Saturday, April 20, 2024

Cherry Street Ministry Sustains Individuals Through Winter

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022

Since its founding in 1947, Cherry Street Mission Ministries has had a singular calling: to provide sustenance for the body and nourishment for the soul. One of the most prominent local charities, Cherry Street’s Downtown Toledo facilities have expanded to include separate housing for males and females, and meals and services at its Life Revitalization Center and Mac Cafe in the former Macomber High School building.

But in addition to the normal increase in guests typical during the winter months, this season they’ve experienced an 800 percent increase in people experiencing homelessness for the first time.

Cherry Street Mission Ministries CEO/President Ann Ebbert

“We’ve had to be exceedingly fluid in providing access to the activities this diverse population needs,” said Ann Ebbert, CEO / president of Cherry Street. Numerous new guests were impacted by the end of the federal moratorium on evictions last fall. Many people who had lost or left jobs during the pandemic were still able to remain in their homes. “But since October we’ve been full,” Ebbert said, because “when the moratorium went away, many of those who were subsistence living fell through the cracks.”

Many of the newer guests experiencing homelessness still have transportation, so Cherry Street is running out of space to park guest cars at its housing centers. In addition, Ebbert said that some guests are working at overnight jobs and will use the shelter and its services during the day, a departure from the organization’s regular schedule.

Life Revitalization Center, in the former Macomber High School in downtown Toledo.

Solving Challenges
Every guest arriving at Cherry Street goes through the same intake assessment, where needs and issues are identified. “Some need a meal or a bed, while others need more,” said Ebbert. The organization develops its programming to assist guests with solving three problems:

  • Achieving a stable income
  • Securing safe and affordable housing to provides a sense of place, community and safety
  • Building healthy relationships

Admission to the organization’s residential system requires a strict quarantine period until a prospective guest receives a negative COVID-19 test. Once that negative test comes in, the prospective guest can join into all the programs within the facilities. Hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing are also crucial to daily operations.

Graduates of Cherry Street’s training program.

“We are a faith-based ministry organization, and that is one of the properties we explore with our guests,” Ebbert said. But participation in the spiritual ministry is not mandatory at the organization. “Everyone is on their own journey,” she said. 

In addition to medical and mental health care, Cherry Street offers a variety of employment training programs to guests. “We act as a hub for all sorts of human services providers, so our guests can access everything at one stop,” Ebbert said.

Raising Funds and Awareness after 75 years
How are Cherry Street’s programs funded? “People here have gigantic, generous hearts, and our programs are always funded,” said Ebbert. Like many local charities, they rely on personal relationships in the community, along with a strong social media presence, to get the word out about their needs. Cherry Street publishes a wish list of items on its website, and a link to its wish list on Amazon. Typically (and especially during winter months) there is always a need for:

  • Chap Stick (or other lip balms)
  • Waterproof boots
  • Waterproof gloves

Additionally, the Mission celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, kicking off with a February 14 commemoration of National Day of Soup (in a nod to Cherry Street’s start as a soup kitchen). Area restaurants will participate in a soup competition at the Mac Street Café. And a spring-to-fall partnership with area restaurants and bars will offer Cherry Street information through QR codes at tables.

Other events during this anniversary year include a “75 hours of prayer” observance during the week leading to Easter in April, a 75th anniversary party on June 15 and the annual fall fundraiser “Be the Bridge.” Watch their website, Facebook and Instagram pages for details.

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