BRANDON — In the two months since First United Methodist Church of Brandon created and began funding the Men’s Resource Center, a new ministry to help men in need, they have served about 15 men. As the center grows and more mentors come on board, they’ll be able to do more.
“Each man who seeks help from the Men’s Resource Center will be matched with a male volunteer who will walk with him through the process of finding employment or applying for disability (depending on the need), while providing emotional and spiritual support,” said Dan Palmer, director of outreach and group life ministries at the church.
Volunteers at the center help the men write resumes, fill out applications, apply for food assistance, offer guidance with life choices, provide clothes and shoes for interviews and pray for them.
“The biggest problems facing homeless and at-risk men are definitely finding employment and affordable housing. Hands-down, those are the biggest struggles,” said the Rev. Vicki Harrison, minister of missions, who oversees the Men’s Resource Center.
Men with substance abuse and/or mental health issues may be referred to another resource, such as a licensed counselor who provides counseling at the church.
“The Men’s Resource Center is set up mainly to help men. That includes men with families,” said Harrison. “If the man is struggling, then we will do all we can to help him. If the woman is struggling, then we refer her to the Women’s Resource Center at Bay Life. I work closely with Cheryl Hickman, (founder and director of) the Women’s Resource Center, as we want to be sure each family is being served sufficiently and appropriately.”
“Eighty percent of the Women’s Resource Center population is women,” said Hickman, “although we also work with children and some men. But men have needs unique to them and need to be mentored by other men. The Men’s Resource Center is set up for that and is doing a great job. We’re getting good feedback from those we’ve referred.”
The roots of the Men’s Resource Center sprang up, in part, from a free spaghetti dinner the FUMC-Brandon congregation serves from 5 to 6 p.m. every Sunday night for numerous homeless and low-income families as well as others from the church and community.
“I had developed relationships with many homeless and struggling men in the community through our spaghetti dinner and my open office hours, during which I provide case management, referrals, and spiritual support,” said Harrison.
Hickman asked First United Methodist of Brandon to consider starting a center for men, “specifically because we had already developed these relationships with many of the guys who are struggling,” said Harrison.
The organization may be new, but there have been some victories already, Harrison said. Men have found jobs, gotten food assistance and generally feel encouraged and more hopeful about their future.
“We also have had men who have decided the program is not for them,” she said. “You do have to be motivated to set some goals and achieve them. This is not just a way to get a bill paid or get a bag of food. This is about truly moving forward in your life.”
Donations of men’s clothing, shoes and accessories are welcome, and the Men’s Resource Center needs guys willing to be trained as mentors. As more men volunteer, more may be served.
“The only qualifications are being a Christ-follower and having a heart for struggling men,” said Harrison.
Appointments are necessary. Contact Harrison at (813) 689-4161.
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