Ever since my time as a pastor in Trumbull County, OH (2011-2020), I have been involved in community concerns. In 2018, Something (Someone) laid it on my heart to to begin a support group for grandparents raising their grandchildren. While I was in Warren, I organized and facilitated a strong and successful grandfamilies group that met faithfully twice a month.
My team included several gifted, valuable volunteers—Brenda made coffee and fresh muffins or cookies; Liz shared her knowledge gleaned from years as a court advocate; Bonnie and Marty spent time with grandchildren-- providing activities and showing the kids that another adult cares for them. Linda made telephone calls to check on grandparents who were at home for one reason or another. Together, we provided a warm, inviting place for grandparents and their kids to come and share their struggles and their triumphs as a family.
When I retired this year, I wasn't sure what I would be doing with my ministry in the community, going forward. Then I met several grandparents who are all caring for grandkids. I know from my experience in Warren, that having a safe place to share with others in the same situation can mean everything. So, I got right to work.
My first step was to find a meeting place. Through my contacts with colleagues in the ministry, I knew Pastor Don and MaryAnn Crist, from St John United Church of Christ. I had recently helped to facilitate a group at their house next to the church, called "The Gathering Place." It is a marvelous, cozy space for adults and kids; it includes two meeting rooms, as well as a dining room, a kitchen, and a bathroom--all on the first floor. In nice weather, kids can enjoy a superb enclosed playground in the backyard. Their vision is to invite community groups to meet here and enjoy the hospitality. The Gathering Place is perfect for us and will host our activities.
Next, I needed to spread the word: this is the biggest challenge for us going forward. I've been in touch with more than a dozen organizations in Troy, and I've been honing my skills to use online connections. Please spread the word to grandparents and relatives caring for kids. "Your support group is here." And if you (or someone you know) has a couple of hours a month to assist by providing hospitality, please contact Ann Marie.