Stories and photos by Krystal Vivian

1. Your donations will help serve thousands of meals to people in need for the next year

At Faith Mission, “feeding is our biggest program,” said Mike Perez, resource and development director for the mission. More than 200,000 hot meals are served at Faith Mission every year. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to residents and non-residents can stop in for lunch and dinner.

“It’s not soup and sandwiches either,” Perez said. “It’s good, quality homemade food.” The cooks at Faith Mission also prepare hot meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays that are served at churches in Nappanee and Middlebury.

The Center for the Homeless also serves hot breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day to its residents. Stuff-A-Bus donations are sorted at the Center, then used for meals in the kitchen. “We also give some items away in care packages our residents get when they move out,” Taya Groover, chief development officer for the Center, said.

In addition to Faith Mission and the Center for the Homeless, Stuff-A-Bus donations will also benefit food pantries at Adamsville Road Church of God, the Niles Salvation Army, The Window in Goshen, the Goshen Salvation Army, Church Community Services in Elkhart, Heminger House in Plymouth, Greater St. Matthew Church in South Bend and the Family Christian Development Center in Nappanee.

2. It’s as easy as taking items to the grocery store

Put together a box or bag of donations by simply going through your cabinets. You can also buy items at the store to donate!

3. It’s a great opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of giving back.

Donating to Stuff-A-Bus is fun, especially when you stop by a store while 103.9 The Bear is there. While gathering your donations, you can talk to your kids about why giving is so great. It makes you feel good and you know you’re helping people who really need it. Then you can actually give back together, putting your words into actions.

4. You’re helping organizations that help homeless people get off the streets

The Center for the Homeless has beds for 78 single men, 24 single women, 24 male veterans and 22 families. The Center also oversees a house for 10 men, a home for four women and the 15 apartments and townhomes that serve as transitional housing for people who are almost ready to live in their own homes, Groover said. The Center recently received a federal grant that will allow them to provide 17 more apartments and townhouses for transitional housing.

Faith Mission has 114 beds for single men, 24 for single women and 8 family rooms, plus four two-bedroom apartments where people sign a one-year lease

Both organizations have winter amnesty programs, where they offer extra cots and mats to homeless people who need a place to sleep during the cold months in the winter.

5. You can do it anytime through Saturday

You don’t have to wait to donate. Boxes are already set up at 18 Martin’s Super Markets locations in South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Goshen, Plymouth, Granger, Nappanee and Niles. Donate your items during regular Martin’s hours through Saturday, Nov. 5.


6. These organizations do way more than just provide shelter and food

Faith Mission and the Center for the Homeless both provide services for all parts of their guests’ lives, and work to make sure their residents leave with life skills and support systems that will help them be self-sufficient.

When a person visits Faith Mission for the first time, they sign in and the Elkhart Police Department runs a wants and warrants check on them. People convicted of sexual assault or arson or who are being sought by police can’t stay at Faith Mission.

If the person is cleared by the police department, they get a clothing voucher to shop at the thrift store on Main Street, Perez said. They’re also served a hot meal, invited to attend chapel and can take a shower (the shower is available to anyone, not just Faith Mission residents).

After 14 days, the person must join one of two programs: a faith-based program that takes 12 to 18 months to complete or a secular goals-focused program that takes 6 to 12 months to complete. Both programs focus on teaching skills that will help people find a home and be self-sufficient, and both programs demand accountability. When a person completes the program, Faith Mission helps them find permanent housing.

Residents also must do their own laundry and pay weekly rent. If for some reason they can’t afford rent, they have to work a certain number of hours at Faith Mission. They must also follow rules such as no drug and alcohol use (Faith Mission does drug test for all drugs, including synthetic marijuana, and breathalyze residents) and meet curfews. If residents leave for an extended period of time, Faith Mission must be able to verify their destination. If residents are going to be late for their curfew, they have to call ahead or else they lose their bed.

“Everything at Faith Mission is about accountability,” Perez said.

At the Center for the Homeless, each individual or family who walks in is also treated like an emergency at first. They’re directed to a bed, showers and laundry. They meet with a counselor — called a coach at the Center — who helps them developing a self-sufficiency plan. They’re assigned a chore and are given a list of 16 rules they must follow, such as not using drugs or alcohol and meeting curfews, or else they lose their bed.

After 45 days, every person staying at the Center must pay rent of $10 per month or do work at the Center beyond their basic chores.

The Center offers a host of programs to residents depending on their needs, Groover said, including adult education, relationship counseling, anger management, mental health and substance abuse treatment, peer mentoring, family services and budgeting classes. The Center also offers tracked programs called HOME (Helping Our Moms Excel), STAR (Skilled, Trained, Able and Ready) and SOSH (Starting Over/Stepping Higher) that each focus on setting goals and becoming independent.

Beyond the programs, the Center also offers community to its residents, something that can be hard to find for homeless people. There are common areas for women, men, children and teens, an outdoor play area for young children, a library filled with books, athletic space outside. A chapel is available for self-meditation, group Bible study and prayer, and there are often events hosted for residents in the evenings.

There’s also a satellite campus for The Montessori Academy Edison Lakes, where residents past and presents can send their children through kindergarten.

“We were the first homeless shelter in the country with an in-house Montessori school,” Groover said. “We’re still the only one in Indiana.”

7. Did we mention how easy it is?

Seriously, it’s almost harder NOT to donate to Stuff-A-Bus than it is to donate. Just take your box of food and personal hygiene items to one of 18 local Martin’s Super Markets location anytime through Saturday, Nov. 5.

Plus, 103.9 The Bear will be at the Sanford School Road store in Elkhart and the South Bend Avenue store in South Bend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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