Last week, Flat River Outreach Ministries (FROM) celebrated 20 years in the community. Many of those who have been part of the organization’s success were in attendance. A handful of individuals who have been part of making FROM what it is today answered questions for us about their involvement with the organization. We thank the following people for taking time to answer questions.
- Ryan Kresge – Current Chair of the Board (past Vice-Chair and past Board Member
- Ann Dimmick – Original Board Member
- Jodie Seese – Current Board Member, also Orientation Facilitator, Project Manager for Main Street Housing, on the Fund Development Committee, involved with the Capital Campaign
- Jody Haybarker – Founding member, past food pantry director
- Dawn Broene – Executive Director, former Program Director
Jody Haybarker and Ann Dimmick are two people who know a lot about FROM. They’ve been around since the “early days” when 13 churches came together to address hunger in Lowell. The original intent of creating an organization was to be able to provide food for those in need. A grant enabled the official start of the non-profit organization. A Thrift Store also opened shortly after the group was established, to help generate funds to continue the food pantry efforts.
“FROM is important in the community because it has brought awareness to the entire community that there are people who are struggling. Some may need just a little guidance others have greater needs.” says Haybarker. FROM helps struggling families as well as seniors living on a limited, fixed income. Some of those involved from the beginning are still around, proof of their commitment to an idea which became a reality. Proof that there was a need in the community which continues today.
The Board which oversees FROM started as a group of volunteers stepping up to be leaders. It currently has a set of bylaws and policies to ensure needs are being met, continued growth is possible, and the original intent of the group remains at the forefront. “Our biggest accomplishment is moving from a group of volunteers who want to ‘do good’ to becoming a nonprofit organization with a trained Board housed in an incredible facility that has allowed us to expand programming to better meet the needs of our community.” comments Dimmick on the progression of the Board over the years.
Ryan Kresge is the current Chair of the Board, but he has also served as Vice-Chair of the Board and Board Member. “As a pastor for Impact Church, I was looking for a group to throw in with who could bring the community — churches, schools, business etc — together in joint-ventures to reach the hard places and the difficult situations for people that so often single entities aren’t set up or able to touch.” he says of how and why he became involved with FROM. Many share his sentiment of working as a group of individuals to help those in need. Individuals can bring different strengths to the table, which together create an ensemble. Look at groups like the Avengers or the Fellowship of the Ring. Each member has a different skill set which helps an overall cause. The same is true of those who have been in or are currently serving in a leadership capacity with FROM.
Jodie Seese heard about the organization 10 years ago and decided to see what it did within the community. Using her financial knowledge, Seese found herself volunteering in the financial services department. “I heard many different stories that showed me how fragile family finances can be. I helped some people who worked two part time jobs and were trying diligently, and at times desperately to makes ends meet. It was an eye opening experience.” she says. She realized, first hand the strength needed to endure such situations. Seese currently facilitates Volunteer Orientation, held the first Wednesday of each month at 6pm and the third Thursday of each month at 1pm. The one hour introduction to volunteer opportunities helps identify roles a volunteer will be comfortable with; where they can use their strengths to help others.
Executive Director Dawn Broene comments on giving back with FROM saying, “It is also a place to use skills and gifts you have by volunteering. Meeting needs and sharing gifts are both very important for a healthy and vibrant community.” The community has also come together in supporting FROM through donations during Christmas Distribution and Food Fight.
More than Meeting Needs
Over the years, FROM’s roots offering food in the community to those who need it have grown into providing additional services, many of which give individuals and families who are struggling, some tools to help get out of the cycle of not being able to pay bills, afford food, and live paycheck to paycheck.
FROM looks to provide aid to people who come to them for help by taking another step in the process. They aim to help clients realize their own strengths and find resources as they’re receiving help. The organization is seen as a tool for enhancing life to the point where services are no longer needed. Money management classes, employment services, and empowerment coaching provide valuable tools to help people succeed so services are no longer needed. “[FROM] is a great resource for meeting crisis needs, but also the place to find other resources that may be able to help.” says Broene.
FROM has also set out to be a driving force in helping people in the community with housing needs. The effort began two years ago when FROM purchased two homes located at 504 and 512 Main Street. Lowell’s First Look is working on an update to this housing effort, in which a multi-tenant home will be built to serve the needs of the community.
With continued community support through volunteering and donations, FROM has been able to grow, offering more services and opportunities to those who need a helping hand. Ann Dimmick concludes with, “I have a need to express great gratitude for the many outstanding volunteers, our dedicated and devoted staff, and most of all, to the consistent amazing hand of God that has directed and blessed this ministry.” This sentiment is certainly shared by most of those involved with Flat River Outreach Ministries.