Curtis: Our first guest on this Christmas edition of Restoring Hope with Crosswinds Counseling is Kerry Carmichael. She is Executive Director of The Refuge, a faith-based nonprofit. Kerry, thank you for joining us.
Kerry: Thank you for having me.
Curtis: Tell us a little bit about The Refuge, for those who might not know the incredible work that you’re doing in this community.
Kerry: So we are a faith-based organization. Our purpose and our goal is just to be a place people can come [to] when they need help. And sometimes that’s a physical need where they need food or they need shelter or they need resources to get through to the next day. Sometimes they come in the door and they just need someone to pray with them and just care about them, and know kind of what they’re going through and have the time to be able to spend with them. And then other times it’s academically where we want to help the kids in the community and partner with the schools to be able to be a resource. Many different aspects of it, but just to be a place where people can come when they need someone.
Curtis: You’ve been with the organization for about 14 or 15 years. About 6 years ago you transitioned into the Executive Director role. What was that transition like for you as you started to take the lead in doing this amazing work?
Kerry: So our founder, Thom Hord, great man. He had a vision to have a facility that was open to anybody and everybody. And he and his family moved to Florida. So the current board at that time asked for me to step in and just start taking leadership. So we just kept going. Going with the vision. Going with what the needs were each year and adapting to what we saw the community needed. And just having great volunteers. Great community and businesses and just trying to grow awareness of what our needs are right here in our community, and building those partnerships around us.
Curtis: You talk about needs and adapting. I suspect during your 14-15 years with the organization, you have seen the need for mental health resources go through the roof. We all have. From The Refuge viewpoint, what does that look like? When you help someone in need of mental health services, how do you guys do that? How do you come alongside them and love them through that?
Kerry: So a lot of times when an individual walks through our door for the first time – it can be either an elderly couple that just can’t make ends meet, it could be a single mom that never ever thought that she would have to walk through a pantry door and ask for help, but what we’re seeing more and more is that individuals, families… that just need to know that someone cares. And they’ve gotten so low in the situation that they’re in, that they don’t see the hope. So our goal is to spend time with every single person when they walk through the door and just share the amount of time that they want. It might be just 5 minutes and they want to get their food and get back to their family. But it might mean, just spending some alone time and hearing what they’re going through and kind of figuring out what the root is. What the root need is for that family. And having the resources and the partnerships with other organizations to get them. If it’s not just those few moments with them, and they need more long-term help to be able to get connected for that.
Curtis: You mentioned partnerships. I know you have one with Crosswinds Counseling. What has that partnership meant to The Refuge?
Kerry: What was great about the partnership is knowing what their mission is and knowing that it’s Christ-centered, but being able to give an individual some long-term resources that if they’re in need of more than what we are individually equipped to do – that we have them to refer individuals to be able to get that long-term care.
Curtis: Tell me about the pandemic Kerry. What has the impact been on the people that you serve? What does it look like today versus what it looked like 2 years ago?
Kerry: So adaption is the big word that we use, and I think probably our city and our state and our country has felt that, but being able to adapt to what is going on right now. So if we’re a specific color-code based on the spread, being able to adapt and wear masks and be safe and having the resources where people can still come and get it. It may not be as much food right now because they’re getting additional resources and help from the government, but it might mean still being open – having our doors open to have people come in and talk to, or even call. A lot of times people will call in and say, ‘I just don’t feel safe yet, going out, but we still need someone to pray with us.’ We still need someone to know that there’s a need. So if it’s driving and delivering those items that the people need, then that’s what we want to be able to do.
Curtis: And what about the volume of work? How has that changed during the pandemic as well? Have you seen so many more people in need over this past year and a half?
Kerry: We’ve seen more people in need of the mental and the social skills. The social aspect. They’re getting additional resources, whether it be from the stimulus money or extra funding given to them with unemployment, but they still need the connection. They need people, but with having things shut down and things not open, they’re finding they need that community somewhere. Yeah. It’s different. Wasn’t what I think a lot of organizations thought it would be. We really thought our doors would just be swamped with people in need of financial help. Now we’re seeing, as we coming kind out of the shutdown mode, people needing help getting caught back up. So that financial help is stepping in right now.
Curtis: We’re just two days from Christmas. This is a season where a lot of folks are typically more generous. For people who are watching right now thinking, ‘How can I help? What can I do to come alongside at The Refuge?’ What would you say are some of your biggest needs from the community, and how can people get involved?
Kerry: So, we just finished our toy drive, and we were able to help over 100 children with Christmas. So that was amazing to be able to do because of the generosity people have extended. Moving into January, we are going to start back up our after-school program where kids are brought to us, that the schools identify their biggest needs. So we do need some additional volunteers to see that project through at 100%, but financially, prayers, resources, a lot of times we find that our partnerships start with somebody that knew somebody. So it may not be that one individual being able to give generously themselves, but they know someone who can help and partner with us. So those are amazing connections.
Curtis: Yeah. It’s so powerful to see those relationships yield those kinds of results.
Kerry: Yes, sir.
Curtis: Kerry thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time tonight.
Kerry: Thank you.