Families are at the Forefront of the Pathway of Hope
The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program operates similarly in Holland as it does at many of the other Salvation Army locations across the country. Families are at the forefront and the focus is on helping them not only reach their goals but making sure they are well-equipped for the future.
There is something else going on in Holland too. After all, the corps recently received exemplary recognition from The Salvation Army Central Territory, which encompasses 11 Midwestern states. Corps Officers Majors Amos and Cyndi Shiels guide the Holland corps – which services Allegan and southern Ottawa County – and Melanie Weaver spearheads the social services department.
The community has been instrumental in Pathway of Hope being in a position to impact so many families. Holland is supportive of the program and the funding the community generously donates permits the program to provide what it does.
The director of social services for the last nearly seven years, Weaver says a lot of prayer goes into the success of the program.
“I pray that God would bring those to the program that it would be good for,” she says. “Before I pick up the phone to call clients, I’m often praying for our meeting and the Holy Spirit’s work.”
Weaver also spends time in meetings with her families praying with them.
The Pathway of Hope program in Holland consists of Weaver and two case managers, Kaylie and Leah. Weaver has eight families she is currently working with and the number of families enrolled in the program is near 20.
As families are welcomed into the program, the staff engages them in uplifting conversations about ways to grow their self-sufficiency. There is a “get-to-know-you” phase as the staff and families exchange information. Being relatable to families and gaining trust is vital to making sure goals get met. Weaver notes there are some families that come in and might be mistrusting because other agencies in the past haven’t been able to assist them in the way they wanted.
“Over time, as they see that we’re there for them, supporting and helping them, then they seem to soften and realize ‘you are here to help me, you’re willing to pray for me, you’re willing to walk alongside me faithfully and ask me how I’m doing.’ As they see that, then that trust gets built in that way,” Weaver said.
Families are also given the chance to have pastoral care be a part of their Pathway of Hope experience and have their spiritual lives enriched.
“Then I ask them, ‘ok, we’ve talked about all these things, what would you like to work on? What is something that is most important to you?’”
After the family decides on the goal or goals they want to achieve, Weaver helps integrate actionable steps and timelines.
One family paid off nine credit cards, allowing them to get out from burdensome debt and be more independent with their finances.
One mother needed assistance getting her roof repaired. She had grown up in the same house she now owns and hefty repairs were needed for the leaky roof. The Salvation Army, along with a couple other local agencies, helped provide funds for the bill.
A single mother of three children, Kristina*, has made particular strides since teaming up with Weaver in January. Kristina graduated from a local cosmetology school and has started work doing hair and weddings. She had her vehicle repaired to obtain more reliable transportation and she paid off her credit card balance in full. Two of her children also attended The Salvation Army’s summer day camp program this year.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, all these families have been working toward their goals while meeting with Weaver and The Salvation Army via phone calls. While missing face-to-face interaction might be thought of first as a road block, the ability to do meetings entirely over the phone has actually increased Pathway of Hope’s reach. Weaver says there are a few families in Wayland and Fennville that it would have been difficult for them to participate in the program had meetings only been in person due to transportation issues.
“It’s awesome, I praise the Lord,” Weaver says of seeing her families succeed. “I give glory to God for it because He has worked on my families way more than I could have done.”
*Name changed to protect identity.