One Year, One Heart, One Mission
What a difference a year makes! It was this time last year, October 15, when the Shiloh Baptist Youth Group announced the creation of Heart for Monroe. We were all still on an emotional high from a mission trip in the Dominican Republic earlier that year. That trip was different than the other DR mission trips because we had lived our mission for a year before taking the trip. We raised money to send a group of 40+ girls from the Pasitos de Jesus orphanage to school for one year. We bought them clothes, shoes, and supplies.
It took a lot of hard work by everyone to raise the money to go on the trip and achieve our goal. Shiloh church members rallied behind it, local business got involved with sponsoring events. It was an amazing effort that brought us closer together as a youth group.
Sometimes it’s easier to see the needs in other places – far away places – than your own backyard. That’s what we experienced. We loved being able to bless people in the DR but it opened our eyes to the needs in our own community. It was time to do something in our city!
Soon after we returned we started a book study with the youth. We read Bob Goff’s book “Love Does” and the concept of “Love God, Love People and Do Stuff” became our mantra. Bob Goff even took the time out of is very busy schedule to do a conference call with our entire youth when we started reading the book. He is as genuine as they come.
When you look at a city the size of Monroe – roughly 35,000 people – the needs become overwhelming as a whole. We decided to meet with nonprofits and city leaders to get a feel for where the immediate needs were. We didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin, rather we wanted to focus and make a difference one area at a time.
Two opportunities kept coming up – Union County Community Shelter and East Elementary School, a Title 1 school in downtown Monroe. With the shelter, we immediately started providing brand new beds for their rehousing program. Our hope was to provide recently homeless people moving into a new home, a warm and cozy place to sleep at night. We decided we would try to purchase 25 new beds in the first year. We also wanted to support the students, teachers and staff at East since they had no Parent Teacher Organization (PTO.)
In 12 short months, Heart for Monroe has purchased 110 new beds for recently homeless UCCS clients. We have over 4,000 volunteer hours in the community. In addition to our time, we have purchased bilingual books and constructed a reading garden at East Elementary. We organized the Follow Your Heart 5K run/walk in downtown Monroe. We have served meals at the Shelter and provided Christmas gifts for needy children in the community.
Now, we are 17 churches strong and work closely with six nonprofits and two Title 1 schools in downtown Monroe.
It has been quite the year, but we are just getting started. Join us, volunteer and show your Heart for Monroe!