by RICH ZECK
It’s time to spill the beans on one of our area’s biggest and best kept secrets. I can no longer look the other way and keep it hush-hush. There may even be a conspiracy or a massive cover up to keep the rest of the world from knowing about this secret. How sinister is that? It’s time to reveal to the world the truth about a place that helps people just because they ask for help without any questions asked.
Lean on Me Outreach Center www.leanonmeoutreach.org located at 11555 Edgerton Road is a place like I have never experienced. Lean on Me is an outreach organization that supports our community by helping struggling families. Here is what separates this organization from anything I have ever known. If you walk through the doors you do not have to “qualify or justify” yourself in order to get help. Asking for help can sometimes be a very embarrassing and humbling experience. On top of that having to explain it to someone who will determine your eligibility can be even more emotionally draining. When you walk through the doors of Lean on Me, the staff already knows why you are there and their only purpose is to serve and meet your needs with love and compassion.
You must be thinking there has to be a catch. Who gives unconditionally to those in need without strings attached? The answer is surprising simple: the 75 volunteers who serve over 1,600 people each week out of a simple warehouse right here in Rockford do. This outreach center, that started nearly seven years ago, is an outreach ministry of Resurrection Life Worship Center on 10 Mile Road. While it is an outreach ministry, the church provides only a fraction of the financial support necessary to run this community machine. There are no other churches or governmental monies helping to support this huge program. The majority of the financial support comes from the community and that includes all walks of life, religions and race and on and on. This is what makes this outreach so awesome. It is an organization for the people and by the people.
If you have never met the director Lisa Shaffer, please for your own safety, get a good night’s rest and make sure you are in good health before you meet her. This woman is going to take you on the ride of your life. She has passion for serving others that most of us can only dream about. Her energy level could solve the world’s energy crisis if we all had an ounce of her drive. I almost contacted the CDC because she is so contagious and all I want is what she has. In these times of economical hardship, heart ache, and much despair, this woman can re-ignite the fires in our dimly lit hearts with hope and inspiration. She is committed to making a difference, one person at a time. You have to meet her to believe her.
Lean on Me offers love and compassion along with food, clothing, furniture and household items. They provide food boxes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to over 400 families per week- no questions asked. Everything is donated, nothing is purchased. People come from as far as Ottawa, Ionia and Montcalm counties on a regular basis. They come not just for the necessities of life but because they feel connected and are accepted for who they are regardless of their position in life. People come in broken and leave changed. How cool is that?
There are several other programs that are quite unique like the “Big T” ministry that provides convalescing items to those in need who come home to recover from sickness or injury. You can get items like walkers, wheelchairs, shower handles, personal care products and anything else you can think of that you may not be able to afford. Then there is the Basket Blessing program which is headed up by the most talented and creative basketeer Connie Shibler. I have seen some of her designs and you can feel the heart and soul that she puts into these baskets for people who need a pick me up or the birth of a baby or whatever occasion they see a need for. Another example of a person doing what they love to do by serving others, unconditionally.
When asked what the biggest needs currently are Lisa says, “beds, furniture and appliances.” But who wants someone else’s old mattress? Ask the Vietnam veteran sleeping on the floor if they care, or the mom with four children and one bed. People who have lost almost everything don’t care what it looks like or where it comes from. If you have something but cannot get it to Lean on Me, call them and they will make arrangements to get it somehow. Is your garage or estate sale over and you have lots of stuff ready for the dumpster? Hold on; do not throw it out, give to Lean on Me. If you know a business that throws out defective or damaged items, tell them to hold the bus and get it over to Lean on Me.
Let’s ruin this little secret about Lean on Me and spread the news that there is a place in our town that is our place and we are a community that cares for everyone regardless of their circumstances. It’s time we all work together to make sure that there are no needs not met in our community. We can all learn to lean on each other at Lean on Me. Contact them today at 866-3999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.