It’s just before noon on a Monday, and the waiting area at Heart Ministry Center has grown crowded with people needing basic necessities: toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, diapers ... They’ll also receive plenty of kindness and understanding from intake specialist Carlin “Jessie” Green.
“Being hospitable and compassionate – just caring about people – is extremely important to us,” says CEO Eric Crawford. “Jessie is a perfect example of someone who treats others really, really well. She can meet people where they are and be positive and compassionate. She is a great representation of our mission.”
At Heart Ministry Center, the commitment is dignity for all, whether a client is looking for basic medical or dental care, social work and case management services, or a visit to the food pantry. The compassion that has made Green so good at her front desk job is a byproduct of something she’s extremely proud of: her own redemption. Before joining the staff in 2017, Green was a center beneficiary.
“I had it all, and then it started to dwindle away, a little at a time, because of neglect – not paying my bills and loving my Crown Royal. I used to drink in the mornings when I’d get up to do my chores. It became a habit,” she says.
She was in personal and financial jeopardy – not knowing where the money for rent and utilities was going to come from – when a friend told Green about Heart Ministry Center in Omaha, an almost 40-year-old outreach supported, in part, by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.
“I didn’t have anything to lose at that point. I was really in bad shape,” Green says.
At her lowest, Green benefited from several Heart Ministry services, including Fresh Start, the center’s 15-week job placement program. It’s designed to move participants toward self-sufficiency in a holistic way, emphasizing sound physical and mental health, fiscal responsibility and employment. In addition to creating resumes and working on their interview and soft job skills, participants help run the food pantry three days a week.
“So many of the participants have never had something positive to be part of. When they come down here, with the encouragement of Heart Ministry staff and fellow Fresh Start participants, it builds confidence and self-esteem,” Crawford says.
Green says there are many positives in her life today. Among them: In December, she’ll celebrate three years of sobriety. “Heart Ministries did it. It’s a wonderful feeling to have someone in your corner,” she says.
After Fresh Start participants graduate, they transition to jobs at one of the center’s 28 community business partners. (Heart Ministry Center also helps line up reliable transportation, if necessary.) Green’s predictive index showed she was best-suited for a job and long-term success at the center itself.
“I always tell Jessie and the other intake staff – that’s the hardest job, in my opinion, because you deal with a lot of people. And, as you can imagine, if you’re coming here to utilize our services, you’re probably not having the best day of your life,” Crawford says.
Green gets it. She’s been there. Now, as she serves the center’s clients, she also serves as an inspiration: “I like explaining to people how Heart Ministry lifted me up and put my feet on solid ground in many ways – mentally, physically and financially. Heart Ministry Center has given me my life back, my sense of being.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same. Read more stories like this on omaha.com.