When people hear about the problems of homelessness, hurt and poverty, it is easy to conjure up images of inner city Chicago or Detroit. However, many may not realize that these are serious issues prevalent in Sherburne and Wright County communities. Faith in Action has helped thousands of people in these situations. Becker-based Faith in Action is a non-profit organization that helps bridge clients to resources to help them meet their goals. They have three main programs. The We Care Team works with volunteers, the Live Well At Home is the elder care program, and Family Support Services concentrates on families in need. “There’s a lot of hurting people out there,” says Faith in Action Director Denice Freih. “A lot of people fall on two sides of the path: circumstances, like accidents, or poor choices and their consequences. They reach out to us because they don’t have anyone else. “Everything we do is based on a Biblical foundation. We meet them where they’re at, care about them, and pray for them. We’re faith-based. It means you love them like Jesus did, because everybody has value. Everybody deserves to be loved.” Faith in Action reaches an area of 400,000 square miles with a population base of a quarter of a million people. They help people from St. Cloud and Waite Park to Rogers, from Zimmerman to Buffalo, and all the towns in between. While larger cities like St. Cloud, Buffalo, and the Twin Cities do have agencies to help people in need, these agencies are predisposed dealing with the immediate need in their cities and can’t reach the middle ground between major cities. “We are in that in-between land,” says Freih. “We’ve been called to fill that gap.” An Assessment When Faith in Action responds to a need, the first step is to do an assessment of the situation. The assessment determines where the client is at risk and then a plan is created to mitigate those risks. Many elderly clients’ goal is to stay in their home and not go to a nursing home. The risk factors can include falls, the laundry facilities on the lower level, not being able to get groceries, and inability to pay for medication. Faith in Action then helps diminish these risks by having grab bars installed, a plumber moving the washer and dryer to the main living floor, getting the client set up with Medicare, Lifeline and Meals on Wheels, and getting a high school National Honors Society to come shovel their walk after it snows. Faith in Action bridges these resources to their clients to help them meet their goal. This system has been so effective that Faith in Action helped the state of Minnesota develop that rapid screen through the University of Minnesota. Rapid screen consists of seven questions to determine risk factors and then ways can be found to minimize those risks. “The Bible and research shows that people need people,” says Freih. “How you do that is with a circle of support. Without a plan, people’s wheels just spin and poor choices continue. A plan equals structure. Making sure they have a network of support, that’s where the volunteers come in.” Startling Statistics “Six out of 10 family caregivers will die before the person they’re taking care of because they become so focused, they forget to take care of themselves,” stated Freih. “It’s very important to support family caregivers because they supply more support than hospitals and nursing homes combined. The economy can’t support that; the system would overload if family caregivers were gone. I was a caregiver for my mom before she passed away, that’s why I’m so passionate about it. “The big deal is that in seven years, in 2020, there will be more people in the state of Minnesota over age 60 than the number of students in K-12 combined. Who’s going to take care of them? Who will carry the taxpayer burden?” continued Freih. “We support people to be living at home. In order for the system not to become overwhelmed, neighbors, families, institutions have to help.” 3 Objectives With these startling statistics in mind, Faith in Action has three main objectives in their work: to empower, to educate, and to mobilize. Empowering clients allows the elderly to stay in their own homes and gets struggling families back on their feet. “We believe in a hand up, not a hand out. We don’t use entitlement. It doesn’t work to do everything for everybody. Empowerment is a powerful tool to helping people move forward,” says Freih. About the education aspect of their ministry, Freih expressed, “We want to work with a greater group so they can be proactive because things will change. The further upstream we can work with people, the better prepared they will be.” A unique way that Faith in Action is proactive in their education is with The Bridging Project. This project is designed for youth to learn how to be comfortable interacting and communicating with older generations. “We need to raise up a generation who can be compassionate, because we need that generation to take up the roles of nurses, pastors and caregivers,” stressed Freih about equipping youth with intergenerational skills. Faith in Action’s third goal of mobilization calls the communities to rise up and help those hurting and struggling in their towns. “We need to mobilize the church to be the church and the community to be responsible to the needs within it. We need communities to be more caring. The needs are vast and various. They are growing exponentially,” says Freih. “What we’re doing isn’t rocket science,” continued Freih. “It’s just going back to what we’re supposed to do, returning to the essentials. It’s very progressive in an old-fashioned way.” Volunteer Speaks Helen Fullerton of Big Lake, volunteers for Faith in Action. She works one-on-one with a single client, while her husband, Larry, drives many clients to appointments. “For me it’s fulfilling to help someone who needs you,” said Fullerton. “I am there for a listening ear and support. Sometimes they feel no one is there to listen or no one cares when everything overwhelms them. It’s given me an avenue of service that I wouldn’t have had. I wouldn’t have known the needs. With Faith in Action, clients can ask for help and we are appointed to them. It’s a very good ministry.” Family Helped Alli Peterson and her family were blessed by the furniture program through Faith in Action during a hard transitional period. “Though the beds, sofa, table and chairs, dresser and washer and dryer were exactly what we needed, it was what came with it that was the biggest blessing!” reflected Peterson. “They renewed our hope, and the love we felt from the people of Faith in Action was warm and accepting. They treated us with respect; they understood we had been through tough times; and that we weren't just some losers, like so many, many other people did during that time!” “So though we appreciate every day the tangible pieces Faith in Action gave us, what remains with all of us the most is the hope, the grace, and love that those tangible pieces represent. Hope for a future free of past hardship, a fresh start, a ‘do over!’” continued Peterson. Peterson says that her five-year-old son said it best, "Mommy, I like my new bed because it reminds me God loves me, and that no matter what, he's going to take care of me!" There are many ways to help. Volunteers can give of their time and skills. Everything from carpentry, plumbing, giving someone a ride to an appointment, or encouraging a family caregiver is needed. Another avenue to help is donating furniture to Faith in Action’s warehouse that helps furnish families, many coming out of homeless shelters. Shopping at Faith in Action’s store, The Great Room, in Elk River, is another practical way to help those in our communities. A Dedicated Team The staff at Faith in Action is a dedicated, passionate, multi-disciplined team. Working out of a house-converted-to-office donated by Grace Lutheran Church, the staff of 18 is outgrowing their space. “We have a pastor, registered nurses, and social workers on staff. They sacrifice to be here, but they’re willing to make that sacrifice because they love God and people. It’s what we call ‘counting the cost,’” says Freih. Faith in Action operated on a budget of half a million dollars last year. They receive four to five grants, but 35% of the total budget came from local support in 2012. This year they hope to see local support rise to 50%. They also take in money from fundraising, revenue from their store, “The Great Room”, in historic downtown Elk River, as well as their cost-share program where clients pay what they can for services. That budget made possible 5,000 rides, 2,000 households helped, 2,000 care plans made, 400 families receiving furniture from Faith in Action’s Elk River warehouse, and hundreds of people connected with resources. Faith in Action reduces taxpayer burden because 93% of the money goes back into the community. “It takes a lot of money to do what we do, but if you look at the return on investment, it’s incredible,” said Freih. “We need other people to know about us and support us. There are an awful lot of gaps to fill because there’s an awful lot of need.” Faith in Action supplies help tangibly, emotionally, socially, and provides affirmation. They meet the needs of the whole person. They truly take their faith and put it into action. Faith in Action is located at 13074 Edgewood Street in Becker. They can be reached at 763-263-4277 or check out their website www.GRA-FIA.org.