INTERFAITH MINISTRIES: We all worry about John (op-ed)

April LaFollette and Julie Edwards | Dec 15, 2019

April LaFollette and Julie Edwards

John has issues: mental health issues, drug addiction issues, homelessness issues. Like many of our city’s homeless population, John has a dual diagnosis of mental illness exacerbated by self-medication with illegal drugs.

John generally walks the streets at night, moving from Oxford to Anniston and back again. When he sleeps at night, it is in various locations — sometimes in abandoned buildings, sometimes in the open air.

John receives a small disability check, so at the beginning of the month, he sometimes splurges for a motel room for a night or two. Then it is back to the streets.

 Learn more at Interfaith Ministries’ website

John comes to Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County most mornings at opening to get a cup of coffee and a snack for breakfast. He showers here on Mondays and Thursdays. John sleeps under a hallway table near the restrooms at Interfaith. It’s safer to sleep here during the day than in the open.

John keeps several bags here stashed in a corner, behind the door. His mental illness regularly compels him to take everything out of his bags and refold, reorganize his meager belongings. On folding days, you can tell the mania is upon him.

John is a patient of our local mental health department. Some days John is calm and speaks politely, going about his business. Some days he is in such a manic state his words trip over themselves in vast incoherent rambles as he battles the demons living deep inside his mind.

All the nonprofit service agencies in town know John, love John, worry about John. When we meet for various functions and our discussions turn to our mutual clients, as they always seem to, we always include the latest news of John. 

Will this be the week he is a victim of violent crime? Will this be the week he goes off on a manic tangent and injures someone or commits a crime?

John gets his mail at Interfaith Ministries. This week an orange postcard came for John stating he has 72 hours to respond to a warrant for his arrest in Oxford. John says they have given him 72 hours; he’s going to take every one of them before turning himself in.

John, like many of the other homeless neighbors in our area, is without family to look after him and help him make good decisions. If Anniston had a permanent homeless shelter, we could provide case management for John to make sure he is making his appointments and taking his medication. The shelter staff could work in conjunction with the Mental Health Department and court to develop a plan for John.

A permanent homeless shelter in Anniston would provide a place for our homeless residents to live while acquiring the life skills for independent living in a safe environment. We dream of a shelter with case managers who assist folks to move from living on the streets to transitional housing to independent living. It’s a dream, but not an unreachable dream. Agencies in Anniston have been working on it, and caring residents working with city officials who believe it is a priority can make this happen.

In the meantime, when John turns himself in for his warrant, at least we will know he is safe — for a while. 

April LaFollette is the executive director of Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County. Julie Edwards is the co-director of Meals on Wheels for Interfaith Ministries and assists in the Emergency Assistance program.

Dental Needs in Our Community: Why We Need Adult Dental Clinic

My husband hates going to the dentist more than anyone else I know. 

But, when the pain gets bad, he buckles under, makes an appointment and gets it done.  We are blessed to be able to go to the dentist when we need to.  Our dental insurance isn’t great.  It only pays for part of this and a little of that, but it helps.

   For our neighbors in Calhoun County with no dental insurance and low income, going to the dentist isn’t just a pain in the mouth and pocketbook- it can be an impossibility.  

   Interfaith Ministries is the ONLY free dental clinic for adults in Calhoun County.  Our clinic only does extractions.  For our clients, the assistance can be life altering.

   Renee’ lived for years in an abusive relationship, both physical and emotional.  She found help relocating to a safe home and found a job but a broken tooth was causing pain and swelling.  Interfaith’s Adult Dental Clinic was able to pull the tooth, and by relieving the pain -restore Renee’s smile

 Tim is a 70 year old widow who has been spending the majority of his small pension making payments on his wife’s recent funeral.  The teeth that were holding Tim’s partial denture in place broke, making a proper fit impossible.  Getting sufficient nutrition was becoming an issue to Tim’s overall health.  With Interfaith Ministry extracting the broken teeth, Tim was able to get the partial repaired and re-fitted so he can once again eat normally.

  Mick had multiple decayed teeth causing an infection in his bloodstream.  As a diabetic amputee, it is difficult for Mick to get around town but he made his way to Interfaith Ministries to get help.  There is nowhere else in town for adults without resources to get extractions for free.  Mick used his walker to travel the eight city blocks to our clinic on a cold morning to make sure he didn’t miss his appointment.  We were able to provide him with bus passes to help with his subsequent visits.  After the extractions were complete, Mick was able to get help at another agency to get fitted for the dentures he so urgently needed.

 Inmates at the Calhoun County Jail are seen in the Adult Dental Clinic for extractions.  It is the only dental care for inmates in Calhoun County facilities.

  Dental care is a seriously under-met need in our community.  We have five volunteer dentists serving to extract teeth in our Adult Dental Clinic and several more who see our clients in their offices for emergencies.  We could hold a clinic every other day and keep the calendar of appointments full, the need is so great.

 If you are or know a dentist serving the Calhoun County community who may want to become a partner in this local mission, please contact Interfaith Ministries to see how we can schedule the Dentist a tour of our clinic so you too can help make life changing differences to God’s People in Need.

Supporting John: Homeless Mental Health Story

John has issues; mental health issues, drug addiction issues, homelessness issues. 

     Like many of Anniston’s homeless population, John has a dual diagnosis of mental illness exacerbated by self-medication with illegal drugs. John generally walks the streets at night moving from Oxford to Anniston and back again. 

     When he sleeps at night, it is in various locations- sometimes in abandoned buildings, sometimes in the open air.  John receives a small disability check, so at the beginning of the month, he sometimes splurges for a motel room for a night or two.  Then it is back to the streets. 

     John comes to Interfaith Ministries most mornings at opening to get a cup of coffee and a snack for breakfast.  He showers here on Mondays & Thursdays.  John sleeps under a hallway table near the restrooms at Interfaith.  Its safer to sleep here, during the day, than in the open.  John keeps several bags here stashed in a corner, behind the door.  His mental illness regularly compels him to take everything out of his bags and refold, reorganize his meager belongings.  On folding days, you can tell the mania is upon him. 

     John is a patient of our local mental health department.  Some days John is calm and speaks politely going about his business.  Some days he is in such a manic state his words trip over themselves in vast incoherent rambles as he battles the demons living deep inside his mind. 

   All the non-profit service agencies in town know John, love John, worry about John.  When we meet for various functions and our discussions turn to our mutual clients, as it always seems to, we always include the latest news of John.  Will this be the week he is a victim of violent crime?  Will this be the week he goes off on a manic tangent and injures someone or commits a crime?

    John gets his mail at Interfaith Ministries.  This week an orange postcard came for John stating he has 72 hours to respond to a warrant for his arrest in Oxford.  John says they have given him 72 hours; he’s going to take every one of them before turning himself in.

    John, like many of the other homeless neighbors in our area, is without family to look after him and help him make good decisions.  If Anniston had a permanent homeless shelter, we could provide case management for John to make sure he is making his appointments and taking his medication.  The shelter staff could work in conjunction with the Mental Health Department and court to develop a plan for John. A Permanent homeless shelter in Anniston, Al would provide a place for our homeless residents to live while acquiring the life skills for independent living in a safe environment.

     We dream of a shelter with case managers who assist folks to move from living on the streets, to transitional housing, to independent living.  Its a dream, but not an unreachable dream.  It can happen!  Agencies in Anniston have been working on it and caring citizens working with city officials who believe it is a priority can make this happen.

     In the meantime, when John turns himself in for his warrant, at least we will know he is safe- for a while.  

    We need your help supporting our community.  Please consider donating to Interfaith Ministry this Christmas Season. 

Interfaith Ministry wins Business Awards’ Non-Profit of the Year

Interfaith Ministry wins 2018 Business Awards’ Non-Profit of the Year!

The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce presented Interfaith Ministries with the 2018 Business Awards Non-Profit of the Year.  This award is given to an agency based on their history, growth in the community, vision, management of volunteers and staff, and most importantly, how we serve our community. It is a true honor to be chosen for this award. 

Interfaith Ministry began in 1975 from local churches and Temple Beth El to serve the people in need in Calhoun County.  We were started by six people, gathering together to address the needs of our community. Our agency has helped to create a Women’s Shelter in partnership with the Salvation Army.  Support groups such as Alzheimer’s Support. Grief and Homebound Program started here and now stand on their own. 

We now have seven programs all geared to fulfilling our mission, “Bringing God’s People Together to Serve God’s People in Need.”  These Programs now serve over 10,000 people in 2019 with some form of assistance. 

Interfaith is operated with a staff of seven part-time employees. These employees, along with over 300 volunteers, enable us to provide the services we have to the community. This combined effort of staff and volunteers is vital in helping us meet our mission. 

Interfaith Ministries is committed to continuing to serve our mission by identifying the needs of the poor in our community and bring resources, both human and economic, together to meet our needs. 

Beelieve it or not, we are always in need of new volunteers to help support Calhoun County and Aniston’s homeless and in need. So, are you looking to join the 300+ Volunteers to help support your local community?  Great! Visit our Volunteer and Donation Page now for more information!

Stepping Outside the Box: IFM Story

Stepping Outside the Box.

Interfaith Ministries has seven programs to serve people in need in our community.  The Emergency Assistance program is best known for assisting with utility bills, rent and prescriptions.  Every now and then we get an off the wall request.  The Family Services Center, the United Way, or a local pastor will call with a person who has a unique situation calling for unusual assistance.  Sometimes the client walks through the door with a unique story.

The beauty of being a non-governmental non-profit is that our board of directors has approved rules and guidelines for how we can assist.  These guidelines allow us to use our judgement to help in ways that keep families in their homes and meet unusual needs that sometimes creep up.

  • Generally, we do not pay for prescription glasses, but a unique case came up when a local pastor brought to our attention a man who was living in danger of eviction.  He had just gotten a job but would not be able to start work without his eyeglasses.  In order to help this man get started at his new job and to prevent homelessness, we reached out to Dr. Gary Murrell who provided the glasses at cost.
  • Anyone who works in fast food can tell you, on day one you have to have non-slip shoes and the company isn’t going to pay for them.  Interfaith has helped quite a few people with purchasing first day of work non-slip shoes.
  • A schoolteacher moving into the state needed to get her teaching certificate renewed in order to start work.  Interfaith paid for her license renewal so she could support her family.
  • A recently released felon came in to get her driver’s license renewed.  When she found out she could get her CDL renewed for only a few dollars more, Interfaith agreed.  This opened up a greater pool of employment opportunities for this client.
  • The Calhoun County School’s social worker brought to our attention a young teen mother living in a tenuous situation in need of a very specific baby formula for her infant son.  While arrangements were made for long term assistance, Interfaith Ministries stepped in with a month’s supply of the special formula.
  • A social worker from RMC called to let us know a young mother was about to be discharged from RMC with her newborn child but couldn’t be released because she had no car seat.  Interfaith made a car seat available the same morning so mom and baby could ride home.

None of these cases are the usual help we provide.  We cannot start purchasing eyeglasses, no slip shoes, CDLs, car seats or infant formula for everyone who needs them.  We don’t have the resources for EVERYTHING people need.  We are so thankful to know, that every now and then, we can step outside the box and solve an immediate problem that makes a big difference in a person’s life.  

Visit our Volunteer and Donation Page now!