My excuse for not writing a blog entry lately is because I have been focusing on my other project of taking clients to breakfast. I have had a student (Maggie Rossiter) that spent time at the Center during the summer when the renovations were going on. Below is what Maggie wrote about her experience.
I only met Dana once, and she was already acting like I had known her for years. Dana, a bubbly woman, was just treating me like she did everyone. Once you’re in her life, you’re always there.
For five years, Dana was the first face a client saw at the Heart Ministry Center (HMC) as they pulled open the two front doors stamped with HMC’s open-heart logo. Many people in Omaha know of HMC as a food and clothing pantry. Grade schools organize canned food and clothing drives and high school students come to the center to volunteer, but the clients of HMC know it as much more than that. The thousands of cans and boxes of clothes that fill the HMC are of no comparison to the people who keep the place running.
Iva, a quiet, petite, woman plays an important part in the center. She runs the clothing closet and says that the employees of HMC are like a family. Iva prides herself on the organization of the clothing closet, but more importantly, the dignity that the clothing closet gives to its clients. Iva is constantly seen wearing clothes from the clothing closet and will turn away clothes donated to the center that she would not wear herself. She believes that if she isn’t willing to wear an item of clothing, then a client shouldn’t have to either.
The closet is divided between men and boys and women and girls. It is color coated, and resembles a makeshift boutique. This summer the clothing closet went through tremendous reconstruction along with the rest of the center. The closet is getting more space, another dressing room, and a playroom to entertain children while their parents are shopping.
Not only do the employees know that that HMC is unique but its clients do, too. Maureen, a native of Omaha, says that HMC is a miracle. Maureen was a member of the 12-step pathway program, a program that enables women to reincorporate themselves into the community. In 2004, Maureen went to prison due to a crime related to her substance abuse. After coming out of her incarceration she said that one of the basic necessities she needed was a little bit of hope. Maureen entered herself in the Pathway Program and says it changed her life.
During her time in the program, Maureen visited “tent town—“ a wooded area outside of downtown Omaha where many homeless veterans have settled. While there she was able to deliver lunches to the veterans.
“I knew that when I was able to give back that this is what I was supposed to do,” Maureen said. “This is how I give back what I took. This is love. This is God,” Maureen said.
HMC doesn’t just provide clothes, food, and the 12-step pathway for women. The center currently offers sack lunches Monday through Friday. The sack lunch program has no requirements other than you must be present to receive the lunch. The center also hosts numerous outreach events that are open to the public and free of charge including sports and school physicals, ice cream socials, health screenings and wellness informational sessions. HMC has a mentoring program, a resource center for job searching and a referral program. For more information on all of the center’s programs, visit heartministrycenter.org.
As I left HMC this summer from my last visit, I realized that I had misjudged it. I had grown up thinking it was simply a food pantry and clothing closet, but realized it was much more. Dana, Iva and Maureen are only a few of the people who add to the glow that HMC gives to 24th and Binney Street. As I walked out of the doors, Dana said goodbye to me in the way she always says goodbye to everyone, “Have a blessed day.”
“The Heart Ministry Center is a good bridge for ending despair,” Maureen said. “It doesn’t give you the fish, it gives you the fishing pole.”