(Originally posted 4/15/2014 on reworkproject.org)
by Allison Eskew, Director
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Occupation: Part time PreK English teacher at an international school.
Education: Bachelor’s in Communications Theatre from Mississippi College. Master’s in teaching Elementary Education from Belhaven University in Memphis.
ReWork Project Affiliation: As of last month, Emily has committed to volunteering 10+ hours/wk helping with administrative work, social media, and whatever needs done!
Emily moved to Austin just last December after visiting some friends here in the fall and later coming across a job opening. Upon landing the job (though only part time and less pay) she left Memphis where she owned a home, had a good job, good friends, and good community and found herself in Austin, Texas.
Once here she started asking and seeking out how to best get to know people and really be a part of community when she felt God clearly saying that the best way is by serving them. She’s never really been a ‘volunteer/service project type of girl’ but in growing closer to Jesus the past 3-4 years and being part of a church community that served her really well, she’s recognized her need and call to serve others.
Emily found out about ReWork Project through attending New City Church (ReWork’s parent organization) with her friends and met me somewhere in between the two. She said that more than ReWork specifically, she felt called to help me. Frankly just putting it that way was one of the most encouraging things I’d heard in a while. It feels good to have good help, and in serving and being around ReWork Project more she’s gained a better understanding of what it is and grown to love it as well. Having friends to love it with me lifts some of the weight in itself, but Emily is doing much more than that!
Emily’s responsibilities include keeping us current on all social media, helping me with administrative work, running errands, giving me pep talks, hanging out with our ReWorkers, and pretty much anything I ask her to do. Also look for her to be writing several of our upcoming blog posts! I’m so very excited to have her on board and have already felt improvement since she’s been around.
Emily’s heart is to serve and to help ReWork Project keep improving as a program. She lacks experience in many of the tasks she has taken on but showing up and being willing to learn and/or try anyway has proven to be more than enough. I’m beyond grateful for her hard work and heart to serve us here! Big thanks to Emily!
(Originally posted 4/1/2014 on reworkproject.org)
Maybe wood-working seems a little off the wall for a jobs program, so allow me to share five reasons we like it.
#1. The feel-good factor:Any time you can create something that wasn’t there before, it just feels good! And not just something but a quality item that’s functional and worthy of being bought. There’s something really satisfying, dignifying, and exciting about clear visual proof of what you’ve accomplished, and this has been evident in our workers’ attitudes. One reason that we moved from building custom items to specific products is so that ReWorkers can build items repeatedly. This is a great way to see your own improvement and results in the ability to build with little to no help in a short amount of time. We think succeeding here can motivate finding success in other aspects of life as well.
#2. It’s a valuable skill:It’s possible that learning how to use tools and produce quality items could open a door to some type of construction or other wood-working job. It also builds confidence with tools and wood that in the future could serve workers in maintaining and even furnishing a home.
#3. It’s teachable: We’ve had people in our program with more experience than the staff and volunteers combined, and we’ve people that didn’t know the difference between nails and screws. With enough time and effort though wood-working seems to be something that most people are capable of learning and becoming good at, and so far there’s been no shortage of men or women willing to give it a try!
#4. It encourages relationship:It‘s hard to watch somebody next to you struggle at something and not help them when you know an easier way. It might start by teaching each other tricks and tips to ensure cutting a straight line or to keep from drilling a hole too deep. Then there’s the abundant problem-solving and teamwork opportunities that seem to be inevitable in the world of warped wood and rookie mistakes. Lastly, wood-working has no rules against noise so the freedom to strike up conversation is just always there. All around it’s an easy platform for building relationships in a way that feels natural.
#5. The fun factor: Power tools. (Need we say more…?)
If you’ve been following us for longer than six months you know we’ve tried a variety of ideas over the past couple of years including art, painting, crafts, and sewing among others, but our woodshop has always found the most success.No one program is going to fit everybody but we think we’ve found something that appeals to a pretty broad spectrum. Though it’s tough sometimes realizing we can’t help every person we’d like to, it’s also humbling to remember that God has not called our program to directly end homelessness all over the world. He decides ahead of time each and every individual we are to work with and we believe He has equipped us accordingly.
Put simply we feel God is currently calling ReWork Project to wood-working, and, more importantly, to the people that have come with it.
Allison Eskew, Director
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Well first things first, in case it’s not just me feeling it I must address the ol’ elephant in the room → this blog post.. it’s a bit overdue.
You might at least be pleased to know that nothing being posted on here does not mean nothing has been going on. My only excuses feel irrelevant at the moment but I do want to be better about this and I assure you it’s not that I haven’t cared. If you didn’t even notice my absence in the blogosphere then nevermind. Either way, for everyone’s utmost convenience I’ve condensed the last 7 months into one single read! #yourewelcome
As it happens the nonprofit, homeless-loving world is just not all rainbows and butterflies. Um yes a little heads up would have been nice but hey, live and learn.
Not long after I posted back in March, Austin Henderson (Director at ReWork Project) for several legitimate reasons decided to drop back to part time. Before Austin made his decision to go part-time, it had been no secret between us that it was time to take what we’d learned, recognize our strengths, and somehow streamline ReWork into a program that would more efficiently use our energy and resources. But with Austin’s new news coming all but simultaneously, we had to seriously consider just shutting the doors.
And so began a two month roller coaster. I won’t go into too much detail but God definitely did a number on me. Might seem silly to say but I think I came out of that mere two months a significantly different person, in a good way. Everything was in the air for what felt like forever as we brainstormed and talked through ideas for what a future ReWork might look like, discussed what we could or couldn’t handle with Austin not around as much, and ultimately sought God’s will for everything. All while trying to keep ReWork going as it was in the meantime.
There were many attempts at moving forward during this time but obstacles of all sizes just kept coming. As soon as one thing would get figured out, it would either immediately get un-figured out or a brand new obstacle would pop up. Things kept changing as God made it no less than obnoxiously crystal clear that He was the one running this show. And that I sure was not.
It didn’t take too embarrassingly long for me to realize that God running the show was actually the best news I could hope for. I slowly became okay with whatever God’s will was for the program and for me, but oh man I wanted to know. Like, now. (I mean helloooo urgent emotional roller coaster inside of me, people asking questions… could ya throw me a bone down here?!) Needless to say I guess it wouldn’t make sense for a perfect God to be early with anything, His timing is quite precise. So I learned to wait, and I learned to fight for truth and peace on the harder more frustrating days of waiting. And I learned, especially on the days I spent fighting, that God is faithful.
For whatever reason a decision time finally came and a meeting was called. I was prepped a few days beforehand as to what I should expect from it.
What’s great is that during this meeting an idea to improve our program was landed on and the decision was made to move forward. What’s ridiculous is that moving forward with ReWork Project was not what I had been prepped to expect, and in fact this meeting that finally got things moving again – had actually begun with a proposal to shut down.
Mind = Blown.
Well played, God… Well. Played.
Our new and improved program which started coming together in July (though it took a hot minute to work some kinks out and really get going) consists of no longer doing custom items. There are many reasons behind this decision but ultimately we decided we would be more efficient coming up with five or so specific products at a time. In addition, we’re only taking 6-7 wood-workers into our program at any one time in order to require dedicated hours of them and have space for each person to work. This also better enables us to form real and intentional friendships with everyone and them with each other. We still have lunch on Fridays as before, but it’s more like a family meal than a chaotic cafeteria. In other words, it’s better. :)
Call me biased but right now in my personal opinion, things are kind of awesome. Not to be confused with “perfect” or anything near it but awesome nonetheless. For starters, we’ve got a pretty great group. They show up, they listen and are eager to learn, and they work hard. It’s been fun for all of us watching the products get better and better as each worker gets the hang of it and builds a little quicker, with less help, and with less mess ups and redo’s. We’ve got people with no previous experience already building multiple products completely on their own. Exciting stuff, folks!
On top of that, making five specific products has been much easier on Austin and I to manage and has made sales better and more consistent than ever which benefits our workers. Finding a little success with this has been a great feeling and we only hope to get better at it.
Right now we’re selling wooden swings, bean bag tosses (cornhole) in regulation and tailgate sizes, picnic tables, giant tower game (aka giant jenga), and birdhouses. Prices consist of the material costs plus a dignified wage and each worker right now can build or is learning to build two to three of the products. Check us out and tell your friends! (reworkproject.org/products)
I guess one person’s “adventure” can be another person’s “terrifying life experience” but let’s choose to lean towards adventure with this. To be straight, there are some big obstacles in the very near future that are keeping it a bit up in the air. And by “a bit” I mean “more than a bit” and that we’re going to need your help. On the hopeful side – not like it’s our first time battling unlikely odds, right? I mean the day things become simple around here I suppose I’ll have cause for concern. #thingswecanlaughabout
I hate to be cliché or predictable and pull the classic “with God all things are possible” moment, but hey – truth is truth! I cannot deny what is. God is God and He’s going to do what He wants with ReWork Project and with me and with everyone involved. And that’s more than okay because He’s just good! He probably giggles at the fact that I’m calling anything a “big obstacle.” Fact is, if the day comes when ReWork must shut its doors it won’t be because the obstacles were too big for Him to pull us through. I don’t know about you but that’s a relief to me.
With that knowledge I will keep moving forward until it’s time to stop and I will rest in the truth that my God is loving and good and knows things that I don’t know. For now, things are exciting and I’m grateful for that. I’m enjoying what we’ve got and working hard to keep it up and always be improving. I hope to do better in keeping everyone updated on our status in the upcoming weeks or months and especially will let you know of ways you can help ReWork Project look more alive very very soon! Stay tuned, we are going to need you!
More specifics on these obstacles to come, but if you’re ready for details now feel free to ask questions about anything! (email@example.com)
Last thing – since many of you took an interest in Anthony after my last blog update, I thought I’d give you the 411 on how he’s doing now.
In short, dude is on fire.
He got into an RV shortly after I last wrote about him and has faithfully been paying his rent, but he absolutely did not stop there. He also got involved with a community group from my church (New City Austin) that meets on Wednesday nights. I love reminding him how awesome he is for that because like a lot of us, it’s not easy for him to throw himself into a social atmosphere with total strangers. It takes him a while to warm up. It’s no less than just an awesome choice he made for himself. But he didn’t stop there either! He decided for the first time since the 80’s that he needed to get his driver’s license. He spent a couple weeks letting people quiz him on the practice written portion, which he easily passed before going on to pass the driving portion also. Through a friend he was able to get a car shortly after. He lives nearby me and I used to pick him up on Wednesday evenings for group; now, he picks me up. Yep the tables have turned.
It’s been encouraging to know that God can change a person so much and a privilege to get to watch. Keep praying for him as he continues to get comfortable in his new life!
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The story of a day God revealed a lot to me… through a piece of small furniture
So a few weeks ago one of our ReWorkers, Anthony, walked into our little office with the step stool pictured below and a ridiculous grin. It was the first project he’d completed 100% on his own. His own idea, design, motivation, and skills.
After celebrating his accomplishment with him all I could think about was how when we first met Anthony it was not uncommon for him to come in and just sit/sleep on the couch most of the day. God used this moment to be like “hellooooo take notice! I’ve been working around here and you’re missing it!” I admit it’s easy for me to get caught up in only looking for what I would consider to be “victory” and forget that God is working at all times. Essentially I think this means we should be having more parties. Granted sometimes His work is so massive, beyond my understanding, or hard to see clearly that I can only trust that He’s working and be grateful for that truth. But then sometimes He does allow us to see what He’s doing and frankly I just forget to look.
So, to the world a mere step stool but to me, on that day: a funny reminder of the truth that God is always working, a reminder to celebrate even the small victories AND no doubt, a functional solution to reaching high shelves. (Note to Self #1: pay attention and celebrate)
How “New Anthony” Came to Be
I won’t go into all the details of Anthony’s transition from couch-napper to step-stool-builder but I will say that as many days as he spent napping on the couch over on the church side of our building, I didn’t expect it to be such a piece of cake to get him working in the woodshop. But all that was said was something like, “Hey you should try working on this job in the shop. Somebody will show you how to do it.”
Next thing I knew he was in there. So much for assuming “lazy homeless person” and that laziness must be the root of his homelessness. I mean we all know what they say about people who “assume”.. but the point is it takes time to diagnose a person’s often multiple rooted issues and even then, leave room for the fact that no matter how long you spend with them you still might get it wrong. (Note to Self #2: pray for humility, avoid arrogant assumptions)
In Anthony’s case laziness/lack of work ethic turned out was not so much the problem as lack of maybe self-esteem, encouragement, and direction. Coming in to take naps was likely a result of being tired and having nothing to do, makes sense. See, when Anthony showed up at ReWork he admittedly had no skills in wood-working or art (two things ReWork Project has the tools and supplies for). He only really expressed interest in working with leather (a craft ReWork does not have the tools or supplies for). I suppose it would have made sense to let him know in the beginning that we didn’t have anything to offer him. But as you may know, the philosophy of ReWork Project is rooted first in relationships and the more I come to understand why, the more I thank God for that. Sure, as Anthony started participating in the program he did learn a skill, but honestly not because we have some brilliant master/apprentice learning program at this point. (though maybe some day!) It’s because we encourage family and relationships and he started teaming up with guys on projects who were awesome enough to teach him during the process. A little encouragement to keep at it now and then and we’ve got ourselves a stool and a grin. (as seen below)
The grin was later followed by something like “this is the first thing I’ve made that’s felt fulfilling.” Enough said.
Other small victories for Anthony include that he’s gained confidence, quit being a loner, become a motivated, more outgoing human being, realized his ability to commit to a “job” of sorts and after a long process he’s now moments away from getting into a trailer via Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First program (http://mlf.org/community-first/). This means he will no longer be homeless and yes this is a big deal. :)
Happy to Hear About It
Sometime shortly after what I will call “the step stool miracle” Anthony and I were chatting about his progress among other things. He told me he was happy to have found people he considers reliable and that because of reliable friends he doesn’t isolate himself like he used to. He credits having encouraging people that he knows he can talk to and can ask for help from when he needs it, as giving him enough hope to be motivated about life again and get so much accomplished lately. He also said he just decided to stop being a victim.
In retrospect after hearing it like that, those aren’t even small victories, they’re life-altering changes and decisions that went down. (yet I almost missed them (thank you step stool)) I’m not going to pretend that we at ReWork Project were the only influences of Anthony’s changes though. For one, we were really just there getting to be a part while God did all the actual changing. But also, He pretty much started hitting Anthony from all angles at once with some helpful people, organizations, and opportunities and I don’t think it was coincidence.
So why is all of this good to talk about? Well safe to say that my chat with Anthony was super encouraging to me, but I think it was good for him also to be able to talk about and better realize his own progress and how his decisions have slowly but surely changed things. Fear has less to hold on to when proof of what’s true is fresh on your mind, right? Plus now when he tries to tell me something is “too risky” to try or pointless to pursue I can joke about how those are the words of ‘Old Anthony,’ and ask what ‘New Anthony’ really thinks… Last but not least, talking about this stuff and sharing it with anyone is a great opportunity to be like, “Hey God, about what You’re doing around here→OUT-STANDING-JOB. You’ve blown my mind once again, may the glory be Yours!”
Like all of us of course Anthony is still a work in progress. He likely has struggles ahead, some old and some new. But, we’re praying for lasting changes and continued renewal and have every reason to hope for those things.
Pray for Anthony!
Sponsor a leather-working item or two or five for Anthony and any other ReWorker to use.
With this I should share that after MANY MONTHS of saying how spending any money on the leather supplies, even piece by piece over time, was “too risky”… Anthony DID just last Monday randomly walk into the office, announce (with confidence I might add) that he was ordering a few of the items from his leather catalog, and then pick up the phone and do so. (It was awesome and to be honest– kind of adorable…)
Anyway, it can be expensive to start up and I’m sure he could use the encouragement. If you’d like to help him out just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll tell you how: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re here in Austin, consider forming a friendship with a ReWorker like Anthony through the mentor program we are ramping up. For more info, click HERE. [disabled link]
This step stool currently for sale at $30 and there are more where it came from! Support Anthony by buying one! We also take orders! Email either me or email@example.com
If you make use of the internet like I sometimes do, maybe the following picture reminds you of something you once saw on the infamous website, “Awkward Family Photos.” I can assure you, however, that this is in fact an original. And it just happens to be a part of my ReWork Family’s awkward way of saying “Thank You.”
Disclaimer #1: I can’t help but add that no person was actually angry during the taking of this photo, in spite of what some facial expressions seemingly depict.
Disclaimer #2: The explanation of our gratefulness below was copied from Rework’s website. You say “copy cat” and I say “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” Agree to disagree, it’s my first blog I promise to be more original in the future. But please keep reading to find out why we owe thanks.
Over the Christmas season we had our first Supply Drive and it was a huge success. Because of your efforts we received dozens of canvases, paint brushes, screws and other items that will carry ReWorkers through the next several months. I’d like to sincerely say thank you to each of you who donated items or gift cards.
If you missed out or want to know what some of ReWork’s ongoing needs are, we have a new section of the website dedicated to material needs. We will be keeping this list up to date with current needs and are always blessed by your donations.
Thank you sincerely,
The ReWork Team.
First blog update → OWNED. Check back soon for a fully original update from me!