It is hard for me to believe that I have been at the Heart Ministry Center for nearly two months. I know it is only a short time, but I’m not sure if there has been any two-month period in my life that has gone this quickly. I have learned so much about the community we serve and yet have so much to learn.
Here are some of my initial thoughts on what I have observed in my new role as the Executive Director of the Heart Ministry Center:
1) Despite the prosperity in our community there is also a significant need here.
I live in the Hanscom Park area. Until a couple of months ago, I took the Harney Street exit off Interstate 480 East to head downtown to work as an attorney. There is great prosperity in downtown Omaha and many thriving businesses. Most people are doing well.
Now, I drive maybe an additional five minutes down 75 North to the Lake Street exit to go to work at the Heart Ministry Center. Our building sits between the area codes of 68110 and 68111 which represents the highest levels of poverty in the Omaha area. It represents the highest level of poverty for African American children in the entire country. One third of our clients are children.
It is still startling to me the economic disparity in Omaha that occurs a five-minute drive away from the center of our community’s economic prosperity.
2) There is also great generosity in our community.
What has been overwhelming in this position is observing the great need by the impoverished in our community and seeing the generosity of the people in Omaha who support the Heart Ministry Center. Everything the Center has and does is fostered by the generosity of others.
Our medical clinic, our dental clinic and our facilities are there because someone realized a need and was willing to give the resources and/or equipment to allow us to operate. We are able to take mentees out for outings because of the generosity of others. The 78,500 acts of assistance that we will provide this year are only possible because of our volunteers and supporters.
None of our services require clients to pay for them. Everything we provide, again, is based on the generosity of others. And the generosity we receive ranges from funds from significant foundations and donors to the former client who now works a minimum wage job fifty hours per week, but still volunteers at the Center because he wants to give back.
3) Making real change with those in poverty requires more than just resources.
It is entirely possible that I am too early in this role to make any kind of pronouncements. With that being said, what I have learned is that it is not as simple as connecting a person to a particular program and expecting that person’s life to immediately improve.
Poverty is complex, often generational and has many layers. Sometimes that person is not ready for that resource. Sometimes that person has so many other complicating factors that a particular resource will not be successful for them.
In addition to resources, what really helps those in poverty is time and patience. There is no straight line to success for those dealing with poverty. It takes time, patience, understanding and resources.
4) We are moving the dial.
Despite the complexity, we are moving the dial. With time, patience, understanding and resources we are helping move people forward.
From the women that complete our Pathway program and are now self-sufficient to the men that had not been employed for a long time and are now employed and can support themselves and their families.
People in this community, with our help and their hard work and desire, are finding their way out of poverty.
I am fortunate to be here and I look forward to continuing to work in this great community that has so much to offer.