"Empowering Independence in the Name of Christ."

MISSION STATEMENT:

Common Grace Ministries, Inc. strives to meet immediate needs, mitigate future needs and empower independence in the name of Christ.

 

PURPOSE:

Our purpose is to improve the quality of life for residents of Noble County by providing resources for positive change.

    Common Grace achieved its 501(c)3 nonprofit status on September 20, 1996 to benefit residents of Noble County who were experiencing financial crisis.  At that time, three Christian churches in Eastern Noble County recognized that the needs on the East side of the county were outpacing the abilities of single churches to assist and that people were going from one church to another sometimes receiving assistance in several places.  In order to meet the needs and more appropriately utilize limited resources, the churches joined forces and formed Common Grace establishing offices in Kendallville, Albion and Ligonier.

    Following the achievement of the 501(c)3 status, Common Grace began to sponsor the Friendship Food Pantry under the new 501(c)3.  Furnishings of Faith operated when space allowed during that time.  In 2013, it became clear that the organization needed to be restructured in order to abide by current laws and a consultant was hired to assist with that process through the generosity of a donor.  The organization officially changed its name from Common Grace / Love INC to Common Grace Ministries, Inc. and all three ministries became ministry divisions of Common Grace Ministries, Inc.  Furnishings of Faith also received a name change to A Hope Chest giving the three ministries the opportunity to offer Friendship, Hope and Grace.  In 2016, Friendship Food Pantry also received a name change to Friendship Connection, to reflect moving beyond a standard food pantry model to a place where neighbors can connect with one another, community resources and opportunities for personal growth.  The mission of Common Grace Ministries, Inc. moved beyond solely meeting immediate needs to implementing strategies and programs to mitigate future needs. The hope was that the entire community would be strengthened by empowering one family at a time to become more economically stable. The mission statement, bylaws and articles of incorporation were all amended to accurately reflect the new direction of Common Grace Ministries, Inc. and to allow for new service opportunities in the future.

 In August 2016, the decision was made to move away from government resources so that a new way of ministry could begin.  We realized that we had been serving the same families in our food center for FOUR generations.  Many of the people who were coming to Common Grace had been coming for many years.   We realized that, without meaning to, we had become part of the problem of poverty instead of part of the solution.  We began to research other ways of doing ministry with those who live in poverty.  We read Toxic Charity, Charity Detox, and When Helping Hurts along with many other books about helping people without inadvertently hurting them.  We learned that poverty is not about "stuff" and the practice of giving people free stuff was not a solution to their situations.  We learned that we MUST build relationships with people and open ourselves up to understanding poverty through the eyes of the people who live within it.  We soon learned this is NOT an easier way of doing ministry, but it is MOST CERTAINLY a better way.  We believe every person has gifts, skills and talents to share with one another and with our community.  When we take the time to build relationships and walk with them to create opportunities to use their gifts, skills and talents; we are giving them a hand UP rather than a hand OUT.  Seeing the same people in line week after week and year after year is proof enough for us that one-way hand outs do not work to help people move out of poverty.   

At A Hope Chest, we implemented a small processing fee and a delivery fee to help sustain this ministry.  NO ONE complained.  In fact, people are happy to be able to provide for their families without having to bow to a hand out.  They retain dignity and they help to sustain the ministry for the next neighbor in need.

At Common Grace, we implemented the Where Does Your Money Go program for EVERY neighbor who comes.  Many have never been exposed to a budget.  Many have "money leaks" that cause them to not be able to meet their bills.  Our coaches help them come to their own conclusions about what constitutes a "want" and a "need."  It is also very common that the person will be required to pay at least a part of their own bill or will be asked to complete some other task that will help them to take a step toward economic freedom BEFORE we will assist with their bill.  We provide numerous resources for our neighbors to begin to see light at the end of the tunnel.  Little by little, we are seeing more budget and we keep watching the number of people who return for evidence that these programs are working.

At Friendship Connection, we implemented the ID and proof of address policy this is already in place at our other ministries.  In the first year of this policy, we have seen a significant drop in the amount of abuse that was taking place in the food center.  This allows our resources to stretch and it holds our neighbors accountable, teaching them that nothing is really free.  We work hard to provide healthy choices for their families and we expect that people will respect that and the volunteers who work so hard to make things happen at the food center.  Beginning in 2018, we will require our neighbors to earn 2 Connect Coupons per shopping trip in order to shop.  The coupons can be earned by completing educational programs with us or one of our community partners or by volunteering with us or one of our partners.  We are also focusing on issues of food insecurity as we work to provide a more nutritious and balanced selection of foods to promote overall good health.

We value the gifts, skills and talents of every neighbor and we believe in the importance of accountability in return for services.  Our goal is to teach not only the adults, but also the children who come.  Sometimes these are hard lessons, but we love our neighbors and their children enough to do the hard work of changing a collective 71 years of one-way giving into a model that raises up our neighbors AND our community.  We deeply appreciate your prayers and support as we make these changes.