When it comes to measuring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mission of GraceWorks Ministries, numbers are important.
GraceWorks, for instance, spent $42,000 in December assisting folks throughout the community with rent payments, twice the amount that was funded in December 2019.
In the nonprofit’s 2019-20 fiscal year, 63 percent more families and individuals were served (16,823) than in the previous year (10,333).
And as an example of how wide the assistance from GraceWorks has extended during the shadow of COVID-19, it provided 69 expectant mothers with newborn supplies through its Our Little Angels newborn program.
Indeed, statistics go a long way in showing how important GraceWorks is to the community and especially to the people it directly benefits. But more than facts and figures, it’s the faces of those who are helped that really tell the story. From the start of the pandemic last March through its continued stranglehold, GraceWorks has been there for not only those who come from generational poverty but also those in situational poverty who are perhaps first-timers at seeking monetary and food aid.
“It is emotional, but I also consider it a privilege to be able to sit in the pain with people and meet them right where they are,” said Bryan Pogue, director of Neighbor Services. “We try to bring them relief, but sometimes I think what we provide people is that hope, that mental health component.
“Some people don’t know where to turn — the shame they feel from it, the burden they’re carrying. We can play that lay-counseling role with people and really just be a place for them to come and share, and listen and let them know there’s people with you standing in the gap.”
Like these folks:
- A man, his voice shaking over the phone, asked for help with rent after his work hours were reduced. He had never had to ask for help before and said he didn’t know if he could repay the money. GraceWorks helped with the rent, told him he was not expected to repay, and told him he could get food at the drive-through pantry as long as he needed.
- The coronavirus cost a single mother of three children her two part-time jobs. She contacted her ex-husband for help only to find he was laid off too. With financial help from local churches, GraceWorks worked out a plan to help her pay her rent.
- A divorced mother of two children, with a career in residential/commercial cleaning, has had to cope and adjust to the loss of most of her clients. She began making calls to try and understand why she was not able to enter these office buildings and clean, knowing that was a key to keeping the pandemic from spreading. But she was told that they had enforced the CDC requirements. As she turned to her residential cleaning, she was faced with the same response. When she contacted her ex-husband, she discovered he had been laid off as well. GraceWorks worked out a plan to pay the rent with the assistance of its partners.
For some 25 years now, GraceWorks has been serving the community and helping to address poverty in Williamson County through its faith-based mission of “Neighbor serving Neighbor, by the power of God’s grace.” It’s a multipurpose ministry, connecting with residents who have a diversity of needs, including food, clothing, housing support, financial assistance, and more.
To accomplish this, GraceWorks looks to a staff of 35 employees, around 200 volunteers, monetary donations and support from corporations, faith-based organizations and others — in other words, a community willing to lend a hand toward whatever is needed.
“We had a day when our [food pantry] shelves were literally about empty, and we were considering not opening the next day,” GraceWorks CEO Valencia Breckenridge said recently. “We were wondering what food we would have to offer, and that morning, several people had done food drives and food just poured in.
“It really was a manna-from-heaven situation, and we realized we are passing on the generosity of our community to our neighbors in need. It really exemplified our mission statement of neighbor serving neighbor and how we were being the conduit for that as a community resource center.”