I missed my turn and ended up in Tent City … Charlotte

 Community Service, COVID-19, Neighboring, Social Capital  Comments Off on I missed my turn and ended up in Tent City … Charlotte
Dec 052020
 

I had good reason to travel to what used to be called the Urban Ministry and Men’s Shelter, off N Tryon yesterday. You see, I was on a mission, so to speak, to collect some food items for our LHCC ministry, that the renamed Roof Above were seeking to donate, but that’s another long story for another blogpost. My GPS had me locked in on the correct address. As I drew nearer I was shocked to see what I saw on both sides of the road. Charlotte’s thriving tent city. As I proceeded, I missed my turn … because I was thinking, “my destination surely can’t possibly be down there”. This is my way of stating that I lost my concentration and thought for a brief 90 seconds car ride that I was once again in a third world African country. Back to the task at hand, I’m in the Queen City, and looking for the now hidden and seemingly distant Roof Above.

A very recent WCNC article reported ‘There are places in the third world where refugee camps are more habitable’. It’s not that simple because I know that many organizations and kind folks are helping our cities citizens, like our friends at Roof Above. Their world also turned upside down in March when people showed up along with the thousands of food packages gifted by kind neighbors. Quoting the WCNC report “What’s more a local property owner has filed a lawsuit against the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The lawsuit alleges the city and county are herding homeless into tent cities that line the sidewalks, rights-of-way. It also goes on to read that the tents have crept onto private properties and parking lots along North Tryon Street.”

My point of this blog is that it’s hard to believe we’re in Charlotte, NC. While there is reportedly capacity in vacant Roof Above facilities and temporary room housing available, many of our unfortunate neighbors apparently still choose to stay in encamped in tent city. Barriers to entry into a temporary facility include COVID screening, behavioral restrictions and curfews, seemingly hurdles not low enough. There is no mass exodus from tent to housing, even with the promise of heat and utilities.

Maybe there is truth to the sentiment that your future is determined, not by your DNA code, but by your zip code. President Obama, once claimed “In this country, of all countries, a person’s zip code shouldn’t decide their destiny.”

If you need a road trip and have never seen tent city, not on TV, but live, right outside your car window, go take a drive to Roof Above, at 945 N College Street and see tent city for yourself. I am confident you’ll come away with more questions than answers. Oh, and trust your GPS and keep your eyes peeled. Count your blessings and thank the Lord you have a roof over your head this day. Thousands, not 10 miles from you, are not so fortunate tonight.

I am

Brent Morris

Executive Director, LHCC

 Posted by at 8:19 am
Oct 232020
 

Think of it as a safe place to do school work, play, enjoy a meal and connect with your friends …

LHCC launched our Connect Hub learning program in September. This coming week, we are adding a second school day to Thursdays-at-the-church -for -school. Connect-Hub now takes place Monday’s and Wednesday’s for students while their parents are at work. We have adequate outdoor and indoor space at St Andrews UMC and have upgraded our connectivity and welcomed our families with open arms. We are providing learning for students from five Title 1 CMS schools off South Blvd, along with child meals for our low-income neighbors. Connect Hub is our term for a safe, group environment for students to sit at a desk and connect to the school learning platform with adult supervision. Students complete learning modules, have recess, and receive meals and snacks. Parents participating in the Hub are paid for their time. 2020 has been such a challenging year for so many. It’s been really hard on our kids for sure. I cannot imagine the hardships for exceptional students, those with special needs or who are living with homelessness.

We covet your continued prayers for continued interventions, inspiration and motivation as we come alongside our LHCC families, and certainly many others like them. We are grateful for this ministry and for the opportunity to build trust and provide hope in these relationships. We certainly do not take this responsibility lightly. For the glory of the One we serve.

Thank you for reading and your support of our local communities

Brent M

October 25, 2020

 Posted by at 11:00 pm
Oct 072020
 

Thank-you for reading our latest ministry blogpost. You will need to read to the bottom to find out about our latest award.

On the ministry frontlines, we have been walking alongside a young mother, Elizabeth, and her family for a couple of years. We have learned first-hand of the home-front struggles, firstly with COVID-19, and then of remote leaning over the past six long months, without any in-person help. Along with its technology challenges and the many language barriers trying to help her four children, three in elementary school and one middle-school student, we have witnessed the struggles of staying connected with the daily grind of being on constant Zoom calls. Peer socialization has all but disappeared and emotional support evaporated by being home.

LHCC has intervened to engage both teachers and school counselors to provide much needed encouragement and hope. We launched our Connect Hub learning program in September. This has been such a challenging year for so many. I cannot imagine the hardships for those with special needs or living with homelessness. Has the school system done these children a disservice, with delayed returned to class, especially now that the governor has opened up schools to return? How will we ever measure the impact on the COVID-slide?

Your prayers for continued wisdom, guidance and open conversations are appreciated, as we come alongside this young family, and certainly many others like them. Grateful for this ministry and opportunity to build trust and provide hope in these relationships.

Quoting one of my favorite bible teachers Chip Ingram, and one who I have listened to for years, “the big answer to our worlds chaos is not political philosophical or religious, its spiritual” Let’s keep our leaders. nation, schools and neighbors in our daily prayers. Chip goes on to say The greatest need in America and the world right now is for us to love our neighbor. Only radical Christlike love will heal racism, political division and reveal the love of the savior to fractured and hurting people. 

On a different note, LHCC is also pleased to have been awarded the 2020 Great Non-Profits award this month. Thank-you to everyone who wrote a review. If you still would like to add your voice to our work, kindly text 455097492 to 888-432-6659 and in 3 easy steps, you too can help make LHCC a great non-profit by sharing your feedback.

Appreciate what the Lord is doing through our ministry

Brent Morris

October 7, 2020

 Posted by at 12:16 pm
Aug 112020
 

The thought of children being placed in a cage at the border really sickens me. No human being let alone young innocent children should ever have to be subjected to that kind of anxiety and abuse, like a captured criminal, awaiting their uncertain fate.

One of the many benefits of building relationships with our families and children is learning more about their stories, their culture and what brings them to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Perhaps you might recall reading about the immigrant containment at our southern border. There have been many years of articles written about this atrocity, and I researched one  such article by the Council on Foreign Relations here Two of our kids were in apparently in a migratory group seeking asylum with a mother/aunt a couple of years ago.

There is no doubt that this was a traumatic experience for any child. Perhaps thinking, will we survive, was this journey to the big unknown worth the risk and will I see my family again.

Eileen recalled how their family of three travelled in a caravan of immigrants towards El Norte, a common term in Spanish for the USA. They seemed to walk for days on end in the hot sun, recalls Eileen, until they reached the border. Once detained and apprehended, she remembers how scared she was, being separated from her mother and cousin. Men and boys went one way, the women and children, another. She spent 3 days in a cage with other young girls, no doubt scared and very afraid of what might happen next. Upon reconciliation they were somehow allowed to proceed. The details are blurry at this point, and that’s OK. We do not seek answers or probe for a better understanding. It’s simply just too painful to recall that horrifying migration episode from two years ago. Fast forward to today. The good news is that they are here with us and with family. Safe as they will ever feel perhaps and making a go of a new life, in order to remain safe from trafficking, drug lords and struggles to make ends meet in a hostile environment back across the southern border.

A theme of our summer camp was “Count your Blessings”. When I think of the ordeals of others and the daily struggles of so many, I am compelled to thank God that I did not have to endure what others like Eileen will surely never forget …

The reasons for immigration are so complex, it would take more words than these to explain why this process, that has existed since before Jesus walked the earth, continues to this day. Everyone has their reason for leaving their families, as hard as that is, in order to find a better future for themselves and their kids. Eileen and her family found LHCC through neighbors.  We are thrilled that we get to serve families who have endured more than we will never fully understand.

In closing, I am reminded about the words of the Messiah from the gospel of Matthew 19:13-15. “Let the little children come to me, and do hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Our land of opportunity is no picnic and certainly no heaven, especially not during a pandemic, but let it be a place of safe harbor until we leave this earth for the splendor of heaven one day where there will be no pain, no suffering, no condemnation and no cages. There will only security for every wandering child and family member who seeks and also finds safety in the love of Christ. Please pray for our less fortunate neighbors among us and for the precious children in our care.

Until next time,

Brent Morris

brent@lhcclt.org

A world where every neighbor is a friend

 COVID-19, Family, Neighboring, Racism  Comments Off on A world where every neighbor is a friend
Jun 222020
 

I will no doubt date myself by telling you that I was big fan of the Swedish supergroup ABBA in the 70’s. Listening to the lyrics of their hit Happy New Year today on a run, one could not miss the words of the repeating chorus …

May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

… May we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die”.  

Abba sang this song about the dawn of the new year of 1980, with a question to ponder what the sentiment would be at the end of the next decade. How about 30 years later? If ABBA a were still cranking out pop ballads, you have to wonder what they would be saying in 2020.

After yet another week of protests … some peaceful, some not, one has to wonder what it would take to address racism once and for all. The Black Lives Matter movement moves forward. Black lives do matter. Period. 

There was only one race, the human race. What would it take if we all put love into action and really stamp out racism. What a great day it would be if every neighbor is a friend.

 Posted by at 5:48 pm

There’s only good news here … this blogpost is about kinship and caring

 Community Service, Neighboring, Positive Encouragement, Relationships, Social Capital  Comments Off on There’s only good news here … this blogpost is about kinship and caring
Apr 052020
 

Times like this bring out the best in people. Four weeks ago, we pivoted from gathering and started delivering Meals on Wheels to the kids in our after-school program. Volunteers signed up to help as they usually do, and we increased our daily meal count for 38 kids to over 150 meals this past week ahead of the Easter weekend. We were very surprised that the need for kids meals was there from the get-go.

Requests for nutritious kids’ meals (consisting of lunch for today, breakfast for tomorrow) soon increased and requests included worksheets, chapter books, games and puzzles to keep kids stimulated and away from technology, at least for a little while each day. We were happy to oblige and meet the growing needs.

Our volunteers have gone to great lengths to stay in touch with their students and to encourage them during the stay-at-home period.

  • Phone numbers have been exchanged between volunteers and parents (and kids)
  • Hand written letters are being written by volunteers to kids and delivered by US Mail
  • Video calls to children so they can get help with their school worksheets and daily reading
  • Volunteers are reading bible stories and chapter books using FaceTime and other technology tools
  • Baked goods have been prepared and delivered for kids and adults
  • Birthdays have been celebrated with cup cakes and birthday cake
  • Moms are making meals for other moms who are no longer working and therefore staying at home

Naturally, the appreciation barometer has gone way up. Letters of appreciation, drawings and thank-you notes from children and parents are being shared with us on a daily basis.

What a healthy perspective on caring for others in an unprecedented time of need.

Thank you volunteers for your support and for coming alongside our appreciative families. This is no-doubt kinship 101 and walking the talk towards making a meaningful impact.

We’ll get through this pandemic, together.

The holy scriptures assure us that we have nothing to fear. Not even COVID-19. We are to be still and know that God is God and still in control. Psalm 46:10. Additional inspiration, comfort and hope can be found in Psalm 119:49-56

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris ED LHCC April 9, 2020

Nov 212019
 

Many young at-risk children that we serve and growing up in crescent communities in Charlotte find themselves constantly on the move. Switching schools constantly as parents move to find affordable housing. Maybe seated in another new school classroom trying to learn their second language. Perhaps you have felt the same way at times. I know I did, when I moved to a new city and into a new school and the age of 6. Finding new friends and fitting in ain’t easy.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Sofia. Sofia and her sister Gabriella, along with mom, started attending our after-school program in 2018. They have attended each week for many reasons including receiving literacy and homework help. Sofia was in kindergarten when she started. She was shy and certainly quiet. Overwhelmed with learning English, she often seemed disengaged by the interactions and encouragement from her reading buddy. Then she met a friend, Samantha, at the start of grade 1 and together they soon struck up a friendship. Things started to change …

After some quality time together, having fun at summer camp and then homework and reading, they have become best buds. Both are helped by the same volunteer and are making steady progress. More importantly though, they have made a connection. Both learning together, taking in the new vocab words, reading the same book, together and solving the same math problems. Together. That’s the blessing here. They made friends and their outlook is looking up. This kind of friendship is blossoming in other areas as well, including between our students and their homework buddies.

We have some more volunteer spots to fill so that others like Sofia, Gabriella and Samantha can also get a helping hand. Forming friendships that we hope and pray will last well beyond vocab words and solving math problems. Come see the bonds that are being forged and be a part of something special while doing good. We have good to give. You have good to give! Connect with us in person at a program near you or via email

Happy Thanksgiving until next time. We have much to be grateful for.

Brent Morris

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
Oct 072019
 

Picture the scene. Ten or so pallets full of potato’s, totaling about 20 tons, being bagged by kind hearted folks into 10-pound bags on a cool Saturday morning. How did they get there you may ask? The potato’s that is…

It all takes place every year at Pineville Neighbors Place. A generous farmer donates what I call the gleanings in the form of potato’s, in support of the homeless and food banks. Gleanings is a term used in the bible and is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested. It is a practice arising over 2,000 years ago when it became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Fast forward to Charlotte and the 21st century and it has taken on a more hands on meaning with a deeper connotation. Potatoes are trucked in from three hours away in central NC. Picture for a minute (or check out the video) random strangers, neighbors and school children standing in huddles around pallets of spuds, surgical gloves on, digging into the gleanings and bagging all 40,000 pounds of edible offerings until they are all bagged. It’s a beautiful picture of collaboration and unity across all races, cultures and people of different socio-economic backgrounds. High fives every time a pallet is transformed to handfuls for easy distribution. Organizations represented included Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations, Pineville Elementary School, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and Pineville United Methodist Church, to name a few. There were the many young, the young at heart, ambitious teachers and pastors, church congregants and community helpers. It was another awesome drop.

So, now you know what’s a potato drop. Lots of potato’s going to a needy cause, for sure, but more importantly, a show of how a community comes together, extends some love for the less fortunate and helps one non-profit make light work of an otherwise huge truck load.

Thank you, Jane Shutt and Pineville Neighbors Place, for blessing our neighbors and the LHCC families with a fun community service event, and more importantly a show of good neighborliness. Till next year …

Video credit to Mr. Morry Alter, who does great productions for non-profits like LHCC and PNP

Sep 222019
 

Are you crazy busy? More to do than hours in a day to get it all done? Might we take a time out? Read on for a simple challenge this week …

A recent LHCC summer blog post called out neighboring as an art. We shared this concept with our LHCC families this past summer and the results are in. Summer camper families grew closer. Volunteers got to build deeper relationships with families and children. Parents invited other parents to our program and we got to enjoy an end of summer celebration together. It was awesome.

When serving our neighbors, are we trying to look good or do good? Inviting others to our program or opening our homes to others is a great way to show hospitality. Weary people may join us to share a meal and conversation and hopefully leave feeling refueled and refreshed. It can be stressful and awkward for both hosts and guests. We get worked up, tidying up and fed up, focusing perhaps on appearance rather than good ol’ southern hospitality.

In Luke 10, Jesus pointed this out to Martha when her sister Mary was feasting more on the friendship than faffing about the food. Christian hospitality has more to do with good fellowship than good food. In the book Crazy Busy, the author points out that there is a fine line between care and cumber. Less ado would serve better. “Feed people, not your pride.”

How about a little challenge for the coming week:

  • Slow down your hurried life. Go out of your way to greet and chat to a neighbor.
  • Be present with our family ( aka put down the phone?), and
  • Make time for daily meditation and devotion. 15 to 20 minutes, tops. This might just be the one thing strong enough to pull you away from your busyness, so you can be intentional about becoming a good neighbor.

Peace to you, take it easy and have a Mary-like week

Brent M

 Posted by at 8:49 pm
May 052019
 

Back in March, I challenged myself, and others to be a better neighbor. After Movement Day in March, I was inspired to practice what I preach and literally love on the neighbors on my street and in my neighborhood. I undertook to share my experiences here after these first 30 days. In addition, we at LHCC challenged our volunteers, and the parents and children we serve to do the same. Love their neighbor. Yes, literally.

What I put into practice was to be more intentional than I had been before. I made excuses to be in the front of our home, not hidden away in the back yard. I was intentional to slow down and catch up with my immediate neighbors and the people in my sub-division. My “hi’s” were extended to “how are you” and “it’s good to see you” kind of sentiment. What happened was amazing. I actually felt good about not been so hurried and I took the time to show kindness and caring. I shared this with various members of my church group and they too were encouraged to persevere with strangers and acquaintances and convert them to friends.

In the past 30 days, LHCC has hosted three community events. We saw families inviting their friends. Even an opportunity presented itself for those served to serve two of our volunteers. What I believe I have seen is that it feels good to slow down and engage people in our midst or sphere of influence. For the next 30 days, I will continue to encourage others to love their neighbors and be a blessing to their communities.

Until the next time, I am Brent Morris, Executive Director of Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, proudly serving alongside our staff and volunteers on the mission field that God has called me to.

 Posted by at 10:38 pm