Calling on Your Faith Community

Dylan Novacek May 21, 2020

Written by Dylan Novacek, Content Specialist

“We were ready to host Families Moving Forward. Little did we know, everything would quickly change,” exclaimed Sue Hlavac. “None of us expected this…”

Congregants at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities had to adapt quickly when their two weeks of hosting Beacon’s shelter program were changed due to COVID-19. With families moving into hotel rooms, host coordinators snapped into action to organize meals and volunteers to serve those without a home.

“Everything was changing by the second. First, we learned we couldn’t host families in our congregation, then we learned we couldn’t make home-cooked meals. We had to navigate this without face-to-face contact,” Sue laughed, reliving the uncertainty of the moment.

With one foot in front of the other, Sue was able to call on her network of fellow host coordinators and volunteers, many of whom have decades of volunteer experience.

“We had to figure a lot of this out on the fly,” added host coordinator Sue Lungstorm. “My role was to organize catering for our families. Even though we can’t physically be together to share out meals, it was gratifying to call on my community in new ways.”

From selecting daily meals and organizing deliveries, the way Beacon congregations give back has shifted for now. However, the work remains as impactful as ever.

“Saying this experience was different is an understatement,” shared Bette Jo Hansen, a host coordinator and 30-year volunteer. “I miss hugging the kids, sharing a meal with the families, praying together, and sharing an evening.”

For Bette Jo, giving back feels like a calling. A self-described old soul, she works as a care provider and is driven by supporting her community in any way she can.

“Can you imagine not having a home during a time like this? That’s what I keep thinking about.” Putting herself in the shoes of a family living in shelter, Bette Jo considers the weight of the situation. “We’re called to support our neighbors,” she adds.

“Through working with Beacon, we are able to live out our faith in a significant way,” shared Sue Lungstorm. “We aim to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Through opening our doors, hearts, and minds…we seek to be educated and action oriented to support these families.”

Costs to shelter families and increased cleaning at Beacon’s buildings have increased by about $15,000 per week since the outbreak of COVID-19. Congregations such as Bethlehem are seeing the need and responding generously to support families in this time of uncertainty.

“Our congregation sees how this work has evolved,” said Bette Jo. “Instead of asking each other to provide home cooked meals, we rallied together to invest in supporting what is needed now.”

Bethlehem members gave $15,000 in personal gifts to Beacon, which were met with a matching grant from the Bethlehem Foundation. Through support like this, Beacon can continue impacting the lives of families and volunteers alike.

“I’ve had so many stand out experiences working with Beacon,” Bette Jo beamed, reflecting on her years of hard work. “Whether it’s watching the teenage girls in shelter get ready for prom, or seeing the volunteers take to the children. Seeing them smile and play…There’s a reason people come back to volunteer every time. Young or old, volunteering with Beacon enriches your life.”

“It’s almost impossible to have a fulfilling life of any kind without a home,” Sue Hlavac added. “Home is just as important as food. It’s a place to collect yourself and unwind. It’s your base!”

COVID-19 impacts every community and will continue to do so for a long time ahead. Through the hard work of congregations such as Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities, Beacon can continue growing our vision that all people have a home.

“It makes a difference to keep going in hard times,” Bette Jo said, thinking about the impact of her Beacon work. “In hard times, doing good for others will make you feel better.”

Our communities improve when we all have a stable home. We need you to join us in spreading our Beacon vision! Click here to learn how you can take action to see that all people have a home.