In Atypical Year, 2020 Annual Report Focuses on Ways CHHSM and Its Member Adapt and Serve with ‘Justice and Grace — Together’
The UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries announced June 24 the release of its 2020 Annual Report. The online report centers on the responses of CHHSM and its member ministries to the dual public health crises of the past year: COVID-19 and systemic racism.
The report is focused on the theme, “Justice and Grace — Together,” also the theme of the 2020 Annual Gathering in Memphis, the last in-person gathering before the pandemic shut down “business as usual” across the globe. More than the typical recitation of facts and figures, it features stories from member ministries across the United States and how they have remained true to their mission and responded with faith and courage amidst the crises.
“When we gathered for the CHHSM Annual Gathering in March 2020, we were just beginning to hear the disturbing news about the coronavirus pandemic,” said Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO. “On the heels of finding ways to continue serving others in health and human services, our attention was drawn to the violence, murders, and denial of public health services because of systemic racism. The combination of the two pandemics shaped our work in ways we could not have anticipated.”
The report highlights the unique approaches CHHSM board members, staff and agencies served local communities across the country, but also began the difficult work of becoming anti-racist.
COVID stories include such locations as Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Miss., finding ways to re-open safely — with protocols in place — as soon as possible after the initial pandemic shut down in order to continue to serve its clients; Hugging Booths at Phoebe Allentown (Pa.) to boost the health and well-being of its older adult residents; and United Caring Services in Evansville, Ind., managing to stay open, thanks to essential staff and a host of neighbors volunteering their time.
To combat systemic racism, CHHSM’s Board, staff and members first issued a Statement on the Pandemic of Systemic Racism. Among the actions steps CHHSM took in 2020 based on that statement were grants to grassroots organizations battling systemic racism and the creation of an online Anti-Racism resource center.
CHHSM members, like Advocate Aurora Health, based in Illinois and Wisconsin, released similar statements against systemic racism, often with other groups in their local communities. The report also lifts up important work being done by UCAN in Chicago and Orion Family Services in Madison, Wis., where staff member Niquanna Barnett — a CHHSM Nollau Institute graduate — holds “Understanding Historical Trauma” workshops in her community and region.
CHHSM is comprised of 431 health and human service programs and communities across the United States. In 2020 alone, CHHSM members provided $1billion in uncompensated, charitable care to more than 2,840,000 children, youth, families, older adults, and veterans.
Each CHHSM member “represents a mission of justice and grace that has been called on over the past year to put self aside and risk [one’s] own health and your company’s assets to continue serving [local] communities. Being together in a common ministry of justice and grace is one of the most important things about the work of CHHSM,” wrote Readinger and CHHSM Board President Abbreial Drane, president and CEO of Bellewood & Brooklawn/Seven Counties Services in Louisville, Ky., in the Annual Report’s introduction. “May we all continue to have faith in the future that God brings us and be present and focused in our actions every day.”
The Rev. George Graham, CHHSM’s vice president, sees the current work of CHHSM and its members as the continuation of a long tradition of service, even through tumultuous times.
“Many of our member ministries were founded in the crucible of crisis response. Leaning into mission in order to provide support to those in need is part of our members’ DNA,” Graham said. “May our ministries continue to offer signs of hope and love in a world that so desperately needs them.”
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