Art to FEED; “Community Hearts” and the Children’s Center at Modesto Gospel Mission

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Myself, Lilly and the lovely Angela, a volunteer at the center. 

Sometimes reality can  hit you hard. Going to the Modesto Gospel Mission to volunteer at their children’s center one evening with a group from church, I remember thinking, will there really be a need? Do we have too many volunteers to really help, will we be standing around, wanting to be helpful but doing so in vain. Many different thoughts come up whenever we try to do something of value. We start to believe all the negative voices, the ones that keep us from getting up and out to help. The sad reality is our world is a fallen one and the need is overwhelming. In entering the children’s center I had to take a seat. I was hit with this reality that exists in my own back yard. Children, infants, families without hope. I also write this having lost a childhood friend last month, after drug addiction and living on the streets ended in tragedy.  I don’t believe you need a worldly perspective to look around your own community and know things aren’t right.

Modesto is increasing in it’s population of homelessness,(Modesto Bee, August 2015). An increase in alcoholism, drug addiction, low literacy rates and mental illness seems to be only fueling this problem. It is easy for many to ignore this issue, how would one even begin to help?  One only has to drive down the La Loma neighborhood of Modesto, an area I used to ride bikes as a child, and one can see this growing problem first hand. The Modesto Gospel Mission exists here to help, and the children’s center offers a safe place for children who otherwise would have nowhere to go but out on the streets. This is a home to many, a community to many. It is at times a chaotic and volatile place, but there are much needed rules, structure, warmth and encouragement. The Mission has aims to improve community with a larger medical facility, women’s center and a newly purchased warehouse in order to teach skills for employment to its participants in their program. We donated our “Community Hearts” painting, done at the Homestead Market Fair in Ripon, CA. The painting was done by the community, who all painted their “hearts” as a symbol of support for the children’s center at the Modesto Gospel Mission.

Many homeless desire to work and be productive. Art to Feed has a vision in line with our philosophy that connecting people with food and agriculture improves community. This year we plan to create a small maintainable garden providing fresh produce for a salad bar daily for the children, women and men that come to the mission for meals. The garden will also teach skills and allow for a positive environment for the residents and the community that surround the garden. We also hope to incorporate some children’s programs with the help of a local garden club. We envision the garden growing every year and possibly leading to the selling of produce at local farmers markets, providing employment and skills for our homeless community. There have been successful models with a similar concept by Sol Food Street Farms, and we can only aspire towards this. For now a garden. I am not naive to think that this will solve all of our problems. But its a small step, and as one resident said in hearing of our plans, a much needed bit of “life.” Giving something living to take care of and watch thrive in an environment that is so accustomed to  failure is enough of a step for me and one I cant wait to get started.

If you are interested in donating towards the garden I will be having an art show thru February at the Carolyn Huff Gallery in Modesto, also a part of the down town art walk. All proceeds will be used to fund this garden. If you are interested in volunteering for the Modesto Gospel Mission, or just to learn more you can attend their monthly tours, and visit them online to learn more or donate at http://modestogospelmission.org/

 

Art to Feed; “Community Hearts” and the Parent Resource Center

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The Parent Resource Center of Modesto 

You don’t need to drive far to see need in our community. Often we are unsure of how to help. We feel we can’t help or we simply have too much in our own lives that helping others is last on our list. However just being there for your family and friends is enough to improve community. If everyone took care of themselves, their neighbors their children what a better world we would have. So much of our world’s problems comes from hurt, pain and a lack of understanding. We really don’t know why the man on the corner is without a home. We can guess, we can judge. Or we can simply choose to use what little we have to help. While we need to protect our resources and our energy, I also think it’s within our ability and our responsibility to take care of those in need. Not needing a reason, other than because we are fellow human beings. When we start believing we are better and the other is less deserving, what a slippery slope that is. Compassion its wants needed, even when you donate or give time and get nothing in return. All the drama is just a distraction, let’s use what we have and make the most of our abilities to help those we come in contact day-to-day. If you feel inclined beyond that seek out opportunities to help. Modesto has one of the highest crime rates in America, including violent crimes (Neighbor Hood Scout.com, 2016). According to the Census Bureau website, close to 28 % of our residents live below the poverty level. Our county has double the average illiteracy rate, approx 16 % do not speak english well, and homelessness rates are rising. I want to share this not to depress you or further convince you that Modesto needs help, but to shed some light on the fact that we have such an amazing rich agriculture region and yet we are so disconnected from the reality that lives “further down the road.”

The Parent Resource Center lies in the heart of Modesto. In the heart of a community littered with trash  and an abandoned gas station sits next door. Highway 99 is heard rushing by outside it’s front door. It could have no better location, it sits neatly to give direction to those in need. To help families so desperate for support. They have new mother programs, family literacy programs, a pantry and clothing. They have child care during classes, education for youth and teen parents. They also offer a program called “Hero’s for Change” to provide nutritional education to families. I was pleased to support their cause at the Art Walk in Turlock, CA this August. The community, both young and old painted their hearts on a canvas as they learned more about the Parent Resource Center and their programs.

The painting was then pulled together by myself and donated as a symbol of community love and support, as well as encouragement that they will reach many more families in need. I pray we can all take small steps and use what  little valuable time we have to put others first. I am blessed to be able to have the resources to give, and pray for an improved community.

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Donation of “Community Hearts” Painting at The Parent Resource Center with some of the wonderful staff who lovingly serve our community.