Every Tuesday from 11:30am-1pm, local residents can visit the Monroe Street Neighborhood Center, part of the ministry of Monroe St United Methodist Church, to seek assistance for everyday needs. The Bridge, a program of the church-run Neighborhood Center, has been providing emergency food, clothing, and other life necessities since 2000.
Clara Petty, executive director of the Neighborhood Center, and one of the few paid staff, explains, “The Bridge is the nucleus of our organization because it draws people to come, and that way we can find out what their other needs are.”
“We have about three paid staff here, so we really operate, about 90 percent, with the help of volunteers,” said Petty. One of those volunteers, Eva Jennings, 71, retired 10 years ago and started volunteering for the Bridge four years ago.
Jennings said, “I have heard people say that if it was not for this place, they don’t know where they would get food or clothes for free, so it has a big impact on the community.”
Diane Seay, 61, has been using the Bridge’s services for about 10 years, actively volunteering for the majority of that time. Petty said, “I try to get people who come here on a regular basis to volunteer, and take ownership of the building.”
The Bridge focuses on providing a welcoming and relaxed environment, encouraging people to feel accepted and comfortable. “They come here for food, but the idea of hospitality that we provide by having hot soup, fresh fruit, bread and table covers, provides the opportunity to sit down and talk to people,” she said. Local restaurants regularly donate food.
Feeding the community
“I have worked at several places where there is so much paperwork that it scares and frustrates a lot of people,” Petty said. Here, clients sign a food slip that requires them to provide basic data like their name, age, and household information to report to the Northwest Ohio and SeaGate Food Banks. Petty said, “We do not ask for your income or other information to qualify for a food bag.” The weekly food bags are filled with meat, grains, fruits and vegetables.
Petty said, “At some food pantries, you can only come once every four months. You can come to The Bridge every Tuesday.” Some volunteers have expressed concerns about people coming in for food bags who don’t really need them. “For the one or two that don’t need it, I have 10 that do, so I can’t worry about the two, I worry about the 10,” Petty reasons.
Other no-cost services the Bridge provides include supplying personal hygiene products, assistance with securing state IDs and birth certificates, blood pressure monitoring and answers to basic health questions.
“We have four nurses in this church, so they take turns coming in every Tuesday to do blood pressure checks and to talk to people about their health,” Petty said. “If your blood pressure reading is high, we refer you to (other medical professionals).”
The Bridge is working on adding haircuts to their list of offered services. “People may be down or destitute, but they feel better about themselves when they look better,” Petty said. The non-profit hopes that offering professional clothing and grooming services will motivate individuals to go for job interviews and work towards improving their life.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating to the Monroe Street Neighborhood Center, call Clara Petty at 419.473.1167 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.