Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

The clock on my wall is impatiently watching me as I scribble out this final post of 2011. The countdown officially began a few days ago for most people, but I am usually late to the party so I didn't take notice until yesterday that we are literally running out of time. As I look at my watch you officially have 11 and a half hours to accomplish whatever it is you haven't finished for 2011. Go to it!

No one knows what the next year is going to hold but we, at Samaritan House, are anticipating some great (and new) things. Thank you for everything you have helped us do over the past 365 days. Our hope is that you have a peaceful and fulfilling New Years celebration with family or friends.

Talk to you next year...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Its all a Matter of Perspective.

The way we see things colors our entire world. Two people can view the exact same thing and come away with entirely different ideas. For example, if I write 'Samaritan House's best effort is n-o-w-h-e-r-e,' what image resonates in your mind? Do you view the statement as a commentary that our best is nonexistent (nowhere) or that we are hitting our stride (now here)? Same amount of letters in the identical order... totally different implications.

Over the past year, Samaritan House served more than 32,000 meals and housed over 1,120 people. We hosted our 2nd annual Project Homeless Connect as well as numerous 4th Friday Concert Series. The Cowboy Up Benefit Auction, Dinner and Concert also provided a little western flare for the community.

Recently, our Help Portrait event was held and we sponsored the Flathead Valley's sole
National day of Homeless Remembrance at Depot Park. It was an intimate ceremony to honor our homeless brothers and sisters who have died over the past year.

Hundreds of volunteers assisted us in every way from practical, physically intensive tasks, to sorting donations, cleaning, cooking, preparing meals, and painting. If it takes a village to raise a home, then it truly took a community to help our (Samaritan) house. Thanks to all of you who helped along the way.

Saving lives was also a high priority in 2011 as we partnered with the Red Cross in holding blood drives at our Administrative Center. Our most recent drive collected 35 pints of blood, and each pint is the equivalent of saving 3 lives. Case Manager Cary Krager noted the importance of "Presenting the opportunity for people to give. Giving blood costs nothing, but means everything."

So... how did we do this year? Much was accomplished and we believe we are most definitely on the right path in regard to addressing the homelessness issues in Kalispell and the Valley. But are we satisfied?

Not on your life. It is our perspective that, while we managed to do a great deal, the best is yet to come.

We invite you to partner with us as we look to surpass 2011's accomplishments. We humbly anticipate a great year to come and look forward to playing a role in helping people change their lives.

Thanks for everything.

(Western States Insurance representatives Kim Thomas and Saundra Topalovich drop off presents for residents)

Part one of the Holiday season is drawing to a close and Samaritan House was made a festive locale due to the kindness and generosity of donors who blessed our residents.

Being homeless presents numerous challenges for a person, and being homeless during the holidays can be emotionally devastating. Everything has potential to be a reminder of a previous life where resources and finances and material possessions may have been more plentiful. It is a time for reflection that can sting as past familial relationships may not be what they once were. In essence... the holidays at a homeless shelter is rarely a topic for joyous conversation.

However, this was not the case at Samaritan House. It was beautiful chaos as a million different things happened, seemingly, all at once. Contributions rolled in from our community friends and the festivities were as cheerful as they could have been. Entire families came and served meals as well as donated their time to enrich our resident's experiences. The dining room area was transformed to resemble your grandmother's dining room. Schools sent their students to wrap presents while our friends at Bet Harim prepared an incredible Christmas day meal. Financial contributions as well as tangible goods (including many McDonald gift cards!!) made their way into our humble establishment. Presents were donated and every resident received a gift.

Many of us will never know what it is like to be homeless, but we all know what it is like to feel human. For a few hours on December 25th, our residents were not homeless or transient or without anything. There was a common, shared experience where everyone felt the same thing at the same time. This is not to minimize the plight of our residents or to pretend that all their problems melted away. Rather, it was a reminder that the kindness of many people transcended every situation in the room and made, for a brief time, most things okay.

So, on behalf of the entire Samaritan House community, both residents and employees, THANK YOU!!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A New Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, in a room in the shelter,

A single mom lies awake thinking of the hand life had dealt her.

Just one stocking (for three kids) was hung on the fridge with care,

In hopes that something... anything... would be there.

Her children were nestled on a mattress, a couch and a bed,

While visions of a real home danced in their heads.

And mom in her ‘kerchief, and her youngest child in a cap,

Could not settle their brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out in the street there arose such a clatter,

But this was not new, something always was the matter.

Silently through the window the police lights would flash,

She walked over to the shutters and pulled down the sash.

The moon in the puddles of the parking lot gravel,
Gave the lustre of hope in a life quick to unravel.

When, what to her sleepy mind should appear,

But a revelation for the future, it all seemed so clear.

The thoughts in her head, came so lively and quick,

She knew in a moment she must write them down so they’d stick.

More rapid than eagles, these ideas... they came,

So she scrambled for paper and pen, and and wrote them down by name!

Now, Dignity! now, Health Care! now, Full-time Employment!

On, Independence! on, Education ! on, a Life of Enjoyment!

To the top of the shelter! Through the second-story hall!

Please make these true! Make these true! Make these true, all!

“Santa can’t save us,” she mused with a whistle,

And strenghtened her resolve with determination and gristle.

But I heard her sigh, ‘while her kids slept out of sight,

“This can be a Happy Christmas for us, I will make it a good night!”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Resolution: Time is the best gift

Does the perfect gift exist?

We live in a world of constant noise and peripheral chaos. Our money is often spent before we deposit the paycheck and the horizon sometimes seems scarier than anything we've ever left behind. Finances are tight but that doesn't really bother the calendar hanging on our wall because those days keep advancing without ever consulting us. The time of year for gifts has finally rounded third and is unabashedly heading straight for home plate. The only question is whether that plate will be bare or loaded with wonderful festive items.

I work at a place where the majority of the people do not have a great deal of money. When the topic of holiday giving raises its commercial head, one might think that the conversation grows tense and uncomfortable, but that is rarely the case. On many occasions, I have learned quite a lot from Samaritan House residents on the subject of giving. What is the most valuable thing a person can give another? My experiences at the shelter have shown me that the greatest gift is time.

In a society of fabricated community, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are prime examples of how real intimacy is going extinct and being replaced with cyber relationships a mile wide but an inch deep. Spending time with a person now consists of logging on to check their status before you post a quick blurb on their wall? Am I missing something?

Oh, yeah... Conversation.

Take this holiday season as an opportunity to reconnect with your friends and family on a more personable level. Sit down and talk or go for a walk or just turn every electronic device in your house off and enjoy the quiet together. Get back to the basics of relationship, even if it's just a brief respite before the new year begins and you have to plug back in. Our residents spend hours together just talking and I fear this is a lost art. If you have no one to chat with in your life, then come down to Samaritan House and chew the fat with our residents because it will be an experience that makes you a better person.

And it's free.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blood drive

Save Someone’s life.

Imagine the world’s lamest superhero. I’m not sure what this person’s (lack of) power might entail, but it would be largely ineffective. He or she likely has no comic books named after them, either. Perhaps this person’s lone claim to notoriety is that they have never saved anyone. Well, here is your chance to do something more monumental than the world’s lamest superhero. In fact, I am presenting you with the opportunity to do something quite heroic…

On Thursday, December 22, you can play a part in saving someone’s life.

Samaritan House will be hosting a blood drive with the Red Cross and we still have opportunities to sign up from 11am until 2:45pm. For more information, call Cary at 257-5801. The blood drive will be at the Samaritan House Administrative Center located at 1110 2nd Street West in Kalispell.

You don’t have to be a superhero to save someone. You will do nicely…just the way you are.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kinder Than Necessary

Here are some resolutions to get us on our way...

Be Kinder Than Necessary.

On the surface, this seems trite and a little too simple. They key is to closely examine the last word of this phrase…necessary. Being kind is not an overly difficult task and really doesn’t require much more than common decent courtesy. Kindness is often a reflex or reaction that we generate on the spot.

But, what does it mean to be unnecessarily kind? The implication of this behavior demands us to examine a situation and then go beyond the expected niceties that might be required. This means that we fore go being kind and kick it into overdrive. Don’t just help someone today, be so unfathomably helpful that they suspect ulterior motives (but, a ha! The joke will be on them because you have none).

What would it look like if you enacted a brand of kindness that was proactive and sought out opportunities to befuddle others who never saw it coming? Try this today and see how it feels.

Monday, December 12, 2011


People become pensive this time of year. The holiday season spawns all manner of emotions: joy, hope, resolution, anger, sadness, redemption... the list is endless and unique to each person. As the current year begins to pack up and close shop, 2012 is eagerly waiting in the wings for its opportunity to emerge and take its rightful place in world history.

As the calendar shortens, many of us reflect back over the previous 365 days and take a personal inventory of what happened and how these events impacted our lives. If we could have a restart, what would we do differently? Looking back is always easier than living in the moment so what wisdom will we garner from last year?

Resolutions are easy enough to make but sometimes difficult to keep. Over the next few days, I will list some resolutions for the new year. How can we keep moving forward and avoid the stagnant tendencies that render us powerless and hopeless? What changes can me make in our own lives as well as the lives of others?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Neither Here nor There

So... the past few days have been quite the logistical challenge involving 3 rooms, 5 desks, 9 file cabinets, numerous office supplies, and one old recliner. Normally, drastic changes are reserved for the spring, after a person has been cooped up and can no longer tolerate his or her surroundings. Not here... at Samaritan House we like to switch offices smack dab in the midst of the work day!

It has been a little inconvenient and forced some of us to fall a bit behind on our work. Its very unsettling to have your belongings in flux; you have a slight idea where something is but you cannot get to it. A few things got lost along the way. I swear I had a few items that I have either misplaced or they simply decided to make a break for it while I was distracted by the mounting piles of junk that had spontaneously appeared.

But now things are back to normal and I have no more excuses for a decrease in my productivity. I am settled into my new office and the jostling and moving and lost office supplies are but a distant memory. I was tired of toiling out of the hallway and make-shift benches converted into a workspace. It is nice to have everything accessible so I can perform at my best.

Being office-less was terrible. I'm glad people don't have to live like that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Help Portrait at Samaritan House

Samaritan House will be hosting a Help Portrait event at the Administrative Center on December 10th.
Help Portrait is a movement of photographers who are using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate. It provides a way for someone who otherwise could not afford a professional quality framed portrait.

Here are the details:

Help Portrait

December 10th, 2011

10 am - 4 pm

Samaritan House Administrative Center

1110 2nd St West

Kalispell, MT

Lunch will be provided