The Monday Top 10 delves into the minds of some of the Modesto region’s movers and shakers.
This week, we feature Elizabeth Greenlee-Harrison, CEO of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Modesto. The organization works as a group of faith-based congregations, organizations and individuals to help people in the community who are in need of food, clothing and other services.
Greenlee-Harrison shares 10 things you may not know about Interfaith Ministries:
1. We exist! We joke that we’re Modesto’s best-kept secret, but we are working to change that. Before I came to IFM, I had heard the name but had no idea what the organization did – our name doesn’t exactly give it away. We feed, clothe and provide humanitarian aid to the underserved in Stanislaus County and have been serving the Greater Modesto area for more than 40 years. We directly serve over 40,000 people a year, so it’s safe to say it isn’t a secret from everyone.
2. We don’t exist in a silo: We maintain strong partnerships with organizations across every sector. We partner with Doctors Medical Center, the Salvation Army, county programs, Get Fit, United Way, the Center for Human Services, and too many organizations, businesses and congregations to list. I can’t name a single program that isn’t touched by at least one partner. This community is incredibly collaborative and I think that defies some common misconceptions.
3. Donating cash isn’t the only way to give back: Monetary donations are important, and I think our donors feel really great about giving to us because our administrative costs hover right around 1 percent, but there are a lot of ways to make an impact if writing a check isn’t your thing. We have volunteers ages 8 to 90. It is no exaggeration to say we would not exist without them. We also rely heavily on donations of healthy foods, produce, clothes and household items. Your time and your unused stuff can change lives, too.
We have volunteers ages 8 to 90. It is no exaggeration to say we would not exist without them.
Elizabeth Greenlee-Harrison, CEO of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Modesto
4. We feed Modesto, but not like you think: There are some wonderful places in town that provide hot meals for the homeless. We aren’t one of them. Our food pantry provides a three- to five-day emergency supply of groceries to low-income households. When there is more month than money, we provide food you can cook at home. Volunteers bag your groceries based on dietary needs, family size and even preference.
5. We serve those who serve: Our Food Coalition is a group of over 70 organizations, churches and schools that receive our “excess” donated food and distribute it in after-school programs, lunch trucks, pantries, etc. Through this program, we are able to provide food countywide, at no cost, to these smaller, neighborhood-based programs.
6. The clothes closet isn’t a thrift store: It’s better! Our clients are able to shop in our clean, organized and attractively displayed clothes closet once a month, at absolutely no cost, ever. We provide clean, wearable, (often new) clothing and shoes, as well as some bedding, diapers, hygiene items and more in an environment intentionally managed to create a positive consumer experience.
7. Our Free Mobile Farmers Market is exceeding expectations: It was in my first few days on the job that I learned that most of our low-income neighborhoods didn’t have ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We had a cooler trailer, lots of fresh produce and a very obvious solution, so we developed a program to take a mobile produce stand into these “food desert” areas to give it away. We excitedly hoped to serve about 300 unduplicated individuals in the first year. From February to June, we served 16-plus tons of fresh produce to 4,500 people, and the numbers are steadily growing.
From February to June, Interfaith served 16-plus tons of fresh produce to 4,500 people through its Free Mobile Farmers Market.
8. We mindfully cultivate a culture of respect: We call it a culture of “yes.” It is our policy not to make policies that prevent people from getting the services they need, and to adapt to the needs of each individual. Our clientele is accustomed to fighting through red tape and dehumanizing bureaucracy. We make every effort to support a culture among employees and volunteers that encourages us to find creative solutions to individual needs and to treat every client with humanity, kindness and dignity.
9. This work is important: We provide food to the unemployed, underemployed, disabled, veterans, elderly and the very young, filling an emergency need so that their energy can be used in learning, parenting, working or looking for work. We believe that every person has a right to this most basic human provision. The majority of the households we serve are families with children, who deserve every chance at a healthy future. This is not an issue of greed or laziness; it is an issue of public health and quality of life. Addressing nutrition is the single most effective way to combat diabetes, obesity and malnutrition.
10. We are committed to doing what we do, only better: Before my time, our clothes closet was transformed from a room full of bags for people to dig through for something that would fit, into a boutique-style shop, pleasant to visit and easy to navigate. With this legacy in mind, we have taken on the task of evaluating all of our programs with an eye towards focused growth – not outward, but upward. Some changes are subtle, and some have been major, but if you haven’t toured our facility in the last year, I encourage you to do so. You will see that we have taken steps to improve the quality of our services, facilities and processes. The nature of grants makes it enticing for nonprofits to constantly create new programs, but we are committed to instead be the best we can at the things we do well: clothing and feeding those in need. In the coming months, we will bear that in mind as we announce a major overhaul to a principal program … because “good enough” just isn’t good enough.
Pat Clark: 209-578-2312