I recently joined the Clinical Advisory Board and attended my first meeting earlier this month. I was immediately impressed with the the way the director and the counselors and social workers there combined a deep sense of caring with a high degree of professionalism. The MERCY employees and director know the landscape of available services, know the population they serve and know how to collaborate with other professionals to bring about the best results possible. It was truly inspiring to take part in this results-oriented meeting.
I was introduced to Mercy a couple of years ago and quickly saw how important their work was. There are several local agencies helping provide the homeless with shelter, but Mercy goes beyond that. Not only do they provide shelter, they also provide the counseling and structure and support these moms need to become self-sufficient. Mercy will help moms: get off drugs, go back to school, find a job, get transportation to/from the job, budget for life outside of Mercy, find an apartment, furnish the apartment, etc. How many not-for-profits are this wholistic? This is not a temporary fix. It's life-changing for the moms willing to put in the effort.
I tell my friends that MERCY is the perfect charitable agency. It would be compassionate and useful enough if we just took in homeless women and their children, and gave them a place to stay. But that would just change their environment. We want to change their lives. We provide a nice place to stay but, in return, we demand that our moms go through parenting classes and life skills classes and drug/alcohol/mental health counseling, GED classes, job training ... - whatever is necessary to turn their chaotic lives into structured, productive ones. We have been phenomenally successful in ending the cycle of homelessness and failure for our moms and, especially, for their kids. We have a solid board and a great, caring staff. It is the most time-consuming, emotion-wringing work I've ever loved doing.
I recently worked with MERCY Communities, Inc. on a community service project as part of a leadership development program in the City of Springfield. I was impressed with the passion and hardwork the staff members I worked with had to the organization's mission and service in the community. Our group was proud to work with MERCY Communities, Inc. Keep up the Great Work!!
I have had the opportunity to co-lead a psychoeducational therapeutic group for clients of MERCY Communities for the last four years. This group has introduced a variety of mental health topics to the residents of MERCY Communities residential programs. The topics have included the exploration of healthy relationships, sexuality, boundaries, addictive behavior, goal setting, self-care, self-esteem, parenting, domestic violence, depression and other affective disorders. In addition to providing important information to the clients, these groups have also offered an opportunity for the women to examine their own life situations, share their experiences, and receive support and feedback for their behavior and decision making. The mental health component of the MERCY Communities program is an important addition in providing the kinds of services the clients need as they anticipate becoming self-sufficient by providing stable housing for themselves and their children. I am happy to support the programs provided to the Springfield are by the MERCY Communities Inc, programs. Mary L. Ossowski, LCSW
I have been on the M.E.R.C.Y.'s Advisory Committee for approximately five years. I also have volunteered my services as a psychotherapist providing counseling to some of these women and children. During this time, I have watched this nonprofit organization that was set up to serve women grow exponentially in meeting the needs of women. It not only as expanded in terms of the numbers of women that it serves but has deepened its service to connect with these women holistically. It has been a joy to be a part of this excellent team of professionals providing a valuable service to our community. Carley Mattimore, MS, LCPC
My team and I worked closely with MERCY to help them potentially transform a space into a children's learning center. MERCY helps women and children daily and their commitment to these families is unique in our community. The space that we helped design would enhance children's experiences during their stay with MERCY. The organization is run smoothly and provides a truly sincere benefit to women and children.
I have been aquainted with M.E.R.C.Y. Communities for about 10 years; first as an employee and now as a community supporter. I have had the pleasure of seeing first hand the amazing opportunities that M.E.R.C.Y. can offer the young families that choose to participate in the program. M.E.R.C.Y. Communities provides support in all aspects of the participant's life. Through self-esteem, money management, parenting, and various other life skills classes, participants are able to embrace who they are and focus on areas of their life that they want to improve. While the participants work toward self-sufficiency, their children benefit from the safety and comfort of a stable positive environment in which to live and grow. Since I have been acquainted with M.E.R.C.Y. Communities I have seen many successes. I have seen participants come into the program homeless and leave as homeowners. I have seen participants come into the program with little to no self-esteem and leave with the confidence that they can make it on their own. I have also seen participants with very few skills leave the program with full-time employment. M.E.R.C.Y. Communities is truly an organization that has helped to empower many young mothers to become self-sufficient and promote positive change in their lives.
My name is Sr. Margaret Mary Byrnes O.P. or Sister Maggie as the moms and children called me. In March 2000 I received a call to tell me about M.E.R.C.Y. Communities. Then I was asked if I would be interested in working there. I decided to find out more about M.E.R.C.Y. and the job there. Finding out what the initials stood for (Mentors,Empowerment,and Resources for Change in Young Faimilies) was one of the big selling points for me. It was the word empowerment that attracted me. I had heard the saying, "Give a person a fish and it will last for a day. Teach a person how to fish and it will last a lifetime." I knew that I wanted to be part of a program that empowered women with children to be self-sufficient. I also learned that since the Transitional Living part of the program had started by accepting its initial client in December 1999,it was growing The Service Director needed an assistant. I knew that I wanted to be that assistant and started working as her assistant in August 2000. One part of my job was to do the initial interview with a woman who wanted to come and stay in an apartment at M.E.R.C.Y. I explained to the woman that at M.E.R.C.Y. she would re ceive help so that she could set her goals to one day become self-sufficient. She would receive individual help since each person is unique. One woman that I interviewed said that she had food stamps but after 3 weeks she ran out of stamps and she had very little to feed her 3 children until the next month when she got more. I told her about a food pantry that she could get food from once a month. When she came to M.E.R.C.Y.,I helped her figure out how she could have those food stamps last a month. Also I told her that there would be regular classes (such as parenting) that we offered at M.E.R.C.Y. to help her reach her goals. One 6 week class that I taught was on self-esteem. During that class I found out that many of the moms lacked good self-esteem and therefore didn't really believe that they were capable of reaching their goals. Helping them work toward obtaining a good self-esteem gave them the motivation to reach their goals. Some comments that were made were: I gave up obtaining my G.E.D. years ago. I realize now that I can't change or blame my past for my failures now but I can change the effect they have on me now. I am a worthwhile person. I can learn to love and accept the person that I am. It's been a joy to know that women have completed their goals and are succeeding at living on their own.
I first got involved with MERCY about four year ago when the executive director, Mary Stone, asked me to serve on a volunteer committee. At first, I didn't know much about the organization other than that they worked with women and their children, but the more I learned about MERCY's model and their programs, the more inspiring it was. I took a training class that Mary taught for women who were interested in mentoring a mom in the program, and we read the book "Understanding the Causes of Poverty." Even though I already had a background in psychology and social work, it really helped me see things from a different perspective and understand the challenges that these moms were facing. I mentored a woman named Jodi, and although she left the program after about 6 months, it was still a very rewarding experience. MERCY is not for everyone, and these woman have to be willing to make significant changes in their lives to be successful in the program- it's not just a homeless shelter or a way to get free services for a period of time. Because of my experience mentoring through MERCY, my church ended up sponsoring a MERCY family and two women from the congregation are currently mentoring a mom in the program. While I am not involved in the mentoring aspect, I am the landlord so I am still able to be part of the church partnership in that way. One of the most exciting projects that I've been involved with through MERCY was the first ever "Homeless to Homeowner" partnership. In 2008, my husband and I purchased a house in a neighborhood where many of MERCY's families are located, and with the help of many volunteers, we rehabbed the house on behalf of a MERCY mom who wanted to become a homeowner. Through the various donations and volunteer labor, we were able to keep the house affordable for her while making sure she would have a nice place to live. Just last month she was able to become a homeowner, after originally being homeless when she first came to MERCY just five years ago. That's a remarkable journey, and I am so glad to have been able to play a small part in her life changing experience. I know that MERCY made those changes in her life possible by walking with her every step of the way and showing her what she was capable of achieving for herself and her children to have a better life.