|Small office provides big services|
|Written by BILL RYAN, Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Friday, 23 May 2014 08:08|
Say the word "Wam" (Wham) and it can conjure up countless images depending on to whom you are talking. From a village in Pakistan to a 1980s British pop music duo. From a noise like a thud to endless acronyms for various organizations near and far.
Locally WAM stands for a dedicated group of volunteers from area churches who comprise the Wood (County) Area Ministries. The collaborative organization is financially supported by several churches with a goal to serve the needs of people throughout Wood County and beyond.
As previously published, WAM recently completed what has now become an annual event called "Feed the 5,000." This year a dozen or more churches gathered food staples during the Lenten season to help feed hungry residents through various food pantries.
WAM coordinates its efforts with other church and civic groups in the county, including Perrysburg Christians United, which holds a similar food drive each year.
Beyond the annual food drive, WAM seeks to assist people in a variety of ways.
"We focus on meeting people's basic human needs," Erin Hachtel, former chairman of WAM added.
While WAM is based in Bowling Green, they serve anyone living in the area as well as transients as they pass through.
Jo Tutolo, the volunteer coordinator with WAM, says their organization thrives on its connections with service agencies and those they serve.
"The more we can communicate with others, the better," Tutolo said.
The vast majority of funds donated primarily from eight churches are funneled directly to those in need.
"There is no rent and no paid staff, it's completely volunteer," Tutolo said.
Hachtel quickly added, "Even our printing is donated. We have minimal expenses."
Tutolo brags, "Our office is literally in a closet. We have a filing cabinet, a desk and chair, a phone and a computer. We use a laundry basket for a waste basket. We don't spend frivolously."
That closet is located at St. Mark's Lutheran Church.
Both women also noted another key aspect of the ministry is the follow up calls.
"We have folks who call the people who have received assistance. We want to check to see if they are alright," Hachtel said.
They work with the local furniture pantry, the Deacons' Closet, the Salvation Army, the Cocoon Shelter and various other sources to meet the needs of people.
"Wood County works great together. It's really a huge blessing and a great example of what can be accomplished," Hachtel added.
Tutolo shared a story on one of the most unusual and complex efforts to serve. A woman and her four small children were being served by the Cocoon Shelter, but needed to relocate across the country for their safety.
While the woman had a car, there was no easy way to transport all her belongings and her family that distance.
The creative solution was to pack the car with all the family belongings.
"We hired a transport and shipped her car," Tutolo said as the family traveled by train to their new home.
"There's not an agency that does that," Hachtel added.
Tutolo also bragged on another aspect of WAM which distinguishes itself from some agencies.
"When we commit to someone it's not just a pledge. We have the funds and a check is written that day. If we say we are going to pay, we do it," she affirmed.
WAM does not provide any cash assistance. Any assistance is paid to the landlord, utility office, etc.
Their first goal is to meet someone's physical needs such as food, clothing and shelter. From there, they can also assist or help with other needs the family may have.
In their follow up, Tutolo says their volunteer callers will also ask as the final question, "Are there any spiritual needs?"
There is no obligation for requirement for any religious belief system nor judgment on those who do not believe.
"I am amazed at how many people will open up and share about their past history with churches. Most of the time they say 'yes' that they are interested in reconnecting with a church," she added.
The ministry is currently looking to expand its base of churches who will support the ministry as well as more volunteers.
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