KOH2RVA: Day 181

Good news!  The Kingdom of Heaven is coming to Richmond, Virginia!  This letter from CARITAS, one of our partners in the effort to end homelessness, will make a believer out of you!

To: CARITAS Congregation Partners
From: Sharon Drescher, CARITAS Volunteer Manager
Date: March 5, 2013
Subject: CARITAS and the Fight to End Homelessness

homeless manTogether we are fighting the good fight against Homelessness and we are WINNING! The most recent numbers show that our overall numbers are down. This is good news! We thank you for joining us in this valuable work and hope you know we could not do this without all of you.

CARITAS started as a winter cots program nearly 25 years ago with limited client services. Learning from our experience and innovating along the way, CARITAS added case management to address the root causes of homelessness, such as mental illness and addiction. Today, there is a newer model that is proving to be more effective and efficient in helping the homeless become independent in our community. Research shows that people are better able to become self-sufficient if they live in housing (rather than emergency shelter) early on and are surrounded there with the support services they need. This focus on prevention and rapid re-housing has been endorsed by Homeward, our authority on best practices, and government funding sources are moving in this direction as well. We join with our other partners in human services area in supporting these coordinated community-wide efforts.

Even though the emphasis has shifted, we recognize that there will always be a need for emergency shelter. CARITAS has made a commitment to continue to provide emergency shelter for the neediest among us, and we will continue to need you, our congregation partners.


For those of you who are currently hosting CARITAS Shelter guests this means there will be some changes in our available weeks. CARITAS will not need to open a second men’s site during the winter months; so, there will be fewer host weeks needed during those months. We are hoping that many of you will schedule your host weeks at another time of year. There is always a need for hosting clients in the summer months.


There are many additional ways to participate and support our local mission. Our other programs include: the CARITAS Furniture Bank, CARITAS Works (career readiness programs offer many great ways to get to know us even better), and The Healing Place, our new 12-step residential recovery program.

• You, and anyone from your congregation, are invited to visit us, attend our uplifting Morning Motivations session at 8:45 am M-F or come to New Volunteer Orientation any Wednesday at 1pm.

• Furniture/Household Essential Drives are perfect ways to help us keep our shelves full and ready to serve our 80 families each month.

• A furniture build or a men’s clothing drive are good opportunities for your youth group or Sunday school class.

• Your financial support allows us to provide help across our programs where it’s needed the most.

Moving people from Shelter to Stability is not a band aid quick fix but a long-term effort to address a community crisis. Working together we can help solve this problem. Your ongoing support is a vital part of that solution.

Trust us to continue to bring you this important mission work. As the largest homeless services program in the area, we understand the problem, work closely with other agencies to leverage our resources and will always need your help to assist our most vulnerable.

Our doors at 1125 E. Commerce Road are open, and we are ready to engage you in purpose that transforms lives right here in our community. Thank you for your continued support, and please let me know if you have questions. I can be reached at 804-343-5008 x424 or sdrescher@caritasva.org

KOH2RVA: Day 73

This is Jack.

Jack is a guest of CARITAS this week, which is a Latin word for “charity,” but also stands for “Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter.” What it means for Jack is a warm, safe place to spend the night, and this week CARITAS is at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, where 80 of our homeless neighbors have found a warm, safe place. I was there to volunteer last night, and got a chance to talk with Jack:

Jim: Tell me about CARITAS.

Jack: CARITAS is a very nice place. It’s saved my life. I was sleeping outside. I knew about CARITAS because I was staying at The Healing Place. I didn’t want to go to CARITAS. It was summertime. I enjoyed sleeping outside.

Jim: How did you become homeless?

Jack: I was the manager of a convenience store. I was making $60,000 a year. I thought I would never be homeless. I had a house, a wife, a dog…but then I lost everything.

Jim: What did it?

Jack: Alcoholism. Alcoholism ruined my life. I started drinking when I was 11. My parents tried to help me get straightened out. Didn’t work. I “died ” three different times.

Jim: What have you learned from your experience?

Jack: I’ve learned a lot. Don’t ever look down on folks. When I had money, I used to look down on the homeless. I thought they were a bunch of bums. Hanging around parks, taking advantage of people. Since I’ve been homeless, I’ve learned that not all homeless people are bad. A lot of them are like I am; just trying to get by. No matter what you might think, we are still human beings.

Jim: What are your dreams for the future?

Jack: Try to get my life back together, and don’t forget where I came from. I’d like to give back what was so freely given to me since I’ve been homeless.

I probably passed by your church about 5,000 times, but the first time I came inside was when I became homeless. I come to Community Missions on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I come to Grace Fellowship on Thursday night. I come to my AA meeting here at First Baptist. I want to come to services someday, when I get a suit and tie. I was baptized in Pine Street Baptist Church, on Oregon Hill. That’s where I grew up.

Jim: This year our church is on a mission trip called KOH2RVA. We’re trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Since you’ve been with us, has heaven ever come to earth for you?

Jack: I have the feeling God has led me here, that God wanted me to be in this church. I’m headed down this spiritual path, but I don’t know where it’s headed.

Jim: Well, I think it’s headed toward God. I think he loves you and wants you for his own. And look at you: you’ve already been featured on the pastor’s blog! What’s next?

Jack: I don’t know…Oprah?

KOH2RVA: Day 38

Yesterday was one of those days when I needed to be in two places at the same time.

I needed to be at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond trustee retreat, but I also needed to be at the quarterly meeting of the First Baptist Endowment Board.  I did the best I could.  I spent most of the day at the trustee retreat but slipped out in the middle of the afternoon for the Endowment Board meeting.

Let me tell you why:

The First Baptist Endowment Board manages an investment portfolio of some $20 million dollars, but unlike some boards this one is committed to using money for ministry.  I learned recently that in the last 20 years the Endowment has given away more than $22 million dollars.  Now, before you pick up the phone to make a request for your favorite charity please understand that most of these are long-term commitments.  For example, the Endowment underwrites 65% of the church’s television ministry and has for 25 years.  When that ministry needs new equipment the Endowment typically writes the check.  And when the elevator at First Baptist broke down recently we went to the Endowment, asking for money, and the Endowment helped us out.

But the Endowment’s generosity goes far beyond the walls of First Baptist Church.

When I think about KOH2RVA—our year-long, every-member mission trip—I think about the way the Endowment supports ministries right here in our city that regularly bring heaven to earth.  I’ve published the full list below, but some of the ones I’m most familiar with are ACTS (which works to keep people from becoming homeless), CARITAS (which provides temporary shelter for the homeless in area churches), the Central Virginia Foodbank, Crossover Health Services, the Daily Planet (currently collecting donations of hats and gloves), Richmond Friends of the Homeless, and others that labor to help the poorest of the poor.

But that’s not all.

The Endowment also supports organizations that defend religious liberty, minister to immigrant populations, strengthen marriages, champion theological education, promote justice, provide for children and youth, care for the aging, and foster spiritual growth.  I often say, “There must be a thousand ways to bring heaven to earth,” and the Endowment Board seems determined to find out.

Take a look at this list:

  • ACTS
  • African Community Christian Church
  • Baptist Center for Ethics
  • Baptist Joint Committee
  • Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
  • Baptist World Alliance
  • Boy Scouts (Heart of Virginia Council)
  • Camp Alkulana
  • Center for Congregational Ministry
  • Central Virginia Foodbank
  • Chaplain Services of the Churches of Virginia
  • Children’s Hospital
  • Cross Over Health Services
  • Daily Planet
  • Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center
  • Ebenezer Community Church – Brooklyn Center MN
  • Embrace Richmond
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • First Things First
  • Good Samaritan Ministries
  • Rosie Grier Youth Pavilion
  • The Healing Place
  • Home Again
  • John Leland Center for Theological Studies
  • Piankatank Camp and Conference Center
  • Religious Herald
  • The Resource Center
  • Richmond Baptist Association
  • Richmond Friends of the Homeless
  • Richmond Hill Retreat Center
  • Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity
  • United Way
  • Virginia Baptist Historical Society
  • Virginia Baptist Homes
  • Virginia Baptist Mission Board
  • Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical Center Chapel
  • Virginia Home
  • Virginia Home for Boys and Girls
  • Virginia Union University – School of Theology

If you’d like to participate, there is a way.  The 1780 Society is a group of First Baptist members and friends who have made gifts, bequests, or other donations to the Endowment Fund.  Some have taken out life insurance policies and named the Endowment as the beneficiary.  Others have simply written it into their wills.  These people trust the Endowment Board to keep on bringing heaven to earth even after they’re gone, and if you’d like to be one of them you can call Billy Burford at (804) 355-8637, ext. 152, and tell him you’d like to join the 1780 Society.  He won’t ask you how much you plan to give or how you plan to give it.  He’ll just add your name to the list.