Domestic Poverty

St. Barnabas’ Non-Event Delivers Funding for a Community Health Worker

February 23, 2016
Domestic Poverty

The following article, reprinted with the author’s permission, was transcribed from the January/February 2015 issue of The Church News, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

It began as a vision for St. Barnabas, Fredericksburg—to go out and be the church, to make a difference in their community. The vision was for a project that the entire congregation would rally around and become involved. After some research at local non-profit and social agencies, St. Barnabas decided to partner with the Good Samaritan Center in Fredericksburg, a charitable medical and dental clinic for low-income families that do not have health insurance. (The Good Samaritan Center is no affiliated with Good Samaritan Community Services in San Antonio and throughout the diocese.)

The Good Samaritan Center was founded in 2004, and since its inception, the directors have shared a desire to employ a social worker to go into the community and promote healthy ways of life, proactively meeting and engaging people in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces to educate on multiple areas of wellness.

When John Willome became the director of the Good Samaritan Center in 2006, he couldn’t get the program started. “We didn’t have the funds, and we didn’t have the right person for the job. Extra funding was going toward a part-time dentist on staff to triple our capacity; we were handling our services as we could, but we still didn’t feel we were offering enough proactive services.”

In the summer of 2014, the board of the center finally put the plan into action. A current staff member, Delia De La Cruz, was considered just right for the position. All the center needed was a good plan for funding.

At this time, the Rev. Jeff Hammond, rector of St. Barnabas, stopped by to visit with Willome to share the church’s vision and to see about a community partnership. “After offering several community projects I knew of, I mentioned our desire to hire a community social worker,” said Willome. Hammond took that idea to the St. Barnabas Vestry, and the church committed to funding the first year’s salary of the new social worker, a total of $40,000.

“I liked the idea because I know the Good Samaritan Center has a lot of credibility in Fredericksburg, and that they are good stewards. Also I knew we, as the church, could stand behind Delia and pray for her and her work every week. But I was terrified we weren’t going to be able to deliver. I was ye of little faith,” said Hammond.

Instead of planning a fundraising event, two members of the congregation, Jenny Weiser and Pris Williams, suggested a Non Event. The church printed invitations to the Non Event fundraiser that stated reasons for giving—the goal of funding for a Community Health Worker and the need for one—and asked for support, stating, “Just imagine: no formal attire required, no babysitter to schedule, no auction to bid on, and no valet parking.”

“You just never know how God is going to move through your efforts. This idea really resonated with people,” said Hammond. Each member of the congregation was asked to mail at least five invitations to their personal acquaintances with a hand-written note. The donations quickly followed.

As of December, St. Barnabas had received over $70,000 to fund this program. “It is amazing; I still can’t believe it,” said Hammond. Funds have come in small and large gifts from members of the congregation and from over 200 people not affiliated with the church.

“We are so thankful,” said Willome, “and this job is working better than we ever imagined.”

De La Cruz started full-time last summer. The amount of $40,000 funds her first year’s salary, training and certification, and the weekly travel to San Antonio for the training. “She is nailing the training, making A’s on her work,” said Willome. In February of this year, De La Cruz will take her state social worker certification exam.

In her new position, De La Cruz is meeting with other entities in Fredericksburg that also work with the Good Samaritan Center’s clientele. She has formed a working relationship with the local youth juvenile officer and has met with area young people and their families to talk about drug addiction and sexual behavior. She recently provided education on insulin and its structured needs to a family who had accidentally overdosed their diabetic grandfather. The grandfather was treated and is recovering. “Her efforts are reaching far beyond diabetes and weight control,” said Willome. “There is just so much going on out there, and by becoming proactive, we are turning over new stones.”

As the funds received far surpassed the goal of $40,000, both St. Barnabas and the Good Samaritan Center are in conversation about how to best use the remaining balance. “there is the idea to fund the second year or to fund a special part of our program, such as hiring one or two more community health workers, getting them trained, and having them work for a stipend under De La Cruz to leverage our program,” said Willome.

“We wanted to do something that was not about us at all,” said Hammond. “We wanted to do something for our town; not just perpetuate our own existence. We are receiving a lot of good feedback and appreciation, and I still can’t believe our success; we are forever grateful.”

The Rev. Melanie Mullen

Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care

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