To me, Friendship House means …
Respect for one another shared over a cup of coffee on a cold Saturday winter morning during our hospitality at First & Central Presbyterian Church. During this time, we meet people who are both housed and unhoused coming for community, a hot cup of coffee and a warm smile. I have always loved the mutually respectful conversations over a hot cup of coffee with someone who wants to talk about their life and listen to mine.
Compassion from our community who support our mission through hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars donated every year. One of the most amazing examples of this is our involvement with the Highmark Walk. I remember our first year participating, where we raised just over $19,000 and had just under 200 walkers registered. Eight walks later, we had over 600 registered walkers and we raised over $90,000. Your compassion for our community has helped to make this one of our biggest fundraising events every year!
Love, which I experience amongst our staff. I remember a special, loving moment at one of my first staff retreats as Executive Director. I asked the staff to let me wash their feet. In these tender and awkward moments for many, amongst the tears and laughter, was love. To love is also to trust and have faith. My colleagues showed both of these as I told them their feet, as well as their hearts, were precious, and needed, as we walked with thousands of people every year.
Acceptance of everyone, regardless of their background, past experiences, or differences. Every FH program focuses on accepting people for who they are and where they are on their journey, whether an employee, volunteer, or someone accessing our services. I recently had a resident say to me, “I need to say thank you. This program has saved my life and I am so grateful for all you do to ensure this program continues. I didn’t think I would ever be in a position needing these services; I didn’t think these services were for someone like me. Thank you for accepting me.” Then the resident and I shared a teary eyed hug.
Grace. Grace is critical to our ability to respect one another, provide compassion, offer love and accept one another. Grace is the starting point for hope, which is needed when things are feeling so dark and difficult. Grace is also needed in unexpected moments. Last week, a company who had heard about our Clothing Bank delivered us 10,000 discontinued pants, in hundreds of boxes. The boxes, many of which were severely damaged during the delivery process, lay skewed, stacked, partially open or partially sorted throughout our Clothing Bank building. Although unexpected and taking up an incredible amount of space, grace helps us see this incredible gift amongst the chaos.
These values are critical components of a thriving community and ones you will see and experience throughout our organization. This is how we help make a temporary home for those who are without a loving, supportive community.
What does FH mean to me? It means a safe and healthy place for all to come and find community amongst one another. For me, FH is home.