Five Months in the Life of Good Shepherd Ministry with Roman Catholic Women Priests Judy Lee and Judy Beaumont
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl, Inc. 12/3/14-4/21/15
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Here we present a retrospective on five months of our Good Shepherd ministry in Fort Myers, Florida. During this period we celebrated a bountiful Christmas with our community and moved into a new year with joy and determination to continuing to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Attendance and participation at all events remained consistent and many new people were served. The relationships we have with our people, volunteer assistance, and the mutual aid approach to empowerment and the whole person, remain the most important factors in the success of our work to help people out of poverty and into work, incomes, education and housing. We continued to assist people in maintaining and obtaining affordable housing and worked with our parents and youth in school retention and success. We now approach the ending of the school year and planning for summer. We will be exploring program designs and possibly grants and donations for this summer program.
Due to the generosity of The local Orioles Club(pictured below), the Lamb of God Church, Gini Beecroft and the Breckinridge Community and several individual donors we were able to give Christmas gifts to thirty-five children and youth, several large families and special needs adults. These included gift cards for the older youth and donations to help families. Books and clothing were part of the gifts and Supermarket cards were also given for food for the families . We had a great Christmas party and Hank Tessandori was Santa Claus to the children’s great delight. Yet, in a way, Christmas is every day for us as we celebrate birthdays and special occasions throughout the year and rejoice in the gift of loving community. ( In the picture below Donnie is celebrating her 60th birthday with her friend Lauretta hugging her and Pearl Cudjoe, one of our faithful leaders, in the background).
Hot Meals and Food And Clothing Programs
With the December 2014 tally of 102 meals, we served 1474 hot meals in 2014(not counting seconds and take home). To date in 2015 we have served 498 meals on Sundays and for Holy Week gatherings and 70 meals on Tuesdays for a total of 568 hot meals as of 4/21. We continue to thank our volunteers including the McNallys, CTA and Country Creek, Gini Beecroft and Breckinridge, Sally and Rob Patterson, Chris Miller and Rick Judy and Lisa Munklewitz, Evelyn Touhsaent and Cliff Woods and several Lamb of God members and our own Judy Alves and Pearl Cudjoe who have remained constant in cooking and serving for us. Margaret Sousa, the Manager at Palm Harbor Church Residences continues to share canned goods with us and we reciprocate by assisting some of their new residents at move in. Others donate food from time to time. The LOG, Pope John 23rd and St. Columbkille Thrift Stores continue to help us with clothing and furniture and other items to establish households at reduced prices. Birthday celebrations are a regular part of our weekly celebrations as well.
Supporting Education and Teaching Service
In January 2015 we were able to pay $1500 on the Student Loans of our Freshman at FGCU due to accumulated educational donations earmarked for this. We also visited schools and had parent conferences on the school progress of several other children. Both Pastors and some of our members and Board Members like Judy Alves also mentored children and youth in specific subjects and helped them to develop other competencies. Weekly we are able to reward youth with small stipends of 3-5 dollars for completing their Sunday school lessons successfully using Urban Ministries materials that are quite good. Five – seven youth 13 and over participate regularly. This is not only to get them into the content but to improve reading, comprehension, critical thinking and writing skills. Additionally we ask our youth and parents to give back by assisting people to move into housing in a variety of ways.
Joshua House Hospitality
Thirty-five individuals including two families and several pets have resided in Joshua House and then moved on to affordable housing, ten have lived there since we have turned it into a hospitality house. A family of seven continues to reside there since Nov. 30th but they have saved enough to move out in May of 2015. People unable to afford market housing temporarily and who are not substance addicted or uncompliant with medications are eligible for this program after we get to know them and assess the situation. Several in this picture once lived in Joshua House.
We are blessed to say that since 2008 there are over one hundred people whom we have assisted into affordable housing with emotional, spiritual and material support. During this period of time( 12/14-4/15) we assisted five families to move into permanent housing. Two of these women we have known for many years and it is again the quality of our relationships and consistency in their lives that gave the support needed to finally make good choices and follow through. This supportive approach helped Awsha, a mother in her thirties to reunite with her seven month old daughter and we also paid for Security and furniture as well as bus passes to work. Brenda, now fifty, returned to Fort Myers after several years living from place to place north of here. She returned to us broken, sick and crying and thankful “to be home” but in need of help to become housed again and connected to medical services. She had lost both of her parents within the last month and was bereft. She sees us as her remaining family. We placed her in a Motel as we sought housing with her. (Another woman living in her car also spent a night in this Motel). We actually have had to move Brenda and her little dog, Scrappy, three times in six weeks as various problems with the apartments attended her first two moves. We also moved two Seniors, one from the East Coast with three large birds, into affordable HUD assisted housing at Palm Harbor. For that we had the help of Rev. Miriam Picconi a RC woman priest from the Palm Coast and her generous helper David. A couple with five boys under the age of nine, and an older girl still to join them, was also assisted with furniture, food, clothing and other basic needs. The boys are now attending our Sunday school and are a pleasure to know. They are pictured below, also are Awsha and her baby and Brenda and Snappy, now housed. Brenda is such a woman of faith and joy that it is a pleasure to have her back in the community as well.
Each of these moves cost us from minimal amounts up to thousands of dollars. These costs include Security, Utilities down payments, furniture and household goods and other costs. We are in continual need of donations to assist people in moving out of homelessness and inadequate housing.
We also minister to those in need of medical and mental hospitalization, those in hospice and those sick at home. In the last two months we walked with one of our men as he dealt with new psychiatric and diabetes medications. He began passing out in the streets and becoming psychotic and it took three hospitalizations in two hospitals to get him back on his feet again. Another of our members is in hospice and we attend to her and her family where some reconciliation was needed. Another family is experiencing gang violence and drive-by shootings and we are challenged to help the family through this. We were also pleased to baptize one of our twelve year olds on Easter. It is a joy to see her grow in her understanding and actions. Our children and youth continue to be a source of joy to the whole community.
Most of all it remains a joy to witness the love among the members of our Tuesday (formerly homeless and homeless) and Sunday communities(that do overlap) where all are welcome at the Table of Christ and at our hot meals and continual fellowship. Co-Pastor Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP, and I say a heartfelt thanks be to God for this blessed Community and for all who help us to serve.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl, Inc. (a 501c3 non-profit tax exempt organization)
Mailing Address: 18520 Eastshore Drive, Fort Myers, Florida, 33967
April 21, 2015