A Turning Point
June 2023 | Written by Steve Moberg
“To support families by providing basic needs and education, equipping them for self-sufficiency.” That’s the mission statement of A Turning Point, one of the new ministries GEPC is supporting this year. You may recall that about twenty Gashland members worked at ATP last October as part of our Serve Day 4:10.
Putting the mission statement into practice, Jennifer Maxwell, the ATP Operations Manager, says, “We serve anybody and everybody who has a need. We don’t spend any money on advertising or marketing or anything like that – we’ve been pretty overloaded with people in need just from word of mouth. We serve anybody; it doesn’t matter what zip code they’re from, how much money they make, or any of those other stipulations you might find from other food pantries. It’s just anybody who shows up at our door, we’ll provide them with services if we’re able to. If not, we’ll try to find them somewhere that can. And nothing at A Turning Point costs any of our clients money – we offer everything for free.” ATP offers services in five main areas:
FOOD PANTRY – The pantry is open three times a week: Tuesday evening, Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning. “Our clients can come once a week. We serve about 90 families each time we’re open – 270 to 300 families a week.” ATP has partnerships with a few organizations around the area, but most of their fresh meat and produce come from donors. “We have been extremely blessed in that we’ve been able to fill our shelves most of the time. Most of our families are working families, they’re just not able to make it, so they come to use our food pantry and wardrobe. So Tuesday evening is our busiest time.”
WARDROBE – The wardrobe is open three days a month, during the food pantry hours to make it convenient for clients, who are able to shop it once a month. “Our wardrobe is manned by volunteers, who sort through clothes that are brought in through donations. It looks like a little boutique in there – when people come in, they don’t feel like it’s a trashy place, they feel like there’s dignity. They can come in and pick what they want.” The wardrobe is featured on our cover!
ACADEMY – One of the unique programs at ATP is their academy, where they help their clients get an actual high school diploma. “It’s kind of like a home school program. We built it ourselves. We look at their high school transcript, compare it to the Missouri standards for graduating, see what they need, and we work toward them one by one. Some people come in with absolutely no high school
if they have to retake it, there’s no cost for clients in the ATP Academy. Jennifer also says they have a big graduation celebration with caps and gowns, speakers, and music, and hand the graduates their actual high school diploma. Again, volunteers make it possible. “Our tutors don’t necessarily have any educational background, but just have a heart for it.” The academy has also been expanded to the Platte County Detention Center, to work with inmates three days a week to help them get a high school diploma.
THE GUESTHOUSE – It is a day-center. “Most of the folks who use that service are experiencing houselessness, and some of them have been doing so for awhile. We have showers and a couple washers/dryers where they can do their laundry. We serve lunch every day – a hot meal of some kind, whether we have to order pizza, or if volunteers bring it in. The majority of the time some volunteer signs up to cook food and bring it. On average, we serve about 25 people a day, but it has gotten up to 45. So we like to be prepared for that!” While the clients are at the guesthouse, a case manager helps them with things like getting a photo ID or their birth certificate, or signing up for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). They also have couches and cots people can lay on. “A lot of them walk all night, so they’re tired; they just want to lay down and sleep. We provide a space where they can feel safe and not worry about their stuff being stolen.” The guesthouse is open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays (right now Fridays are just for families and women, but that is soon changing to be open to everyone. Guests must check in, take a breathalyzer test, and sign a safety agreement with some rules – they can’t be dangerous or come in drunk, and they have to be courteous to the neighborhood.
COMMUNITY MEALS – This program used to be “Free Hot Soup of the Northland”, but now ATP has partnered with that group for Community Meals. Meals are served every Sunday afternoon at 2:00 at Chaumiere Park, just off I-35 and Chouteau. “They serve a picnic-style meal. They have their own pool of volunteers who come and bring all kinds of food. They usually get about 30-50 people.” They also get lots of donations of travel-size things, batteries, and with the weather getting warmer, things like sunscreen and bug spray.
ATP also has seasonal activities, like providing school supplies in August, and a Christmas store in early December where clients can come in and shop for their families. Speaking of families, Jennifer says the “families” they serve can be one-person families. “We have a lot of clients who are on disability or retired, so they are on a fixed-income and it’s just not enough.”
A Turning Point started as a part of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, but it was very small and they wanted to grow it. Jennifer recalls, “Our research led to ‘Who is actually needing help?’ It’s usually single people on fixed incomes or families that just can’t make enough money. And housing is way too expensive! There are all these factors, so supplementing their food, supplementing their clothing, supplementing their education – that’s why we have the programs we have.”
To keep all these programs going it takes a lot of people, like those of us at Gashland, to lend a hand. Jennifer says, “The thing about our food pantry and all our other programs is they’re manned by volunteers. Even our directors are volunteers. They spend a lot of their time up here and we are so grateful for their generosity and grace and time to come and help our community. We have as little administration cost as possible.”
If you would like to volunteer, Jennifer suggests calling ATP at 816-702-6801and one of their people can help you find a way to volunteer that matches up with your interests and skills. Or you can read more about opportunities at https://www.aturningpointkc.org/volunteer.