Tag Archives: volunteering

Kindness Matters: House of Bread

To break bread is probably one of the oldest human traditions that continues to ignite the spirit of sharing. In the Christian faith, it is symbolic of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. To make bread is the activity that unites women who are participating in job training sessions offered by the House of Bread, a new non-profit in Roanoke.

The House of Bread was created in January 2017 to help formerly incarcerated women gain skills to strengthen their confidence and hope. Over the course of a six-week session, women learn new skills through hands on training in the Local Environmental Agricultural Project Kitchen (LEAP kitchen located in the West End) and gain spiritual development while baking and selling bread alongside volunteers from the community.

In addition to learning basic kitchen and baking skills, the women in the program receive ServSafe food handler training, develop marketing and customer service skills, and partner one-on-one with mentors who shepherd them through a job search and resume building process. The students are given a $50 weekly educational stipend and are expected to attend a weekly class and sell bread with the organization once a week. They meet weekly with their mentors. Each session culminates with the ServSafe certification exam and a mock interview clinic where students practice their interviewing skills and receive feedback. The first clinic was staffed by attorneys, business leaders, and people in the restaurant industry.

The inaugural session kicked off in October 2017. Most of the first session’s participants were chosen through Transitional Options for Women or Total Action for Progress. Six women began the program, and four graduated, all with ServSafe certifications. Alongside women from the community, the students learned how to bake a variety of breads and sold over 350 loaves, often selling out in an hour.

What was the recipe for this success? The baking skills honed at home and shared in the LEAP kitchen by Lisa Goad (co-founder), the organizational finesse of former teacher and current seminary student Jordan Hertz (co-founder), and the vision of licensed professional counselor and seminary student Jen Brothers (co-founder). Sprinkle in a handful of motivated students, passionate volunteers and mentors, wide-ranging community support, and generous funding from church grants and private donations, and House of Bread was born.

Brothers realistically anticipated some attrition, and it did happen in the case of one student, who relapsed after finding herself in an unsafe living situation. Her mentor did not give up, saying she wouldn’t leave her until she was ready to stand on her own two feet. She connected her mentee with resources to help her regain her footing and start a new job.

Currently in its second session, the House of Bread has big projects on the rise.   Transitional Options for Women, a recent recipient of a Roanoke Women’s Foundation grant, will open a coffee shop this January on 13th Ave. It will be staffed by TOFW residents and House of Bread graduates. A former HOB student and current House Manager at TOFW will manage the shop. HOB plans to rent a space beside the coffee shop to host meetings, hold interviews, and allow for greater connectivity to the neighborhood and its residents.

Brothers wants to hold the graduates together in community and is currently working on organizing weekly “soup nights” where program graduates, volunteers, and friends come together to break bread and share in storytelling and prayers, with local ministers presiding over a simple round table Communion service.

House of Bread fills a unique niche in our community, offering hope to those who may have lost it along the way and the tools to rebuild a life and become a healthy and productive citizen. It also allows for the formation of friendships across neighborhood and socio-economic divides. House of Bread actively seeks volunteers, donations, and customers. To learn more about House of Bread please visit www.houseofbreadroanoke.com.

Written by Kate Ericsson


Giving Back: Matthew’s Child

Matthew’s Child opened their doors in 2013 with the goal to help create happy kids and foster healthy relationships in the foster and adoptive community. Husband and wife team, Jesse and Melanie Couch, saw a need for support for foster families in the area. Their first-hand experience as foster parents and their relationship with the community helped them create programs that tailor to specific areas like first night meals, survival kits to meet basic needs, hygiene kits, car seats, clothing, and more.

“There is this false stereotype that the government pays you to be a foster parent and takes care of you. While there is a small monthly stipend, it doesn’t cover the full physical needs of the child,” Melanie says. “It’s definitely something that, when you choose to be a foster parent, you are expected to be able to provide for that child. We’re not talking about just the physical things, we’re talking about meeting their emotional needs and the support needs of the families so they don’t get burned out. [They need to be] able to find the resources they need so they are able to take care of that child. It takes a lot, so these families need a lot of support. Foster care can be on the fringe of society, so sometimes you don’t think about that need being here in your own backyard.”

To help foster families meet their needs, Matthew’s Child partners with psychologists and different local specialists to set up training for foster families and parents. Available trainings include, but are not limited to, ethnic hair care, biological family engagement, and independent living for teens. For those interested in becoming a member of a foster child’s team, they offer a course on working as a team member that includes information on the role of the foster parent, biological family engagement, the role of a caseworker, the role of the community, and the court process.

“It takes a village to raise a child, whether it’s teachers, volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, CASA volunteers, special advocates, down to the Grandin Theatre across the street hiring teenagers who need experience,” Melanie explains. “Not everyone can be a parent, but everyone can offer support.”

With the holidays right around the corner, it is important to remember to help those out who might be experiencing a difficult year. If you can’t foster a child, consider donating gently used clothing and toys, or travel-sized hygiene products for the first night in foster care. Matthew’s Child is also accepting volunteers in any capacity.

If you are interested in helping out with foster care, or if you’d like to learn more about how Matthew’s Child can help your family, visit www.matthewschild.com or call 540-523-1580.

Woven for Mutts Helps Local Dogs

Ariel Lev has always loved dogs. She and her husband were able to rescue two, but they found that they were not in a place to have more than that at the same time. Still, like many animal lovers, she knew she wanted to do more.

Photo Jan 04, 12 33 53 PM“Donating money was one thing, but I couldn’t always do as much as I wanted to,” Ariel explains. “Volunteering and fostering are dangerous for me because I know that would mean a third dog for us, and we are unable to do that right now. Walking away from those dogs in need would be heartbreaking.”

With all of these things resting in the back of her mind, Ariel sat down last summer to watch a friend weave. Her friend let her try it out, and shortly thereafter, Ariel bought her first loom.

Ariel began posting pictures of her creations on social media and received an onslaught of support from her friends. The interest generated a new set of questions.

Photo Jan 04, 12 32 36 PM“I have a full-time job, and I didn’t want to commit myself to making a profit or selling my weavings to friends,” she says. “What would I charge them? What would I do with the money? At that point, I realized that I could sell them, but donate the money to senior dogs in shelters. Donating the money keeps the acting fun and fulfilling for me.”

As many of us already know, a lot of shelter dogs are seniors. People decide they can’t keep them, they move, or sometimes, unfortunately, owners die and the pets don’t have anywhere to go. Puppies are quickly adopted out of shelters because they are an easy sell. Potential adoptive families often avoid the dogs who already have someone else’s habits or illnesses. They forget that the dogs who are not always the most appealing also need and deserve a loving, safe, and warm environment.

“Senior dogs have lived their entire lives with a human and, all of a sudden, find themselves in a concrete cell wondering what happened,” Ariel adds. “As our dogs have gotten older, I’ve fallen more in love with their greying faces. When I see other little grey faces in shelters, it breaks my heart.”

Photo Jan 04, 12 31 46 PMLast month, Ariel hit her first thousand dollar mark and donated the money to Angels of Assisi. She has committed to donating every one thousand dollars she makes from her creations to a different shelter, and the next beneficiary will be Franklin County Humane Society Planned Pethood. Currently, she chooses shelters out of her interest in them. However, if the business continues to grow, she will be accepting nominations.

Ariel will also begin teaching weaving to the public this month in a series of classes at the Taubman Museum of Art on February 5, 12, and 19. Visit www.taubmanmuseum.org for more information on the class, and check out Ariel’s Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/woven4mutts.

Giving Back

We are currently compiling our list of ways to give back in the coming months. Beginning in February, we will replace “Giving Back” with an active volunteering article. The goal is to promote a general understanding of the commitment many nonprofits need to survive and help those in need right here in Southwest and Central Virginia.

To begin this series, we want to tell you about smaller efforts we are making as a staff to brighten up the world around us. We hope that they will inspire you to complete random acts of kindness in your own life so we can all work together to make our community a better place.

We adore the girls over at Project Goodness (www.withgoodness.com). They are “a community dedicated to noticing and adding to the goodness in and around us.” Their interactive signs are popping up all over the country, and encourage passersby to take a random act of goodness to complete during their day. They send PDFS out for free, and you are welcome to contact them or us (editorial@beckmediagroup.com) for copies of your own! (Just make sure to ask permission before you hang them!)

We are also captivated by the Craftivist Collective community. Created by activist Sarah Corbett, it allows artists to approach activism in a gentle, respectful, yet target manner. Sarah’s goal is to explore global issues “using craft for critical thinking.” Check out some of their awesome projects like “Stitchable Change-makers” at www.craftivist-collective.com.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the information and resources available for the cause you want to support most, but don’t let it distract you from your purpose. A simple, random act of kindness or a moment spent learning and reflecting on the lives of others can help you achieve the personal growth you seek on a daily basis. Give one (or both!) of these a try and stay tuned for our volunteer adventures in 2017!

Your Time Could Change a Life

wings6Gleaning for the World is announcing their new women’s program, WINGS. Around the world, women are forced out of their schools, jobs and society because of their monthly cycle. Annually, these women lose months of education and income because they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. It is devastating and abandons so many to violence, exploitation and prostitution.

These desperate women resort to any means available for help. They walk to landfills to get newspapers, dirty rags, corn cobs and even bark. In places where taboos are the worst, some women are forced to sit on dirt mounds or above holes for hours at a time.

This new program is an incredible solution. These kits provide all the supplies women need for their monthly cycle and can last for up to three years. That is an extra nine months of education, income and freedom. What’s more, it helps improve their self-esteem and empowers them to reclaim their future. No longer do they have to hide each month or dig through garbage to find makeshift supplies.

“I have been to some of these communities and met these women,” says WINGS program spokeswoman, Danielle Sarchet. “I have seen the happiness on their faces when they realize what they have, and it moves me to know that the volunteer efforts of women in Virginia will change these women’s lives.”

These kits are assembled by volunteers in Central and Southwest Virginia. Due to the donation of supplies and volunteers, they are produced at far below retail price. Fifteen dollars will produce and ship one kit to a woman in the developing world.

If you would like to volunteer to produce these kits (in part or in whole), contact Danielle Sarchet, WINGS and GFTW Volunteer Coordinator, at Danielle@gftw.org or call (434) 993-3600. For more information on what you can do to help, visit gftw.org/wings.