Tag Archives: Local

A True ‘Just Love’ Story

I (Kristie) launched and lead the Agape English Program at King Street Church in Chambersburg, PA. We teach English to unlikely neighbors for free. What might surprise readers is that I am not a teacher nor do I have any formal training. Yet, our program has been recognized by the Franklin County Literacy Council awardfor its contributions to our community. Are you curious how it all started?

Back in the fall of 2010, my spouse and I joined with several Haitian families to form a bible study at church on Sundays. We studied together in Kreyol and English, and we prayed for each other. The Number One prayer requests week after week: English classes on Saturdays at no cost. After weeks of this, a friend turned to me and said, “You speak English. You teach us.” So with a few resources given to me by a friend who is a real ESL teacher, I started meeting with 6-12 Haitian ladies each Saturday to teach them English. Shortly after that, I met my Indonesian friend, Ruth. When she learned that I taught English, she asked if she could bring 27 of her friends?!?

To make a long story short, I approached the church, held a training, found a co-leader for the launch, and we took off two years ago this very month in March 2011. We have anywhere from about 30-50 students each Saturday evening, and 20+ kids. Our program is one of a few in our town, if not the only one, that is free with free childcare. Wholly volunteer run, we have sustained two solid years even with some comings and goings of students and helpers. Amazingly, our needs are always met.

What happens on Saturday evenings is rather magical. It is a highlight of my week. People born in different places around the globe, speaking different languages, and bringing their own cultural norms come together as friends. Our students hails from Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and Peru. We teach because we love, and we are blessed to be loved back. Incidentally, we believe most (if not all) of our students are marginalized. Each of them is highly motivated to learn in order to better navigate life in this new home. Here are a couple true stories about our students (names changed to protect privacy):

  • Carlos V: When learning English words for “family” (i.e. father, mother, wife…), Carlos said with a sadness in his eyes and voice, “I not see my wife and children for three years.” He said he doesn’t make enough money to travel to see them, to get them Visas, and that he has no options for employment back home in Mexico. After class recently, Carlos told us that because of the English he learned at our class, he was able to take and pass an exam to get a promotion at work. I exclaimed, “Woo hoo! More money! Good job!” And he said, “I no care about the money. I learning English.” We adore Carlos.
  • Julio J: Julio is new to our program. He probably has the best mastery of English compared to the others. He has multiple questions every week. He is funny and a wonderful addition to the class. Last week, Julio said, “I am sorry I ask many questions. I just want to know.” I replied, “No problem, Julio. We love it! Ask whenever you want to. We are here to help.” He said it is because he is so comfortable that he can make jokes and ask alot. He said he’s never had anyone to help him with those questions. I reminded him that we are not only teachers-students, but friends. And I am quite certain I saw a tear well in his eye as he quickly thanked me and turned to leave.

Cecilio-webSantiagoOllinca--web Sono-webThe photos above are from our “graduation” party last May. The students loved receiving their certificates of accomplishment, and we all enjoyed a fun time together.

If you are local and would like to visit our program to see what we do, please contact us. You don’t have to be a “real” teacher; I’m not. You only need to love unlikely neighbors and be willing to give your time to help them.

Additionally, we are looking to purchase an Oxford Picture Dictionary for each student for this year’s ceremony. At nearly $20/each, it is a lofty goal. But this one book is a primary text and we are asked often for a copy. If you would like to help us give them this valuable learning tool, please just visit our giving page.

All donations to ACR are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. ACR is entirely volunteer run and our actual overhead is less than 1%. That means we are blessed to assure that all donations go directly to helping the least.

Any funds received in excess of a project’s budget will go toward other current projects.

Desperate Family Needs Help for Rent

invoice-blackedI had gone home to meet up with Ronita, one of our board members, to give her the check to pay the rent for the homeless couple we helped recently. ACR has no overhead (literally less than 1%) which allows us to assure that all donations go directly toward helping the most needy. To make that possible, I do the work of ACR from an office in my home.

Ronita and I were delayed as we talked and prayed. We were again witnesses to God’s amazing mercy and provision for the least (through ACR and our friends). After we parted, I got in the car to head to my paid job. I stopped at the first intersection just one house away and noticed a car driving very slowly through it. Strange, I thought. The driver then waved, parked his car in the intersection, got out and called out, “Miss Kristie!”  It was a Haitian client, one we have helped in various ways — such as going with his wife (who doesn’t yet speak English) to register their kids for school and after school programs. We’ve looked for jobs for him, and helped him fill out countless applications online. We’ve prayed together. We have brought food, basic furniture and even bed sheets. When I think of all the marginalized friends I am privileged to know, I regard this friend and his family to be among the very least.

I found him frantic that day as I left my home. “Miss Kristie, I got laid off!” He said he had been driving around trying to find my home. Somehow, he had hope that we would not turn him away. I hope it doesn’t sound like boasting, but we really couldn’t and wouldn’t. Our motivation (and my own motivation) is love for the least. And often times, our motivation is better spoken as ‘love for the friends we serve.’

My friend handed me a notice from his landlord. He was already one month behind in rent and had a new month (and new owner/landlord) to pay. I assured him ACR would help. He also wanted desperately to know where to find a job. I had nothing to share but I promised to call whenever I saw a posting. Cars had to navigate around his and I had to go, so I gave this friend a hug and told him not to worry about the rent. I told him ACR was his friend, too. And then I drove back to work marvelling at the coincidence (or not) that he would even have found me. He was lost and searching, and I happened to drive up at just the right time and place. And I prayed for him and his family. So much struggle–round and round on the poverty cycle with no way out.

THE NEED: Attached is the invoice from the rental company for the month of March for $650. If you can help us help this family to pay their rent and avoid eviction, please visit our giving page.

All donations to ACR are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. ACR is entirely volunteer run and our actual overhead is less than 1%. That means we are blessed to assure that all donations go directly to helping the least.

Any funds received in excess of a project’s budget will go toward other current projects.

We Did It…Together!

Thank you, friends, for your generous help in meeting the need of the homeless couple in the last week. They are housed and the wife is readying for surgery next week. The entire $3,000 need was met to ensure they will remain housed for six months as they re-apply for disability benefits. There is hope where it was lost a short time ago.

Together, we made a difference for this couple among the poorest of the poor. Thank you, all, who heard and who helped. May your kindness and love be returned to you in full.

Love and peace,

Kristie

Previous news about this project
First news about this project

An Update on the Homeless Couple

February 25, 2013

Dear friends,

Our board member, Ronita, was able to get this precious couple into the efficiency unit over the weekend though the lease will not be signed until tomorrow. Her tireless work in advocating for and lovingly serving these two is selfless and powerful. What began with her meeting this destitute and hopeless couple has resulted in the compassionate response of many to ease their burdens.

Through your generous donations, a little more than half of the $3,000 needed to cover this family’s first six months of rent was received in just two days. They are now in a small apartment, sheltered from the cold and dangers of sleeping in their car. They can now heat food and enjoy a warm meal; they had been using food stamps to purchase only non perishables, and they had no means by which to cook or heat food. The wife has a safe, warm place to recover from her upcoming surgery. And they have hope again because Ronita, ACR and you really do care.

My dream when founding ACR was that we would love the least with the love and respect they so often are denied while working to ease their burdens. This update is my sincere thanks to my board and to you, our friends, who have joined us in loving these two and many others in ways that really do make a difference.

Thank you again for your gifts of love. And if you would like to help ensure this couple is housed for six months, there is still time to help. Just visit our giving page.

Shalom!

Kristie Fry
Executive Director

Previous news about this project

Sleeping in a Car in the W*almart Lot — Nobody’s Dream, but One Family’s Sudden Reality

320px-Wal-Mart_in_Madison_HeightsHello, friends: The following is from Ronita Rupert, vice president of our board. Please read about a precious family she has been helping. ACR has taken on this project and we’ll work to ease this family’s overwhelming burden.

February 22, 2013

I met a couple who have recently become homeless. February 4th was the first night they spent sleeping in their car in the Walmart parking lot. We’ve had the coldest of days this winter in the past few weeks. I could not just walk on by, and I cannot imagine how frightening it would be to sleep in my car during frigid nights.

Due to multiple serious health problems, the husband applied for disability. The process was a year long and ended with his denial of benefits. I have heard that many are denied the first time they apply but have a better chance on appeal. Anyway, they have watched their savings and all personal resources drain while their situation did not improve. Though they’d never imagined themselves homeless, it became an unavoidable reality for these precious two.

By the time we crossed paths, they had no money, no income, no ability to work, and no home. Last week, a co-worker of mine provided funds to put minutes on their cell phone, to purchase a gas card, and to get them a hotel room for a couple nights over a very cold, snowy weekend.

The wife is sick and needs surgery; it is scheduled for March 7, 2013. We are very concerned for her and the risks to her if sleeping in a cold car, as well as her comfort during recovery following surgery. I have been to the Franklin County Homeless Shelter, the Cold Weather Shelter, and Candle Heart, and they do not have any empty beds. Salvation Army, SCAPP, HAP, and Mental Health housing all need them to have some kind of income before they can help with housing.

So after exhausting all government resources I know of, and after four days of working to find help for them (that’s four more nights in their car!), I am turning to our friends here at A Child’s Refuge. Together, we can make a huge difference in the life of this truly marginalized and needy family.

God Bless,
Ronita Rupert

***
THE NEED: $3,000.
We have located an efficiency unit in the borough that rents for $500/month with utilities included. $3,000 will cover the rent for six months, while also providing immediate shelter. We believe it will also give this family some time to work on their disability benefits appeal and to await a new reply.

If you would like to help us to love on this precious family in need, please visit our giving page. All donations are fully tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

I am incredibly thankful for our board of directors. God placed leaders in place that share the vision and passion for loving the least, as evidenced by this hard work by Ronita.

Thank you all for your love for others.

For the children!

Kristie Fry,
Executive Director

*photo credit

Real Poverty Right Here in the CBurg

EL limye billFebruary 18, 2013

I met with a client family who called for assistance yesterday. I have helped them fill out countless forms for social service assistance. I do not enjoy doing paperwork, but it’s a true need of the Haitian immigrant families I have the privilege to meet and know.

This family is in a constant struggle to meet basic needs. I call it the poverty cycle. Round and round they go–working for low wages, irregular hours, no health insurance, no credit, and no way to get off the spinning circle. It is *not* that this family will not work; it is that they do not have earning power. High school diplomas from their home nation mean nothing to local employers. So they get the most menial jobs, the ones no one else will do. If they can get the job in the first place.

This household includes a father and mother, an adult daughter and her toddler, an adult son, a teenage daughter, and three little girls. To house, feed and provide for all on limited incomes is impossible without help. So they seek food stamps and medical assistance.

Until last year, they qualified based on their income (with 3-4 people working). They still do qualify, but our local assistance office has gotten difficult to work with. I was shown a notice of decline yesterday for LiHeap (assistance for heating). See the attached bill. They cannot keep up. They are past due and have no funds to make it right before the next month’s bill is issued. The notice said they were denied for not providing two paystubs and a letter from another state that proved termination of unemployment benefits. It’s hard to understand. I personally scanned the documents and uploaded them to this family’s account. I can prove they were there before the due date. I recommended to this family that we call and set up an appointment. But this dear family said, “no more.” They believe the caseworker is against them.

So this family told me they are not eating regular meals. Additionally, they are $300 behind in rent this month. They were denied a credit card they sought to be able to buy groceries and pay their utility bills–the very basics. But because they have no health insurance, they have astronomical medical bills. It has destroyed their credit.

The wife/mother bowed her head in exhaustion and frustration. I tried to encourage her. I told her she was doing everything she could and to keep on. She really has no hope for things to get better. They just keep on surviving with what little they have while sinking further into the cycle of poverty that grips them.

They gave me the attached utility bill. This is my sincere appeal for others to join ACR in caring for this neediest of needy families. Together we can eradicate this one bill and provide a cart full of groceries. It will help, at least in the immediate. Can you help us? Please visit our giving page if you might.

THEIR NEED: $990.40 for the utility bill, $300.00 for food/rent= $1,290.40.

Thank you for your love for others.

For the children!

Kristie Fry,
Executive Director

Just Love List – Local

January 25, 2013

There are several ways to get involved in loving the most needy and marginalized people right where weutility-bill-need live. For one, I know a homeless couple who live behind a shopping center who are constantly in need of wood chips to burn in a stove to keep them warm on these frigid winter nights. For those living here in southern Pennsylvania, can you imagine what it must be like this week to be outside all the time? It feels unbearable for even the shortest walk from my car to the warmth of my office or home.

We have been approached by another family in desperate need of help with a utility bill. The couple has a young baby to care for. The mother was laid off from her job in December; the father was let go last week. His employer said they may rehire in March. They have applied for unemployment but rent will be due again soon, and they have racked up a hefty overdue utility bill they cannot pay. They need help or they remain in danger of having the lights (and the heat) turned off. A copy of the bill is attached.

We need your help. A donation of any amount will help.

Many things we need can wait. A baby and her desperate parents cannot. The homeless out in the bitter cold cannot. Help us express God’s love by providing heat for these least of these. Give here.

Love God! Love Others!

For the children,

Kristie Fry, Executive Director

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