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

Jul 232020
 

Since our new normal began in March with a stay-at-home order including school closings, our LHCC programs have taken on a new course of serving our neighbors. There have been blessings setbacks and disruptions.

As schools reopen on August 17, whatever that really means, in our “new normal”, the future of our after-school program remains uncertain…

What lies before us are a few options for helping our kids similar, to how we used to do, way back before time began, in mid-March…

  1. Virtual homework help by phone or video
  2. Live evening homework help at the church as we used to go, but no groups, just one on one help
  3. Weekly daytime check-in at the church for scheduled help. Parents bring kids by appointment and receive help from a volunteer for an hour or so
  4. Do nothing for kids directly, due to safer at home protocols, and support parents instead with how to help their kids at home

There are surely other choices. Our mission at Learning Help Centers is to provide scholastic, spiritual and social supports to our under-resourced families. The degree to which we can accomplish our goals varies for each of the options outlined above. Perhaps there are a combination of choices to best meet the needs of:

  • Our families, as well as
  • The varying schedules of our volunteers and staff.

We covet your feedback. Perhaps you know of other organizations similar to ours that have had more time than we have to think this through, while we’re been busy delivery over 25,000 kids meals and planning for summer enrichment camps. We value your opinion and hope that you will join us. Thank you in advance for praying for the safety and protection of our families and for helping LHCC determine how best to serve their ongoing needs during the pandemic.

Working while it is day

Brent Morris

July 23, 2020

 Posted by at 6:35 am

The new COVID slide, as if Summer slide was not difficult enough …

 COVID-19, Education, Reading is important, Relationships, Summer Camp, Summer Slide  Comments Off on The new COVID slide, as if Summer slide was not difficult enough …
Jun 262020
 

As summer 2020 gets underway for my three teenage girls, thoughts for me drift towards what students and children are supposed to do for the next nine weeks. Under normal circumstances, summer would be a stay-at-home break from school, but who needs yet another stay-at-home day of what has been the norm for the past 100 days? How will kids stay positive about learning and be ready to face the start of the next school year mid-August?

Summer slide is the term used to refer to children sliding backwards (from reading and learning) when out of school for the summer break. COVID slide is an inevitable extended super-slide, that began mid-March, that will set many of our young learners back, as they have not all been able to maintain steady reading and virtual class time.

How have the past three months been for you and your household? Have your kids kept up the good fight to complete projects, homework assignments and kept up with the Zoom calls with teachers? Our girls fared well to begin with, but as the weeks clicked over, there interest seemed to wane… a lot.

The ELL students we serve have honestly not fared too well overall. Despite their best efforts and intentions, parents just could not sustain connections to teachers and keep their kids occupied. Many obstacles lay in the way.

We also surveyed our persistent volunteers to find out how much contact they had managed to maintain with their student. It’s been hard to provide help and encouragement from the awkward distance, week after week.

This summer, we conduct some literacy and enrichment activities. Not virtually but at a distance, if you know what I mean. Some of the same as in the prior years, but also another new adventure of an away overnight camp to the mountains for kids, to be joined later by their parents and younger siblings.

If a normal summer of learning loss is upon us, this year is going to be more challenging, and not so normal. Social distancing and PPE will dictate some added guidelines and fun activities. This summer, we are also recruiting out-of-work parents to help with crafts, cleaning and cooking.

If you’d like to volunteer as an intern, or volunteer your high school or college student, please connect with us through our website link or email us at info@lhcclt.org. Make the best of the new normal and cheer on a student near you. Let’s reverse the COVID slide and get kids ready for another year, together.

I am,

Brent Morris

Executive Director

June 27 2020

 Posted by at 12:44 pm

Why we dropped 140 meals in one week, literally

 COVID-19, Our Mission, Reading is important, Relationships, Summer Camp  Comments Off on Why we dropped 140 meals in one week, literally
Jun 142020
 

This week, LHCC Mobile Meals enters its 13th week of delivering kids meals to our families in the South Blvd corridor. Volunteers have been fantastic about showing up at our catering kitchen to pack and deliver meals each weekday. Thank you for continuing to be a big part of LHCC Mobile Meals and for your loyalty to our program.

Chuck Coonradt once said, in his best-selling book Game of Work, that to people who don’t matter, you merely tell them what is going down. For people you really value, you tell them the “why”. We have made a few changes that we want to share with you.

  • We have reduced our kids’ deliveries from over 160 to 90 kids, or 180 meals per day
  • We have reduced our driver routes from three to one, so that only one driver and delivery crew can deliver more meals to about the same number of addresses
  • The delivery should take about 60 to 75 minutes

We plan to deliver meals to the families who are both directly a part of our program and really couldn’t receive meals any other way. Here’s the why…

  • Many of our families have only one vehicle that leaves for dad’s work early each morning, leaving mom at home without transportation for the day.
  • We have always been big on not providing hand-outs, choosing instead to serve others only when they can’t reasonably do it for themselves.
  • We also made sure that we did not leave any family high and dry. We have directed families to local feeding sites, including CMS schools to collect daily meals. We assure you none of the families we have served will go hungry.

LHCC continues to provide:

  • Weekly bulk food deliveries to our family, thanks to donations by the community.
  • Volunteer help for our caterer, at Nations Ford, Charities Kitchen
  • Support a single mother of two who prepares adult meals for our families without employment.

Thank you to each and every volunteer who has supported our families since mid-March. We look forward to seeing all our kids together for our annual summer program in late July and early August to prepare our kids for their return to school after five long hot summer months.

If you would like to volunteer, or volunteer your high school or college student, please have them connect with us and sign-up for a small role during our summer camp through our website link

Until next time, have a blessed week and stay safe.

Brent Morris

Executive Director, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

June 15, 2020

 Posted by at 8:06 pm

How North Carolina ranks in the Hunger Charts

 COVID-19, Family, Our Mission, Relationships  Comments Off on How North Carolina ranks in the Hunger Charts
May 252020
 

I had no idea that North Carolina had the 10th highest hunger rate in the US. Among senior citizen’s it’s even worse, where we are ranked 4th! Food hardships particularly for children have risen to unprecedented levels.

Based on a recent study from UNC at Chapel Hill, one in seven of our neighbors can’t get enough to eat. 23 percent of NC households currently lack the money to obtain enough food. Families with kids obviously have a tougher time keeping food on the table, where 35 percent don’t have enough to eat. Pause and let that sink in … that’s one in three families are struggling to feed themselves.

When LHCC started delivering kids meals ten weeks ago, in mid-March, I was pretty sure the kids meals program would soon fizzle as kids became tired of the catered food. Not so fast. I soon realized that demand was increasing each day during those early weeks and has not dissipated since. Parents were adamant that the food was needed and have assured us “Please don’t stop, we can’t get enough”. Parents have made it clear that they do still need daily deliveries. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, I guess.

Every kids meal we supply means more money for the family to make their third pandemic era rent payment, due in a few short days. In case you were wondering kids meals are complemented by adult meals as well as weekly grocery deliveries, provided by LHCC.

Times like this surely bring out the best in people. New LHCC volunteers have helped for the past 50 weekdays, with food bagging, packing, driving and delivery. Families are also sharing food and distributing meals with their neighbors.

We are contemplating a reverse pivot back to our normal summer focus. Should we discontinue food delivery, in order focus on our usual summer camps, kids education and readying everyone for the next school year? After reflecting upon these state-wide hunger statistics and associated hunger challenges and feedback from the families we serve, we’ll just keeping driving forward with our LHCC Mobile Meals Program. We’ll ensure that food insecurity, like poverty and unemployment does not become yet another uncertainty and cause for further pandemic anxiety.

Volunteers are needed and certainly most welcome. Please sign up here or view our homepage for ways to get involved

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

Where have all the shepherd’s gone? Where are the fathers today?

 Family, Relationships  Comments Off on Where have all the shepherd’s gone? Where are the fathers today?
Feb 172020
 

My last post focused on parents being vigilant at home and keeping an eye on what our children are exposed to through the various media channels that we allow into our home. The learning principle was that while parents consider their daily interactions with their children to be adequate, the average time spend with children in a research study of high school students indicated that the average time spend by fathers with their children is a mere 37 seconds each day …

It takes years to figure out how to be a good parent. I’m obviously still learning to be a better father and to fulfill my role as dad. As the heads of the home, men are called to be shepherds, the designated teacher, the nurturer, the guide and of course, the leader. Shepherds might be carefully guarding their careers, vigilant over their 401k performance, protective of their professional reputations. However, their flock may have been virtually abandoned to fend for themselves against the secular humanistic, pluralistic wolves of society. The sheep are distressed, disorientated and oftentimes depressed. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 42% of girls and 27% of boys seriously thought about suicide.

We owe it to our families to remain vigilant. Children spell love … T-I-M-E. I have to find the right balance between work and play. As a father, and learning from the great shepherd, we have no greater responsibility to nurture and guide the sheep that God has entrusted to our control.

I am Brent Morris

Executive Director

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

February 15, 2020

Inspiration for this post is from a short book by the father of our pastor, Stephen Davey, who is the senior pastor of Colonial Baptist church in Cary, and the headquarters of Shepherds Theological Seminary. I am grateful for his passion to serve his flock and share his insightful resources.

 Posted by at 10:44 am
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

Who wouldn’t want more Wisdom in 2019?

 Attitude, Positive Encouragement, Relationships, Wisdom  Comments Off on Who wouldn’t want more Wisdom in 2019?
Dec 312018
 

When you think wisdom, do you envision an old man with grey hair sitting on a stool imparting his worldly knowledge? Perhaps someone you know who has lived a long time, gained experience and therefore acquired untold insights that have resulted in what we call wisdom?

Benjamin Franklin said: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. It is a saying that is viewed as a commonsensical proverb. This proverb actually originated long before Franklin’s time. It was seen in print as early as 1496, in a piece called “The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle” where it is referred to as an old English proverb: Also, whoever wishes to practice the sport of angling, he must rise early, which is profitable to a man in this way. That is, to wit: most for the welfare of his soul. For it will cause him to be holy, and for the health of his body. For it will cause him to be well, also for the increase of his goods, for it will make him rich. As the old English proverb says: “Whoever will rise early shall be holy, healthy, and happy.”

My wife, Caren, gifted me this Christmas with a “Wisdom for Each Day” inspirational quote calendar. She must surely think I need it, right? Well, who would turn down a daily dose of wise counsel from a trusted theologian and man of God like Rev. Billy Graham, along with its numerous quotes from the holy scriptures?

I also recently came across an excellent read called Gospel Fluency, that contains a remarkably insightful chapter near the end on growing in love and wisdom. The book concludes with the premise that wisdom doesn’t actually come from our education after all.

From my study I have learned that wisdom isn’t just increased knowledge. As the book illuminates, knowledge without grace leads to pride, and pride leads to destruction in our lives and the lives of others. Wisdom is knowledge applied so that we do the right thing, at the right time, with the right motive, in the right way. I like that perspective a lot. Knowing what to do at the right time, and having our motives in check is an improvement on merely having the knowledge. To expand upon this truth, wisdom is gracious, loving, kind and gentle.

In the new testament, Paul instructs the church in Colossae: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6. Wisdom is a gift and all who have it are a blessing.

As I reflect upon the past six years with Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, and all the relationships we have established, I contemplate the many ways to help the communities and families we serve through LHCC. There are many opportunities to collaborate with community partners, donors and volunteers. If we get it somewhat right, we will enjoy another beneficial year for everyone. We can do our tiny part to enhance the lives of all community members, who cross our paths, in the two regions of the city we call the “ends of the crescent”.

I, for one, can and will take heed of the wisdom insights gleaned from my latest read. I also eagerly anticipate the wisdom truth reminders contained in my new daily devotional calendar. One of my goals this coming year, is to gain greater perspective and also seek wisdom, by firstly praying and secondly, being present, rather than simply doing what I usually do. Might I rather seek to walk in wisdom, and show care and kindness, toward others, as I endeavor to be loving, gracious and gentle, just as Jesus modeled for all of us. This is the wisdom that I will aspire to acquire in 2019!

Wisdom perspectives and comments adapted from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt chapter 15, Grow in Love and Wisdom, pg. 197

 Posted by at 7:05 am