Family Life Center of Greene County
The Family Life Center of Greene County takes its mission from Matthew 25 – “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.”
They operate a food and clothing bank in rural Greene County, Indiana. But in practice, food and clothing is just their hook to get people in so they can start building relationships. Once they understand their clients’ real goals and the barriers that are holding them back, they are able to provide the help people really need to move forward – whether that means financial assistance, job training, or getting them into rehab.
The Family Life Center operates off of a fairly unique model – one which they have shared with others and used to create seven similar agencies scattered across southern Indiana and Illinois. From the time that they were founded in 1998, they have never taken a single grant dollar. They have no paid staff, and operate entirely off of community support.
From their executive director down to their maintenance crew, everyone is a volunteer. A core of 50 volunteers run the agency, but their biggest source of project-based volunteers is the clients themselves. Any client who receives financial or material support (other than food and clothing) must donate one hour of time for every $10 in assistance. That helps the clients feel ownership over the assistance they’re getting, but it also deepens their relationships with the core volunteers so that they can better work together to help that client move forward.
This complete reliance on volunteer labor means that in 2020, the Family Life Center averaged just $800 a month in operating expenses. More than 98% of the money coming in went directly to serving families. In 2020 they gave out $325,000 in material support – including food, clothing and direct aid – using more than 14,000 volunteer hours.
Of course, in 2020, like everyone else, the Family Life Center had to face up to the challenges of COVID. To keep their food and clothing programs running, they again took a very unique approach by moving everything outside. They set up their fridges, freezers, and shelves outside and stock them two to three times a day. People can come by 24/7, no questions asked, and take what they need. One sunny day, they also set up racks of coats outside. Using this approach, they gave out almost 62,000 pounds of food and 800 coats last year.
Their other COVID innovation was their blessing boxes. They set up nine of these boxes in rural areas around the county – some as small as a microwave and others large enough to have shelves. They don’t stock the boxes, but encourage others to do so. They are simply a place where those with food can leave it, and those who are hungry can take it. What a wonderful concept.