New program pairs families, mentors

June 25, 2013 by

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(From The Messenger, January 2013)

Four Concordia families will make up the first “class” in the new “Hands Across Our Community” program beginning in early February.

The goal of Hands Across is to pair people who are struggling financially but want to become self-sufficient with “community coaches” who will take part in the program with them and be there for encouragement and advice.

The idea for a broad-based and long-term program came out of the “Community Needs Forum” in January 2009, as one of the major concerns voiced by Concordia residents.

But, as Sister Jean Rosemarynoski noted earlier this year, attempts to tackle the issues surrounding poverty in Concordia have “sputtered” despite continued concern from  people throughout the community.

So the sisters posted an “urgent request” on the Catholic Volunteer Network website, looking for someone who would finish designing the program and then implement — and who would be here for long enough to make it work.

Enter Christina Brodie, a retired advertising and marketing executive from Florida.

Serving as a full-time unpaid volunteer for the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brodie arrived in November and immediately began work on what is now called “Hands Across Our Community.”

Hands Across will begin with 13 weekly “workshops” where the participating families will discuss everything from goal setting and debt management to meal planning and the value of continuing education.

Also taking part in those weekly sessions will be “mentor families” that make a  commitment to advise and work with one of the families for at least a year.

After the 13-week workshops, there will be monthly suppers for the families and mentors to provide ongoing encouragement and assistance for at least a year and up to two years.

Brodie hopes to be able to launch the first Hands Across class starting the first Thursday in February.

“It’s a long-term proposition,” she said. “The families that are participating and the mentors have to be in it for the long haul. Building a foundation for a stronger, healthier life isn’t about a single workshop or a single issue.”

Anyone interested in making a donation or volunteering, or in learning more about Hands Across is encouraged to contact her at cbrodie@csjkansas.org or 785/243-4428.

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