In a world of more than 7 billion people and counting, it is easy to forget the strangers on the street, on the bus, in the checkout line and on the bench have their own stories, needs and dreams.
The Caring Place of Cleveland renewed its dedication to opening its doors to strangers at Thursday night’s annual fundraising banquet.
More than 300 supporters of the local nonprofit packed out the Helen Devos Recreation Center on Lee University’s campus.
Emcee Dr. Rodney Fitzgerald welcomed the gathered crowd.
“Throughout our program tonight, you are going to learn a lot about a ‘Stranger at my Door,’” Fitzgerald said. “And you are going to experience how The Caring Place answers the door for so many.”
Statistics provided throughout the night emphasized the work completed by the local nonprofit.
According to Fitzgerald, the Caring Place physically, socially and spiritually supported more than 1,500 non-duplicated families and individuals on a monthly basis.
Physical needs met in 2013 included 179 tons of food to 3,484 families; 7.5 tons of clothing to 3,103 families; 267,000 diapers for 650 children; 13,413 Sac Pacs for more than 400 elementary-aged children; and 159 dental extractions for 55 indigent adults through the Karis Dental Clinic.
Social services were rounded out by 634 families who received professional social work aid and the Neighbors in Need, which provided 798 families with financial counseling.
Spiritual needs were met through prayer, printed materials and counseling.
Executive Director Reba Terry pointed out The Caring Place is no longer a Band-Aid service.
“We are change agents empowering people to make lasting changes in their lives,” Terry said. “We are a place of refuge and a place of hope.”
She expressed a desire for the economy to recover enough to make the nonprofit’s services obsolete.
However, in the face of continued need, Terry and her staff look to the future.
“We want to be able to go deeper with our clients. We would love to be able to offer Bible Study and classes,” Terry said. “If you have been to our building then you know there is not space for our clients to congregate. We would like a facility to be able to do that.”
The Caring Place currently operates out of five locations: the Blythe Family Resource Agency, the administrative building on Wildwood Avenue, the food warehouse, the Bradley County Health Department and Cleveland State Community College.
Terry would like to see all of the services offered under one roof.
“But we know God is in control. He knows what we need and he knows when we need it and how he is going to get it to us,” Terry said. “We don’t stay awake at night worrying about those things.”
Added Terry, “We just walk through the doors when he opens them.”
River Jordan, guest speaker and best-selling author of “Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit,” commended The Caring Place for its work in the community.
Jordan toured the facilities earlier in the day and was impressed with what she saw.
“I’ve traveled a lot and have been so many places ... and I have spoken at a lot of humanitarian efforts. I have gone to places that are raising money for rescue missions and worthy causes,” Jordan said. “I have never seen anything as organized as what I saw today.”
She said she saw a tremendous amount of pride on the face of every staff worker and volunteer present.
Jordan witnessed the plight and joys of the human spirit the first year she prayed for strangers on a daily basis. The process allowed her to see outside of herself. Random faces became more distinct and she learned to use every interaction as an opportunity for a deeper connection.
“It is about every single person you see and touch,” Jordan said. “You have a responsibility to be the deepest human that you can be and to be a channel for the source of the divine to work through.”
Added Jordan, “You are breathing, so it is your responsibility.”
She thanked those present at the banquet for supporting the work completed by The Caring Place on a daily basis.
Volunteer Dr. Gary Riggins urged those in attendance to financially support the local nonprofit. He reminded the community everyone will have to take a “final exam” one day. He said it will matter a lot, so he provided a study guide with the questions:
- I was hungry. Did you feed me?
- I couldn’t read. Did you help me?
- I needed a drink of water. Did you provide it?
- I didn’t have shoes. Did you give me some?
“How you do on that exam will matter,” Riggins said. “It will matter a lot for you.”
More information on TCP can be found at thecaringplaceonline.org.