The Work of Peace & Social Concerns

Upon becoming a member of Cincinnati Friends Meeting (CFM) several years ago, I knew this was just the beginning of my spiritual growth and discovering how I could best serve the community. Of the multiple committee options, the one that I felt was most suited for me and my journey was the Peace & Social Concerns Committee. The Quaker testimonies of community and stewardship piqued my interest. Becoming a member of this committee and serving as a co-clerk provided me with opportunities that exceeded my expectations. The needs within the Greater Cincinnati area and the response to those needs have been so great, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity for this knowledge, personal growth, and participation. I’ve had new experiences, learned of so many organizations, and developed friendships that have brought me a sense of belonging and fulfillment.

This year, the Peace & Social Concerns Committee has been involved with outreach and donations to Bethany House, Tender Mercies, GO Pantry of Northern Kentucky, Ignite Peace, the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC), local food banks, Quaker Earthcare Witness, and more. I had never heard of most of these organizations prior to my commitment to this committee. The goals, mission, generosity, love, and support of these organizations for so many in need is beyond my ability to adequately describe.

For now, my focus is to provide brief insight into two organizations which I have become personally involved with and that are very special to me: Bethany House and Tender Mercies. In the future, I and others will be sharing our experiences and knowledge about other organizations and the outreach to them provided by the Peace & Social Concerns Committee and Cincinnati Friends.

Bethany House, a non-profit organization in Cincinnati, Ohio, provides services that empower homeless and at-risk families with the solutions to achieve housing stability and long-term self-sufficiency. Their vision is to have their residents live in a community where all families have a place to call home and to have no one spend a night without shelter. Their values are based on respect, empowerment, integrity, excellence, collaboration, and hospitality. Bethany House not only provides safety and shelter, but also Life Skills group programs that address topics such as financial literacy, budgeting, parenting, nutrition, job-seeking skills, and more that will help provide a foundation for the prevention of future episodes of homelessness.

Maribel Pergola (left) accepting holiday gift cards from Mary Wittrock and Jeff Clark

Each year, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee provides two opportunities for the Cincinnati Friends community to donate:

  • A Spring drive for a “Whole Home Starter Kit” that provides a family with household items that enable them to successfully move into their own home
  • A holiday drive to provide teens, guardians, and parents with gift cards for holiday shopping.

Both of these outreaches from our community of faith are well received and result in an outpouring of generosity.

L to R: Allan Rahe, Karen Rahe, Hal Angus, Pat Brown, Carole Barnhart, Nan Hatch, Mary Wittrock, Paula Petlowany, Debbie Overmyer, Jeff Clark, and Maribel Pergola

Additionally, last December, ten members and attendees of CFM met at Bethany House for a tour that was led by Maribel Pergola, Volunteer Coordinator. The tour was a wonderful experience to see first-hand the facility and to learn of the programs that are offered and the overall goals and mission of Bethany House. During the tour, we met Denise Hill, Family Services Director, who was asked what is the greatest need of Bethany House. Her answer was heartwarming: “Love” is what is needed most by all.

Tender Mercies, another non-profit organization, transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing a community where residents can achieve their highest level of well-being. Tender Mercies began with clergymen assisting two women released from a psychiatric facility with nothing more than cab fare to a shelter. With the support of donors and funders, Tender Mercies has grown to six buildings located in the Over-the-Rhine and West End areas of Cincinnati Ohio.

Over the past thirty-eight years, Tender Mercies has saved more than 2,500 homeless adults with mental illness from a life of barely surviving on the streets—hungry, cold, and alone. Tender Mercies provides:

  • Security—an environment where residents’ personal safety is a priority
  • Dignity—an environment that allows residents to develop personal, social, and economic strengths
  • Community—a regular, predictable environment with a sense of belonging, family, and affirmation of individuals

Jeff Clark and Mary Wittrock delivering Wish List items to Tender Mercies

For many years, Cincinnati Friends prepared and served meals six times a year to about a dozen residents in one of the smaller Over-the-Rhine buildings. However, Tender Mercies is currently undergoing major renovations to their downtown buildings, and their volunteer meal program now serves between thirty and sixty residents per meal. This change became a bit daunting for the small CFM community. Therefore, it was decided to lay this project down. With a genuine desire to continue to have a presence with Tender Mercies in another capacity, the search began for the Peace & Social Concerns Committee to find another avenue to serve them. In the fall of this year, a new outreach began to collect and donate everyday and personal items from the Tender Mercies Wish List (located on their website) to the residents. The Wish List was made available to CFM members and attenders with the request to bring donated items to the meetinghouse for a late October delivery. This outreach was a great success and included a collection of multiple items from the entire Wish List. Once again, the generosity of our faith community made this possible.

Through this outpouring of love and generosity, Cincinnati Friends continue to open their hearts and commit their time and resources to serve these much-deserving organizations.

To learn more about these programs and how to become a part of their community of volunteers, please visit the websites of Bethany House and Tender Mercies.

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