Germantown Organization Reaches Out to the Community]

It is often difficult for people to admit when they need help. Whether that help is financial, educational, mental or another form, people usually do not want to confess their faults and hurt their pride, especially to a stranger. But, in Germantown, people can ask for help in many ways, and they can certainly expect their needs to be taken care of without so much as a bat of an eye.

Face to Face, located on Price Street, is one place that Germantown residents can go to get the assistance they need at no cost. This community outreach program began as a soup kitchen run out of St. Vincent de Paul Church in 1985. It has since grown into a comprehensive organization, providing its clients with care and concern in a very personal environment.

Sheila Sharp and Marie McCabe are two familiar faces at Face to Face

Marie McCabe, executive administrator for Face to Face, explained that the need for help was so great that new assistance programs were being added at a rapid pace. These programs began as an outreach program from the church itself, however many residents who were not catholic felt that they could not use the programs. That is when Face to Face decided to become a separate entity from St. Vincent de Paul, making sure everyone who needed help could get it.

“They felt like they were shutting people out,” said McCabe. “That’s when Face to Face actually started.”

Face to face was founded by Eileen Smith, who recently retired. Her vision inspired hard work and dedicated of staff members and volunteers, and Mary Kay Meeks-Hank, the current executive director, is planning to work hard to take Smith’s place.

“I honestly love that I get to tell this story,” said Meeks-Hank. “I get to invite people to realize that the artificial boundaries don’t separate us as human beings.”

The outreach program provides multiple services, one being their dining room, where over 600 meals are served Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each guest is provided with a piece of fruit and a choice of desert. The guest then takes a seat and is served a hot meal.

“We have them sit down and we serve them,” explained McCabe. “The dining room is like a family and we want to make them feel that way.”

The family-like atmosphere makes guests feel more welcome, which Face to Face prides itself on.

The organization also has a legal clinic, where licensed attorneys and law students are available for referrals and information. They also help those who do not have forms of identification, most of the time because they have never received it. The clinic works to find lost identifications, helping these people to become employed.

A bulletin board in the health clinic provides important imformation for patients

There is also a newly renovated health center. Volunteer nurses and nursing students provide health care, blood pressure screening and general health information to their patients. McCabe admitted that a common problem amongst people who take advantage of the clinic is foot problems, because many of them do not have proper footwear.

A social services initiative is also a big help to many residents. The initiative assists people who are struggling or cannot pay their bills. It also helps people find a place to live, provides clothing, as well as necessary toiletries.

The most recent addition is a facility the homeless can use, providing them with a washer and dryer to clean their clothes, a bathroom equipped with a large shower, as well as an option to take donated clothing. Each visitor also gets a zip lock bag filled with soap, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as a new pair of socks.

“Sometimes it’s pretty rare that some of these people get to shower,” said McCabe. “Everyone who uses it comes out looking so happy.”

Face to Face offers a variety of educational type classes, such as an adult computer education class, taught by Sheila Sharp, a retired school teacher. Participants use this class for a multitude of reasons, such as learning to use the internet, learning to read, or to simply check their email. Since many of these people do not have their own computers, they take advantage of this class so that they can set up an email account. These email addresses allow many people to have jobs.

The computer lab at Face to Face

“Some of them use their email addresses as their actual addresses because they don’t have an address,” explained McCabe. “So it’s just wonderful that they can now have an address, even if it is through email.”

While this educational class is important, it is the last program that Face to Face’s money goes toward. They are constantly looking for computer donations, because many of their current computers have problems.

“It’s terrible that it’s last on our list because it’s useful,” said McCabe. “Even if you work at McDonald’s you need those skills.”

The organization also hosts an after school program and a summer camp. The summer camp usually hosts 500 children, ranging from ages 4 to 17. It is held Monday through Friday for four weeks. Those who get too old to attend the camp are given the opportunity to become counselors, earning a few bucks along the way.

The after-school program is an extension of the summer camp, so Face to Face can stay in contact with many of the campers. The program gives children an opportunity to work on their homework, get assistance from tutors, or attend dance and art classes. Both the summer camp and afterschool program are in high demand, with a waiting list for both.

Face to Face is a multi-faceted program that survives solely on donations. Each day, boxes of clothing and toiletries arrive, and the volunteers and staff are forever grateful for that. Their monetary funds come mostly from private grants because they receive no government funding. Even the food is donated, and many people give their time and efforts to make sure the dining room guests are satisfied.

“Every Friday morning, a resident drives around to a bunch of bakeries collecting day old stuff,” said McCabe. “That’s our desert.”

Face to Face is on a mission to help Germantown residents become empowered. Donations and volunteers help this outreach program reach their mission.

“I like to think of Face to Face as providing a quilt of service,” said Meeks-Hank. “When people come to our door, I hope they can be wrapped in hospitality. Each program exudes a real hospitality and warmth.”

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