by Eric Hagen
Once, Rev. Jimmy Jones of Horizons Community Church in Ham Lake posed a question during a sermon. “If our doors closed tomorrow, would anyone in the community even know or care that we were gone?”
That blunt message from a Sunday about three years ago motivated 10 parishioners to start a ministry that became known as Beyond Horizons. This non-profit first serves residents of Andover, Blaine, Coon Rapids, East Bethel, Ham Lake and Isanti, but has assisted residents in other surrounding communities.
Over the first two years of its existence from February 2010 through February 2012, Beyond Horizons has helped on 259 projects such as moving, yard work, repairs on vehicles, appliances and homes, transportation, house cleaning, home modifications to help senior citizens and the disabled, and much more, according to Julie Clarke, managing director of Beyond Horizons. Only 25 were repeat clients. There were 319 volunteers, some being repeats, that completed these tasks.
“I love being able to get out and minister to folks in need in the community,” said Pete Kennelly of Coon Rapids. “It’s an opportunity to serve God and make a difference and hopefully show others the love of Christ.”
Kennelly and several other guys volunteered some of their time on a Thursday night last week to help an Anoka woman move out of her apartment to another home.
“It’s the biggest worry lifted off my shoulders,” said the woman they were helping, who asked her name not be published. “That’s the hardest part, getting people to help you move.”
Joel Woodward of Coon Rapids is the delivery manager for the HOM Furniture distribution center in Coon Rapids. He got permission to use a HOM truck for the move so the woman they were helping did not have to rent a moving truck. The Anoka woman said she gave a donation of $50 to Beyond Horizons to help them out.
Unfortunately for Beyond Horizons, the donations they receive from clients, the members of the church and the community are not always enough to help everyone they would like to. Clarke said they have turned people away because of limited resources, although usually for larger projects such as roof repairs or expensive automobile repairs.
Although Beyond Horizons is a non-profit and eligible for grants, board member Bill Singer of Andover said they do not have the staffing resources to apply for multiple grants because it takes time to research if they would even be eligible for a grant or whether the competition would be too fierce to justify the time applying for it.
Clarke, Singer and other members of the board have attended seminars on applying for grants and fund-raising tips. The message has
been clear. Corporations and government entities awarding grants want measurable statistics on how you are helping people in five particular areas — educational, seniors, homeless, food and jobs — so the grant distributors know how many people have been helped.
Clarke said Beyond Horizons knows how many people it has helped, but there is not an ongoing analysis of how that one or two times Beyond Horizons helped them made a difference in their lives.
“In most cases, we go in, fix the problem and we’re gone,” Clarke said.
Singer said they just do not have a good engine for writing grants and fund-raising. Another problem is they do not have a lengthy record of successes like other organizations do because they have only been around for two years.
“We wouldn’t be able to tell you that we served 3,000 meals last month, and meals is what we do. Or we couldn’t tell you that we packed 25 boxes of groceries last week for families. Our metric is not one specific area,” Singer said. “We are the last resort for people who have the non-typical demands.”
Singer said services Beyond Horizons provide were deliberately chosen two years ago. The 10 founding members, which includes himself, met with staff at the Anoka County Human Services Division and numerous non-profit organization directors to find out what services are being provided in the area and what services are needed. That homework was a way to ensure they were not stepping on another non-profit’s toes or duplicating services.
When Clarke meets with people, she asks if they have heard about other non-profits that may be able to help them. For example, Free2B! helps clients with auto repairs and even distributes donated cars. However, if someone was already helped once by Free2B!, they would not be eligible again. Beyond Horizons could possibly help them in this circumstance.
They do not provide food because the North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf is not far away along Highway 65 in East Bethel.
Kennelly’s daytime job is with Habitat for Humanity. He let them know about a program that organization has called “A Brush with Kindness.” Those who qualify can get help with exterior home work such as painting, landscaping, weather stripping and other minor repairs.
Clarke also said she asks the client if they can afford to pay something rather than get all services for free. For example, if a person needs help moving, Clarke asks if they can at least pay for the gas for the moving van and the boxes if none can be found at local stores. If a car repair is going to cost $200, she asks if they can pay part of the costs.
They have received calls from people whose furnace has gone out and they do not know what to do. They have heard from people whose pipes froze or their roof was leaking. One person’s husband needed a wheelchair ramp to get in the house. Another had a broken window. One person needed brakes repaired. Another needed their home locks changed.
“We do so many broad things that grant people don’t see a value in, but the people we work with are at the end of their rope and they see a huge value in what we do,” Singer said.
To help bring in more financial resources, Clarke and Singer hope to develop more partnerships with businesses in the community. They already partner on and off with local businesses in auto repair, towing and electrical. Some volunteers have connections or expertise in certain areas. There are mechanics who can help with some auto and home repairs. There is a plumber.
Clarke said they would love to form a partnership with a moving van company and a dumpster company because they help clean out hoarder houses.
Woodward recalled one woman in Ham Lake who had hoarded cats for about 40 years. All of her stuff in her mobile home was covered in a thick layer of cat fur.
Chris Harper of Blaine has helped with moves, house painting, yard cleanups and cleaning hoarders’ houses, for example. For him, seeing the reaction from the people they help is what he enjoys the most.
“You see the gratitude in their eyes,” Harper said. “It’s hard to put it into words.”
For more information about Beyond Horizons, visit www.beyondhorizons.org.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]