Building relationships, providing pastoral care and matching families with the right resources to reach their goals have all contributed to the Holland, Mich., Corps’ successful implementation of Pathway of Hope (POH). For their excellence in helping families move toward greater stability and sufficiency using the POH initiative, the corps recently received a Pathway of Hope Outstanding Corps Award.
Currently 16 families are enrolled in POH at the Holland Corps, where a team of staff and volunteers works cohesively to serve families from a holistic perspective, assessing needs, identifying goals and supporting each family through the joys and challenges of making strides toward improving their lives.
“It is amazing to see the change in people from the first time we meet to completion of POH,” said Melanie Weaver, social services director. “I’ve seen people really grow in their hope, confidence and faith. It’s so rewarding to watch as they accomplish their goals.”
Though in-person consultations and meetings were put on hold due to the pandemic, new families have joined POH this year, meeting with case workers over virtual platforms and phone calls to check in, create goals and receive direction and resources.
“It has worked out really well to be able to connect this way,” said Melanie. “Without the requirement of in-person visits, our reach has expanded and made POH more accessible to families who live farther out.”
In addition, the pandemic served to strengthen collaborations with other local service agencies, providing a network of support that helps ensure the right services are received by each family.
“We are very blessed in this area with a lot of great resources and agencies working together,” said Melanie.
One of these collaborations includes a farm-to-table arrangement that delivers freshly harvested fruits and vegetables to the food pantry for distribution. Others offer assistance with finding affordable housing or paying rent and utility bills. At times, several agencies come together to meet a specific need, such as arranging the installment of a new roof for a client who couldn’t afford the necessary repairs to keep her home livable.
Beyond addressing immediate physical needs, the team offers pastoral care. Majors Amos and Cyndi Shiels, corps officers, work to connect participants with local retired officers to ensure continuation of care in the event of staff turnover or officer reassignment. Families also are welcome to enroll in corps youth activities or programs like summer day camp, an invitation many have gratefully accepted. Corps members take time to intentionally connect with families through volunteering during social service events like Christmas and back-to-school distributions and hosting an ice cream social for day camp participants and their families.
Looking forward, Melanie and her team hope to expand the reach of POH in the Holland area even further.
She concluded, “My hope is that this award will help us get the word out about Pathway of Hope, both to prospective participants and to potential donors, so more people can learn about this great opportunity and utilize it.”