Grandma’s Hands

Tronn Moller – Faith and Community Development Institute

Meeting at their weekly Bible study to pray, share potluck suppers, Chat and Chew discussions and  ideas about how to better their grandchildren’s lives was a regular event for many of the grandmothers residing at The Estates, formerly known as the Desire Housing Development in New Orleans.  According to Marcia Peterson, director of Desire Street Ministries who leads the weekly study, it began after Hurricane Katrina and the main focus of the ladies was to help provide activities and services for their own live-in grandchildren .  “A lot of them are single women raising their grandchildren for various reasons,” said Peterson.

The women met every Thursday, planned activities for the kids, and participated in  discussions focused on keeping the children safe and healthy.   But they began to realize that in order to make more effective and long term  change within the neighborhood, they needed to reach beyond their own homes and  into the community itself. This they decided could be best done by mentoring the young mothers around them.  So, armed with spirited determination and a strong sense of community , they became , “Grandmas Hands,” an organization bent on community empowerment.

According to group member, Margaret McMillan, during one of their meetings,  Peterson was struck with a divinely inspired idea about how to better reach the residents. “We were all in here doing crafts one day and Ms. Peterson during Chat and Chew , the Lord gave (her ) a vision. So we said we could reach them (mothers) and then teach them because of economic situations . We wanted them to be thinking about economic development. Isn’t that beautiful? Now we’re taking our hands and going back to basics, teaching the things they need to know, “said McMillan.

Their meetings soon gave opportunity for developing simple money making basics. The grandmothers brought with them a wealth of information and knowledge on how to accomplish the task , teaching economic empowerment strategies. Sylvia Norman, who began raising her three grandchildren after her daughter succumbed to cancer , set a goal to teach the women to refurbish and recycle used linens and home decorations. “I can cook a little , I can sew dolls , sewing and alterations, that’s my thing. We can go to thrift stores and a sheet becomes curtains, those things can turn into money for the home ,” Norman explained. Some of the items purchased by the group to help bring their goal to fruition, include a sewing machine, cake decorating kits, knitting kits, and cookbooks. Bonnie Peters, a member  who gives the women instruction in flower arranging , explained their realization that empowering mothers, many  of them single parents  was key to building a more  productive home environment.  “The Bible says that the older women should teach the younger women. Spiritually , socially, you know. It’s all about showing the young people how to survive with what little they have.”

Margaret McMillan added “When they would come, they would talk at the Chat and Chew , it was more counseling than anything. We didn’t know where this was going but you’re talking to older women who have come through some of the same things.

But  McMillan like the other grandmothers believes that with age comes wisdom and a responsibility to those who are in need. “When you were young , you’d go to mama and get negatives  but grandma would have the answer. ” The mothers, mostly in their twenties are allowed to bring their children to meetings and are met with compassion and lots of patience.

Grandmas Hands is measuring its success within the community as mothers take  advantage of what they have to offer.  Twenty-six year old Terri McMillan  a mother of a nine year old son and seven month daughter, pointed out how being a part of the group has helped to better her interpersonal skills. McMillan who, outside of her home and work environments found it hard to connect on a social level  has greatly benefited from the group’s influence. “I’m was a very reserved person, I am still somewhat reserved, but they helped me sit with and hang out with other people. I am not good with new people in my personal life, just being able to connect with other people.”

Ashley Stewart , a twenty-four year old mother of  four children ranging in age from six to one year old, explained that the ladies helped her in developing better parenting  skills and develop a positive discipline strategy for her children by having her write a list of behavioral changes the children needed to practice.  “It’s mainly like dealing with them (her children) because they were all over the place, but now they are better, “said Stewart .

Overall the group believes that the total recovery and health of their community lies in the hands of the community as a whole and can only be turned around by a concentrated effort by those with the wisdom to do so. That is one reason why they believe Grandmas Hands is so important. “Many young mothers have succumbed to the drug culture, grandmothers are stepping in and filling that gap. They have to mother their children again and their grandchildren,” Margaret McMillan said.

Tony and Kyle

Tony and Kyle from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

This is a video about Tony and his mentor, Kyle. Tony has Asperger’s syndrome and when his mother asked for a mentor Volunteers in Service stepped in to help find one.
Posted: Oct. 24, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
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 To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.”

Depth of Good Soil

Many of our neighbors in Bellflower who are economically disadvantaged or homeless do not have work.  Some of these neighbors have gaps in their resumes which makes finding employment a challenge.  Good Soil Industries (GSI) will help potentially hundreds of individuals and families who are unemployed to find work and gain self sufficiency.

GSI is a non-profit temporary employment and landscaping agency that empowers economically disadvantaged and homeless individuals through work and discipleship.

Good Soil Industries has been busy, and that is a good thing! Cory (Good Soil employee) and I have spent many hours together, and seen each other at our best and worst moments. Yesterday was one of those days where nothing seemed to go right. At the end of the day Cory told me, “I’m always watching you. Watching how you respond.”

I thought, “uh-oh.”

Then Cory went on to bless me and share how he saw Christ in how I responded.

But it isn’t a one-way blessing. I’ve learned so much from Cory. He’s taught me to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit in a new way. To pray with a child-like faith. We have seen each other’s strengths and weaknesses and encouraged one another.

Good Soil has mowed a lot of yards recently. But more than that, it has brought two guys together whose life stories are pretty different. And out of this relationship, we’re both more hopeful that transformation is possible.

Joel Holwerda

Click here for a video about Cory.

For more information on Good Soil Industries go to their website by clicking here.

For more information on Kingdom Causes go to their website:


Solid House for Boys Update

As the boys are growing older (more than half are now in junior high), it has been both rewarding and challenging to watch their interests change along with their ages.  Issues like skateboarding, girls and parties frequent our conversations more than ever before, revealing their growing need for acceptance and to fit in.

Since the start of the school year, the boys have had the opportunity to participate in many activities in, and outside of, the neighborhood.  These have included building skate ramps, fishing at the Newport Beach Pier, and exhibiting culinary creativity by cooking meals with items exclusively from the 99¢ store.

Since the start of the Solid House, it has been the same six boys who have been involved.  There have been certain occasions in which other kids would join us, but never permanently.  Javier, a local junior higher that wasn’t an original Solid House boy, began coming around more often during our weekly meetings this summer.  I could not make myself tell him not to come; over time his presence just fit sort of naturally.  We began to serve up an extra plate of food and make extra room in the van when going on trips.  I guess you could say he has sort of joined the group.  There was no official introduction or talk with the other boys, but I found it impossible to turn away someone so obviously starving for attention and/or a different routine.

Please pray for Javier.  He is constantly forced to deal with issues that no thirteen-year-old kid should ever have to face.  Please pray for the other boys as well, as they approach some of the most awkward stages of their lives.

Matt Anderson, Solid House Boys Director/Teen Center Director

Visit Solidarity’s website by clicking here.

For more on the author click here.

A Story of Transformation

The story of Joy and Jose:

Joy came to Winton LifeLine Community Center in need of emergency food. In the past the center gave out food to hundreds of people as they were standing in line, but we realized that this ‘quick fix’ made us feel good but really did not help the people look at their preferred future.

So, we changed our approach. We still help with emergency food, but not without hearing people’s stories, learning about their plans and dreams and passion and encouraging them to take the next step.

As we listened to Joy’s story we learned that her Hispanic husband had been laid off, that his 3 children often spend time at their home and the she was pregnant with their first baby.  Joy is a very articulate young woman and we could see that there was so much more there about her, then just her need for food. When Joy missed the bus to get her GED we helped her and in turn got invited to her graduation where she beamed with pride.

While Joy grew up on welfare, she was determined not to become another statistic. We encouraged her to go to college and pursue her dreams and helped with gas money at times. Various government agencies also saw her potential and helped her get enrolled.

We also invited Joy to be part of our Community Garden and she was so excited to be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for the family.

During her time at the community garden she connected with the Loren & Barbara, the farmers who provided the land. They mentored her in various aspects: how to appreciate God’s creation and care for it, how and when to grow the plants, how to prepare and store them, how to use spices. During this time a lot of personal mentoring and encouraging took place.  Everybody enjoyed this growing friendship and learned from each other.

When Joy comes home from her weekly trips to the garden, she shares the fruit of her labor with her neighbors who in turn share some of their goods with her. Together they decided that they could have some vegetables in their own little apartment complex.

Joy heard about the Master Gardener Program and is planning to go through the training so that she can share with others what she has learned and give back to the community. She is dreaming and planning for a big community garden in Winton.

Over time she received other items through various agencies and groups (diapers, furniture, clothing) and she noted that many of her neighbors did not speak English and had a difficult time getting the help that they need. We started talking about starting a Spanish/English class. Some of us would learn Spanish and others English, building a bridge between the Hispanic and Anglo community.

During these tough economic times Joy and Jose are at times in need of help, but that does not hinder her from helping others in her community, building bridges between races and working with her neighbors to transform her apartment complex.  They share groceries and receipts, exchange clothing, help each other when in need and enjoy a growing community.

While it all started with the need for groceries it sure went much further than that!

Monika Grasley

From Recipient to Participant: New Hope Women’s Support Group

By Anyelis Diaz

Sometimes God uses our needs to have us serve others.

That is the case of Alicia. When Alicia and her husband Hector moved to Haledon, New Jersey from Houston, Texas, they were without jobs, family or friends. Alicia, an immigrant housewife dedicated to her special need child Frankie, and her unemployed husband were having a very difficult time. Alicia didn’t speak much English and couldn’t work because of her legal status.

Soon after arriving in Haledon, Alicia heard about New Hope Community Ministries and she went to ask for help. Alicia says that at New Hope she not only received some financial relief but also holistic nourishment. She also discovered her gift as a mentor. Alicia always had a passion for serving in her native country of Argentina but she never thought she could serve by mentoring. Not long after her first participation with New Hope, Alicia became part of the women’s support group.

Her family’s difficult time was an illustration of how God works in each of our lives. Alicia and her family were struggling financially and emotionally but her desire to help others was bigger than her situation.

Alicia is not only a women’s mentor; she is encouraging families that are struggling just like hers. Alicia is compassionate and patient and a good listener. She takes her volunteer job very seriously. She has never missed a food pantry distribution and she’s always there to meet the families that she mentors. Alicia is taking an ESL class and is in the process of obtaining citizenship. She keeps mentoring women and families at New Hope and most of all Alicia keeps serving the Lord by serving others.