Carson City is a city on the rebound. In 2008, the prospects of our city looked bleak, but in 2015 we are seeing the beginning of a great turnaround! People have worked hard to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to think differently, to work smarter, to flourish when others are failing. Jobs are becoming more plentiful, and hope is being restored to families. Even so, there are many who have not felt the turnaround yet. What about you?
Have you ever driven by a homeless person on a street corner, sunburnt, hungry and in need of a warm shower? Your heart ached for that person but then you avoided that person’s gaze and drove on by because you just didn’t know how to help.
That happened to my friend Susan Sorenson and she suddenly had an idea. She had just returned from a business trip with hotel toiletries in her bag and she wondered ... could a simple bar of soap and a few toiletries bring a glimmer of hope to someone who was homeless in Carson City? She began delivering these items by hand and what she discovered was these items allowed people to take care of themselves a little better, if even for one day, to feel clean, and bring dignity to their lives. It elevated them, just a little bit, to see beyond their situation.
What began with a bar of soap quickly grew into Rescue Bags for the homeless, and her organization soon became the Northern Nevada Dream Center (NNDC) which is linked in partnership with the well known LA Dream Center. Working in conjunction with The Food Bank of Northern Nevada, NNDC now has a refrigerated food truck delivering food to the poorest neighborhoods in Carson City. It has a mentoring program for young girls that helps keep them on the right path. Soon NNDC will be adding free clothing to these programs. The more it does, the more it discovers needs to be done.
NNDC now delivers Sunday supper to several local motels. These people living in pay-by-the-week motels are one step away from being homeless. People on the fringe, many with children at risk. So Susan and her team deliver hot, home cooked meals. They bring huge bins of necessities like shampoo, laundry detergent, tooth paste, and dish soap. They bring unopened, new toys for the children. They bring teams of people to sit and do crafts with the kids.
Nora (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) is just one example of what poverty looks like in Carson City. She explains, “I moved to Carson back in March of this year from California. As a divorcee and single mom of two young daughters, ages 5 and 7, I was completely lost. I found myself at the lowest point of my life. We had been homeless for nearly two years with no help or support from family or friends. Somehow we ended up at the Rand Motel here in Carson City. This would be our second time staying at the Rand and the 10th motel my children and I lived in.”
So when we met Nora, of course she was happy for the meal. But NNDC went beyond the food. My friends at NNDC built a relationship with Nora, and they cared enough to get to know her. They helped register her car, then she got a job, and now Nora and her girls live in their own apartment and belong to a church family, and are building a beautiful life here in Carson City.
There have been great organizations in place in Carson City for many years. Organizations that truly make a difference, from F.I.S.H. to Advocates to End Domestic Violence, to the Ron Wood Center, the Bridge, and the Salvation Army, but as my friend Susan often says, “We can do more!”
So why does it matter? Why should we even want to do more? There are actual promises from God for those who take up the cause of the poor.
“If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight ...” Isaiah 58:10 (Message).
When we help others in our community who are down and out, it actually elevates everyone in our city. When we help people make it out of poverty, the cycle gets broken and we make Carson City a better place for everyone! So if you would like to donate your time to a project or donate funds to the Northern Nevada Dream Center, click on its website at http://www.nndreamcenter.org/. Together, we can elevate Carson City, one person at a time.
Connie Friend is lead pastor at C5 Church in Carson City.