to be Thankful!

We have an overflow crowd in our 41st class this fall. Men, women, young, not-so-young – all looking for the skills needed for gainful employment.

Around the lunch table each day, students share their hopes, dreams and stories that impact their lives. Recently we asked students to name some of the things about FaithWorks that they are thankful for. Many named “food,” as we were sitting at the tables enjoying a healthy lunch. But there were other things as well. “Friendship” came up a lot. These students didn’t know each other a few weeks ago, but there’s just something about praying for each other that brings people together.  The graphic below shows many other facets of FaithWorks that are appreciated by our students.

Jeanne Wray

jeannewray@me.com

faithworkswordcloud

30 Nov
2016

Bruce Evans Memorial Fund

bruce-evans

FaithWorks of Abilene is pleased to announce the establishment of the Bruce Evans Memorial Fund, honoring Dr. Bruce Evans, one of the founding board members of FaithWorks. In 2003,  Bruce was executive director and executive vice president of The ACU Foundation and a certified financial planner. With a heart for ministry and expertise in organizational fundraising, he was always available to assist with funding opportunities and ideas at FaithWorks.

Bruce dedicated his life to ministry and higher education. He was a preacher for several congregations and executive for nine years at the Herald of Truth ministries. He served at several colleges and universities, including University of Texas at El Paso, Lubbock Christian University, University of the SW, Abilene Christian University, and the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, NY. Bruce was a much loved and respected professor and administrator wherever he went. A founding board member of Disability Resources in Abilene, in addition to FaithWorks of Abilene, he also served on the boards of Austin Graduate School of Theology and World Christian Broadcasting. Evans retired in 2012.

Bruce Evans passed away in August, 2016. “Bruce was the consummate advancement officer whose gentle manner and caring spirit quickly won over people’s confidence,” said ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money. “Everyone knew Bruce was a true Christian servant who modeled integrity and Christ-likeness in all he did.”

Because of the kind of man Bruce was and the dedication he showed to FaithWorks of Abilene, FaithWorks has established this memorial fund, the proceeds of which will benefit FaithWorks students. Many FaithWorks students run into roadblocks as they enter the workplace. The goal of FaithWorks is to see its students become self-sufficient. But often students can’t afford childcare, transportation, or utility bills as they enter the workforce and set up their household. Contributions to the Bruce Evan Memorial Fund will be used to help graduates more successfully transition to the world of work. Bruce always loved to attend FaithWorks graduations, celebrating with the students as they achieved their goal of completion of the program. FaithWorks is pleased to honor Bruce Evans with even more graduates, as the proceeds from this fund aid those on the path to self-sufficiency. Thank you, Bruce Evans, for your love of FaithWorks.

If you would like to honor Bruce Evans with additional funds, you can contribute online (www.faithworksofabilene.org) or mail your gift to:

FaithWorks of Abilene
Bruce Evans Memorial Fund
1229 N. Mockingbird Ln
Abilene, TX 79603

5 Aug
2016

A Piece of the Pie

We serve lunch in a room that was originally a lab in a medical facility built in 1955 for Dr. Irby Fox and used by a number of medical professionals. When FaithWorks was offered use of the building in 2007, Community Development Block Grant paid for new flooring and paint. We removed the 50-year-old carpet from the room that now serves as our dining room and laid new tile over original flooring in other rooms.   We also bought two cook stoves from the AISD auction that year for $50 each.  A FaithWorks family friend handed down the dishwasher from their home that is still in our kitchen as well as the first of three hand-me-down refrigerators we have used in the 8 years since.

This spring FaithWorks was again invited to apply for the current round of CDBG funds from the City of Abilene (and ultimately, HUD).  The Community Development Block Grant provides money for things that are “permanent and attached” in buildings in developing neighborhoods such as ours on North Mockingbird Lane.  The numeric displays on our built in cookstoves no longer “display” and the dishwasher that leaves as much water on the floor as it uses to disinfect dishes certainly qualify.  We were thrilled to learn that we were approved, contingent on City Council approval, for these improvements that will bring our busy kitchen up to efficiency and safety.

As a part of the approval process I had the opportunity to briefly speak to Abilene’s City Council members this past Thursday.  FaithWork’s potential award was a mere 2% slice on the $400,000 pie chart that represented the whole funding package presented that morning.  A shining, yellow 2% slice of the pie.

And though our percent of the pie was small, the City Council members, Mayor Archibald and City Manager Robert Hanna were so very engaged and encouraging of the hard work and success of the hundreds of students who have been a part of the 40 FaithWorks classes so far.

FaithWorks is blessed by the ongoing support and collaboration of so many in our Abilene community and throughout the state. Watch for new things happening in the coming years as we collaborate, as a pilot group with the Texas Homeless Network and Region XIV and Abilene Hope Haven and develop ways to Keep Texas Kids Housed and their parents employed.   Keep an eye on the way that FaithWorks and Abilene Hope Haven will work closely together to provide career development and case management for those being housed in their new permanent housing environment.

And come have lunch at FaithWorks at noon.   We serve lunch each weekday that class is in session.   We have guests almost every day of the semester.

Graduation is set for Thursday, August 25th at 7 PM at 910 Cypress

The Fall FaithWorks class begins on Monday, September 12th.   Who do you know who might benefit from 13 weeks of personal, career, academic and spiritual development along the path to THE JOB?

 

8 Apr
2016

If I told you my story

I love stories and I am a natural story teller. If you know me well, you know that often what could be a short answer to your question comes with a story.

FaithWorks graduates are reading Brene’ Brown’s book Rising Strong and discussing her writing over dinner one Thursday night each month.   Brown talks about how our brains are wired for story. Our brains actually reward us with dopamine when we recognize the familiar beginning-middle-end structure of a story. In this book she tells how we much reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.

I have many favorite things about FaithWorks. Our students and their life stories top my list.   I love getting to know the men and women who join the FaithWorks family each spring, summer and fall as we begin each new 13-week class. And I love that their story with FaithWorks is not just that initial 13 weeks

One of my favorite songs, “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave, begins with, “If I told you my story, you would hear hope that wouldn’t let go . . . you would hear love that never gave up . . . you would hear victory over the enemy.”

If I told you the story of this 39th class of FaithWorks, you would also hear stories of determination and persistence and hard work. You would hear the stories of single moms working to change the very direction and future of their children and of men taking giant steps in bright and new careers.

And these great stories are not restricted to class time during this 13-week semester or even to their 4-week internships during this semester; their stories continue well past this season. FaithWorks stories are forever stories

If I told you the story, you would hear the story of Darla, a graduate from 2006 who serves as the hostess and greeter to those who come to the FaithWorks building to have their tax returns prepared for free on Monday evenings. Darla represents FaithWorks to the community with the other VITA volunteers whose paying jobs are with Region 14. Because of her generosity in giving Monday evenings during tax season our neighbors can have their taxes prepared for free.

You would hear stories of the six FaithWorks graduates who played key roles in the Poverty Simulation hosted by Abilene Independent School District’s Region 14 Service Center. Because of the willingness of Kevin, Claudia, Darla, Lloyd, Jeri, and Krista, middle class leaders from Abilene were able to better understand real life frustrations of living in poverty in Abilene, Texas, in the safety and comfort of a three-hour simulation. These six graduates filled the role of mortgage company cashier, the utility company representative, the owner of the local pawn shop, the representative from the homeless shelter and the pay day loan representative, the jailer and local social services center.

 

“If I told you my story you would hear life but it wasn’t mine.

If I should speak then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin,

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins,

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.

To tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

Big Daddy Weave

 

The spring class of FaithWorks graduates on Thursday evening, April 21, at Grace Fellowship at 7:00.   Please make plans to come celebrate with this 39th class as we hear firsthand from current and former students their incredible stories.

 

We begin summer class on Tuesday, May 31st. We are taking applications now. If you know of someone (and I suppose there is more that goes here).

 

3 Sep
2015

Faithfully Unshaken

This past Thursday we celebrated, in an auditorium filled with family, friends, encouragers and former graduates, as we completed our summer FaithWorks class. Our 37th class is a determined group of students, who named their class The Unshaken.

It is always a highlight of graduation to hear the stories. Every student has a story – an incredible story of change in direction, or change in momentum, or of simply realizing that “if I don’t change what I am doing I am going to become the person that ‘they’ say I will become. “

Thursday’s speakers were “Judicious” Jack, “Merciful” Meghan, and “Brave” Brenda.

Jack’s journey began sitting beside a dumpster behind the Highland Church. He tells of Community Minister, Joe Almanza giving him a safe place to sleep and then Jeremy Glover and friends helping him settle into a halfway house while making the commitment to walk with him through this 13-week semester. David Wray was Jack’s FaithWorks Friend, meeting Jack for lunch each week; helping with transportation and meals during Jack’s recovery from foot surgery. Jack says, “The best thing I have gotten out of FaithWorks is that it gave me the time to be around people that had faith in me, that supported me, and gave me the time to start having faith in myself.” Jack is looking for work in a shipping and receiving department or as a local driver.

Meghan is the third sister in her family to attend FaithWorks. Although Meghan had had years of long-term employment, she found herself in a “dark depressing place” and knew she needed to do something about it.   “Classy” Cassi, her sister, reminded her that a new semester was beginning and that she encouraged her to apply. Meghan credits the many things she has learned through the connections she made during FaithWorks: her FaithWorks Friend, Becky Porche; the Highland Church of Christ and the wonderful people at the Department of Aging and Disability Services where she served as an intern. She says, “The most important thing has been I found myself again…I don’t feel like I am nothing anymore. My self-confidence is higher than it has ever been, due to the program. I am able to live a stable life to the fullest…to get back on the horse when I fall off. Most importantly, that I am never alone!”

“Brave” Brenda tells of being in a “vicious circle of not having a job, no money, no transportation, utilities being cut off and no food in the fridge.”   She was “hopeless and tired of life” when she stumbled into BOBS, Breakfast on Beech Street and heard about FaithWorks of Abilene.   Through research, interviews and an internship at The Oaks at Radford Hills, Brenda has identified THE job as Medical Laboratory Technician. Brenda tells of what a great mentor her FaithWorks Friend, Patricia Hernandez was. Patricia came to lunch each week with Brenda’s best interest at heart. Some weeks there were specific topics that Brenda needed to talk through and some weeks, when Brenda did not feel like talking, Patricia was still patiently attentive, never pushing.

“My very favorite part of FaithWorks is the people I am blessed by each semester.   Many of these are men and women that I would not have met if I had not had the chance to spend a season with. “

Every person has a story!!! It is the story of who they are. Their story is a map of where they have been, it shows where they are now, and predicts where they will go next.   I love seeing the place on that map that is FaithWorks of Abilene.

We begin again THIS MONDAY, September 14th. And we have room for a few more stories.

15 Jul
2015

There’s No Place Like Home

It gives me comfort in knowing that whatever happens that day or that week that when the day is over I have a safe place to watch my children sleep and me also. A place where my family can be comfortable and where children can be children. It’s my safe haven. I feel like all I go through outside it will be okay when I get home, where I can think about, pray about, cry about, laugh about, in my home. I know I can be honest and humble. It’s a sad terrible thing when you don’t feel safe or comfortable because you’re in a place that’s not yours or a place where you are not wanted. My home is my sanctuary.

Three barriers consistently rise to the top of the list of things that keep a person from being able to support their self or their family – a lack of a safe place to live, lack of affordable childcare and lack of reliable transportation.   Most of the time, not having a safe place to live ranks first.

Seventy percent of our current class lack stable, permanent, safe housing. Two reside in halfway houses. Three began the semester in living situations where they could not have their children with them. Still another is at risk of losing the home she owns due to back taxes.

This is not a new problem. Nor is this specific to this particular class.

For the past two years we have dedicated a portion of our very limited resources to help FaithWorks graduates have a safe place to live as they transition from the every-day-in-the-classroom phase of their life to beginning work. It takes a lot to set up a home when you are starting from scratch.

In the beginning I thought we could do this fast. I believed that we could gather a family, set up a household and walk away in 60 to 90 days knowing that family and their home were “set”.   I am learning how long it takes to get a person in their first safe home. It only sounds simple.

The quote at the top of the page is from a student who graduated last year and now has lived with her two children in a place of their own for almost a full year. She is the third single mom FaithWorks has helped in this location over the past two years.

Having her own apartment provided a place to rest, recover and heal from surgery this past year. Her first year in her own place has not been without bumps in the road, but the journey, as you read her quote, has been oh, so worth it.

This month, a current student was able to move into a house with room for her three children and her sister, who will help care for her children. I see this student come in exhausted each morning after her full day of class the day before and her evening job. Today she fell asleep sitting straight up in computer lab. This hard working mom was blessed in that she did have her own car when she began FaithWorks on June 1st. And we were blessed to be a part of her moving into a safe home, being reunited with her children, and finding childcare with the help of community subsidies and the great summer program offered by Boys and Girls Club.

As far as I know these two young moms have never met. But I believe as they gather their children in their homes each evening, after long days in work or class, they both give thanks to God for safe, affordable housing.

“It gives me comfort in knowing that whatever happens that day or that week that when the day is over I have a safe place to watch my children sleep and me also…it will be okay when I get home, where I can think about, pray about, cry about, laugh about, in my home”.

Meanwhile, in the classroom we have completed the first three modules in the life skills curriculum and chosen careers. Internship locations are being identified and will begin the week of July 27th and run for the next four weeks.

4 May
2015

FaithWorks Graduation! Thanks! I Needed That.

There are times when the world seems so very dark. We cannot escape the stories of the violence in Baltimore as we also mourn – if we can even fathom – the loss of over 6,000 souls an earthquake robbed in the Nepal community. My 11 year old Border Collie named Levi died at 4:30 this morning. It is almost too much.

Yet in the midst of the grieving, today I am also celebrating a season of hard work and accomplishments with the incredible FaithWorks spring class’s graduation, our 36th, in the Grace Fellowship building.

Being present at a FaithWorks graduation is one of the best reminders that there is light and goodness in the world. We share in impressive stories of darkness turned to light.

“Magnificent Meg”, a graduate from class 33 did an outstanding job of chronicling her life from a time that she describes as brokenness to her current life where she is halfway through her two year study to become certified as chemical dependency counselor. Her face shone as she spoke of how much she loves going to work every day at Serenity House.

“Keen Craig”, with a pew filled with family, told his story of transitioning from a former life of addiction and poor money management to full time employment at Dr. Tom’s Preventive Healthcare for your Computer and consideration of enrolling in TSTC.

“Proud Priscilla” interned at Hendrick Cancer Center with the incredible Linda McNeil and plans on continuing assisting in that department and working as a certified nursing aid in home health while she enrolls in Cisco College to obtain her LVN nurses license.

Jesus tells his disciples, his students, in Matthew 5 that they are the light of the world. These FaithWorks graduates are bringing light into our world – into a computer repair shop, and the Cancer Center at Hendrick. And certainly into Serenity House.

It is a highlight of mine to know that this light also shines in Mardel’s Bookstore and comes with an enthusiastic hug as you walk into the store. This light is at the metal recycling center on North Treadaway. And The Oaks at Radford Hills. You may think the welding torch provides the brightest light at Frontier Welded Products, but it could actually be the light from the FaithWorks graduate (and now, board member)holding that torch! This light shines at an Abilene Taco Bell as well as an area Subway sandwich shop. The list goes on . . . and the LIGHT continues to shine!

And as we prepare for our SUMMER class, our midpoint in our thirteenth year, that begins June 1, you may know of someone who would benefit from spending their summer at FaithWorks of Abilene.   We are currently taking applications.

 

15 Jan
2015

You are the Light of the World

One of FaithWorks’ favorite friends is Terry Pope. Dr. Pope is a professor of accounting and finance in the College of Business at Abilene Christian University. This week, like every beginning week of every semester, Terry opens his class of senior business majors reminding them that every morning when they look in the mirror, as they brush their teeth, shave or put on their makeup, they are looking at God’s light to the world. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world”. It is a great reminder to me that every time I look in the face of a FaithWorks staff member, volunteer, student, or friend, I see God’s light shining in the world. FaithWorks is that city on a hill that cannot be hidden.

I have carried this Matthew passage with me as we begin the new year and look forward to the new class. Matthew 5:14 popped up on one of my verse-of-the-day apps on a day that began at 16 degrees. Light is not only bright but is often warm.

I have been so blessed to see God’s light shining in the faces and actions, in the hugs of the men and women who keep FaithWorks running. This is not only a place of light but of warmth.

FaithWorks has been blessed beyond measure by the more than 100 friends of FaithWorks who gave over $50,000 in much needed end of the year donations. How thankful we are to so many of you!

I am thankful too for the opportunity to see God’s shining light in FaithWorks graduates in new careers and work opportunities. Look for December graduate Claudia’s shining face at the north side McAlister’s Deli and Positive Patricia’s (doesn’t that even SOUND like light!) face as she begins work at Wisteria Place.

The 36th FaithWorks class begins Tuesday, the 20th. Our very first class also began on a January 20th, –in 2003, twelve years ago. We have a great group of applicants. But if you know someone ready to light up their life with new opportunities encourage them to stop by and meet Paul Mathis and complete an application today. Orientation for new students will be held Thursday at 6 PM or Friday at 11:30 AM.

9 Nov
2014

If I had a Hammer

If I had a hammer . . .

I am in New Orleans this week with my sweet husband, Dave, attending the National Association of Realtors annual conference. We came a day early to work with a group of realtor volunteers, 150 strong, to work on four Habitat Houses. We built subflooring on the house we were assigned to. My job that morning was hammering 2 X 10 boards together – a row of five nails every sixteen inches. A job that was much harder than it sounds. Besides seeing that I actually can hammer five nails in a row, the real highlight of the day was meeting the young mom who would move into this house in February with her five year old son. She has completed 150 of the required 250 volunteer hours with Habitat.

She reminded me a lot of the impressive FaithWorks students I spend my days with. Each wants a better life, a better home, for themselves and for their family. Each is required to invest a great number of their personal hours in “sweat equity”. A time of working, learning, using the tools they have been blessed with. A new home built by Habitat for Humanity requires much personal effort by the new home owner. The same is true of the new beginnings and careers FaithWorks students long for. Each student must invest long hours in the classroom, in counseling, in the computer lab, in internships; using the skills, talents and blessings they have been given. A Habitat home is not free. Nor is FaithWorks.

Internship season begins this week for the current FaithWorks class and we are looking forward to our talented students – – – in medical offices, in elementary classrooms, in nail boutiques and caring for abandoned animals. The sixty hours spent in these learning environments are one more important part of their working into their new live and new career. It is a very important and exciting season as we move forward.

We are thankful for the many donors, volunteers, mentors and lunch providers that help make FaithWorks possible just as Habitat is thankful for so many who contribute to the building of each new home. The eight business, school and nonprofit internship providers this semester are vital in building the foundations for new careers, new hopes and new futures for each of our students.

We couldn’t do this without YOU.

We also are so thankful for the perseverance, the dedication, the commitment, and yes, the “sweat” each of our wonderful students invest in the new lives.

24 Jul
2014

For I know the plans…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord

July 28th begins Internship season for the summer FaithWorks class.   Students conduct research and interviews with area employees for the first five weeks of the semester as part of the process of identifying THE career or stop gap job they will pursue.

Using this information, local employers and nonprofits are contacted about hosting a FaithWorks student for a four week period – weeks 9–12 of our 13 week semester – or a total of sixty hours as an unpaid intern. 

The internship is an integral part of the success of the student going to work in a job or career that will allow that student and his or her family to become financially independent.  Our hope is that the internship will serve as a stepping stone into THE job.  Occasionally the student will be offered a job at their internship site which is great news, but not actually the purpose of the internship. 

The purpose of the internship is to give the student first-hand experience in the field that they ultimately hope to work.  It adds four weeks’ experience in this field to their resume, and it places them in a location where they learn about job openings in their chosen field from professionals who work in those areas.

The diversity of the students at FaithWorks is one of my favorite things.  The lives and the stories that we share are very precious to us – just like the men and women who have lived those stories.

We are still about two weeks away from internships so those locations have not all been identified, but here are the career directions that the members of the summer class have chosen: respiratory therapist, administrative assistant in a social service agency – ideally working with children, expectant moms or babies, church secretary, chef/pastry chef, file clerk in a law office, daycare worker, phlebotomist, physical therapist, skilled maintenance work, landscape design, interior design or house “staging”, bookkeeper, licensed chemical dependency counselor, graphic design, work in a police or fire department and work with drawings such as blueprints or landscape design.

There is always this variety in the interests and skills of our students.  It’s exciting to think about how many areas of Abilene will be impacted by this group of students. Their servant hearts will make this a better place to live as they bless the lives of other people.

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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