Because of you, our doors remain open at Heartside Ministry

Rev. Kelly VanBrouwer, Associate Director, shares stories of neighbors who received care when they needed it most

On the day after our Governor ordered us to stay home and stay safe, I got up and went to work like every other day. I turned onto South Division Avenue and saw a line of 50 plus people standing at our door. As soon as our neighbors recognized me in my vehicle coming to open, they erupted into cheers. As I walked down the sidewalk to unlock our front door, I heard many “thank you’s “, but one woman’s words in particular have stuck with me. She said, “Pastor, I know you could choose to be somewhere else today, but I’m so grateful that you chose to be here, with us.” I said something like, “Oh, I’m very happy to be here” to which she said, in tears, “I’m so thankful because this is the only place that I feel welcomed at that is still open. If you didn’t come today, I would have had to risk finding a safe place to sit outside and hope it doesn’t rain and hope that I wasn’t a bother to anyone.”

Every day since, we’ve heard a chorus of gratitude for staying open and providing a place for them. Thank you for helping us to keep our doors open.

We keep our doors open for people like 39-year-old John*. John showed up in my office one day recently. He had just been released from prison with his only possessions in a plastic grocery bag. From the age of 7, John had been in some form of an institution. His mother was an alcoholic and couldn’t care for him so after bouncing around between family members since birth, he landed in a state foster facility with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). With a few changes, he essentially stayed there until he was 17. At that point, he ran from that facility back to his mother’s house. He was only there a short time when, because of a series of complicated choices, he ended up with a felony that put him in prison until the day he walked into my office 6 months ago.

John greeting neighbors

John Kim joyfully greets all the neighbors that come in to Heartside Ministry for the art studio, classes, counseling, or the community room. The neighbors at Heartside often call the staff their family and find belonging at 54 Division Avenue South.

John has grown up, became a man, in an institution. He was a 39-year-old man with a child’s understanding of the world. It was difficult to know where to begin to help him, but that first day, we started with getting him some clothes, some basic toiletries and helping him begin to understand what resources are available. Earlier today, I saw John for our 2x weekly appointment. He hasn’t missed a single one. When I asked for his permission to share his story with all of you, he said “Make sure you tell them that with you, without Heartside Ministry, I would be lost. I have no one besides Pastor Kelly and the staff here. They are my family; this is my home.”

"I am not greeted as a bum on the street, but as another human, another child of God." - Billy

We keep our doors open for Billy* and Tina*. Billy has struggled with drug addiction on and off for many years. He has been clean for some time now; partly due to Tina’s support. I’ve known Billy for several years, but only recently met Tina when she came with Billy to a counseling appointment with me. Billy shared that he remained drug free but had lost his job due to the pandemic and the stress of no place to live and living on the streets again was taking a major toll. He had received his stimulus check several months ago and had been trying to cash it ever since. Because of some of his mistakes while on drugs, he couldn’t find anywhere that would cash it for him. He shared that he’d asked for help in several places, but was dismissed immediately based on his past. I was committed to help him. I immediately called my own bank and shared the situation and they were happy to work with us. After helping Billy obtain a few documents, I walked with him to my bank and he walked out with a cashed check and renewed hope. He and Tina were able to get temporary housing and Billy starts working again next week. Billy shared these words with me. “Heartside is different. Every time I walk in the doors, I am greeted with a smile. I am not greeted as a bum on the street, but as another human, another child of God. When I leave here, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am loved and genuinely cared about; even if I don’t get what I came for or if Kelly holds me accountable for a mistake or a poor choice. I know she has my best interest in mind whether I like it or not.”

Thank you for your continued prayers and support so that we can walk with John, Billy, Tina and so many others. As I mentioned at the start of this, things are good. Because of your support, we are able to do the good work that God continues to call us to—even in the midst of a global pandemic.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.