When an event that devastates so many lives happens in our community, it takes a group effort to get everyone back on their feet. The Cooperative Ministry, like so many of United Ways Community Impact Partners, stood up to the challenge presented by last October’s thousand-year flood. The Cooperative Ministry is not an organization centered on flood relief. But the faith-based non-profit’s mission has always been to help the working poor. And ultimately it is those already struggling financially who are most impacted by natural disaster.
Often, when we think of the impact of the flood, we imagine the tragic loss of a home to the rising waters. But what we think of less often is the equally difficult loss of employment which took place when businesses destroyed by the floodwaters were forced to shut down, and the financial strains this put on families who were already facing financial difficulties.
Last winter, a single mother named Raychelle walked into The Cooperative Ministry facing this daunting situation. Raychelle had been employed at $9.00 an hour until the October flooding began. The company which she worked for was flooded out and closed down. For nine weeks Raychelle looked for work. She was finally able to secure a job making $7.80 an hour, but by then she was hopelessly behind on rent, and she was soon evicted. When she walked into The Cooperative Ministry, she had been living on the streets for three weeks.
Bill Taber, The Cooperative Ministry’s Director of Crisis Assistance sat down with us to talk about the day Raychelle came in, and the impact that it had on him.
“Her clothes were clean, pressed. She was wearing a touch of makeup and there was a light in her eyes – you know the light that glows when someone gets it, or even better, has it – some spirit within them that simply shines out of their eyes. I remember thinking to myself, this one has hope within her,” Bill told us. “She asked us, ‘Is there anything you can do?’”
And so The Cooperative Ministry got to work. Bill and his team were able to get her a space in a shelter, and her mother took in her 16-year-old daughter. The Cooperative Ministry enrolled Raychelle in classes on budgeting and they were even able to get her some new clothes. A few months later, Raychelle called back to tell Bill she had taken a part-time second job. She had been able to save a little bit of money, and was able to make the deposit on an inexpensive apartment, but she needed help with first month’s rent, which the apartment required in advance.
“How do you not help someone like her – someone willing to work two jobs just to have a safe place to call home for herself and her daughter?” Bill said. “We helped her with the first month’s rent and the utility deposit. She moved in without any furniture, but said she could save to buy some over time.”
Raychelle’s story is just one of many. The impact of the flood is still felt heavily in our community, especially by those who were already financially vulnerable. The Cooperative Ministry and the many organizations working toward flood relief make a very real difference for those affected, but there is always more work that needs to be done.
For Bill, this is all a part of what it means to be a community. “Community is looking at one another as children of God. It’s being interested in the welfare of each person as if it were your own welfare. Everybody is family.”
To find out more about The Cooperative Ministry, visit their website at www.coopmin.org.