The Two-Way Street

Pastor McDougal, center, with Well Member on left and Jeff Lane, Well Board Member on right.

When you think of a nonprofit organization or ministry outreach, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the help provided to the people who receive services. We also consider how volunteers impact the lives of those who benefit from the activities. We want to know how donor dollars make a difference for those in need. But what if we turn that around and ask, “How is the community influenced by the those who receive services? How does the work of the nonprofit make its neighbors better people?”

We took that approach recently when talking with Dr. Brent McDougal, senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church, where The Well Community has housed its Community Life Center for 17 years. We wanted to know, “How has The Well Community helped to make Cliff Temple the kind of church it is today?”

Since the beginning, when Joel Pulis was on staff with Cliff Temple and founded The Well Community, the partnership was a natural fit for the church. McDougal explains: “Cliff Temple seeks to be a ‘big tent’ kind of church, caring for people whom Jesus cares for, in the ways he would. We seek to minister to people, not just spiritually, but the whole person, including their physical and emotional needs.” According to McDougal, the goal of outreach at Cliff Temple is to help others reach a place of independence. By renting out part of their building to The Well and by regular connection with Well Members, Cliff Temple is able to participate in The Well’s work to help those living with severe mental illnesses find stability and hope. Another outreach is Cliff Temple’s Mission Oak Cliff, which provides emergency food and clothing to families in the North Oak Cliff area, and offers counseling, advocacy services and educational opportunities.

While it is one thing to provide space and services to groups giving care, it a different thing to see how interactions with recipients change a congregation. Over the eight years he has been at Cliff Temple, McDougal has seen how connecting with members of The Well Community has demonstrated over and over again that caring for others is a two-way street. “There is a richness The Well members bring to the life of our church. As we worship side by side, we have learned that more than ‘people we help,’ they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, from whom we can learn deeper compassion and understanding,” says McDougal.

As an example, McDougal shares an encounter he had with one of The Well members. He and Johnny* had been at odds with each other over a number of things, over a number of years. But one day they had a chance meeting in the neighborhood and were able to have an honest conversation. McDougal learned things about Johnny that changed his understanding of Johnny’s struggles with mental illness and with life. In return, the pastor was able to be transparent about some of his own challenges. “In that conversation,” McDougal explains, “we both realized that we each have areas of brokenness and pain. I was honored that he invited me into his life as he shared with me. It created a strong bond between us. There are still difficulties in our relationship, but we are able relate better now.”

McDougal has this counsel for other churches: “When your groups volunteer at The Well they will find themselves growing in compassion and developing a deeper empathy for people all across the community. They will be able to learn the connections between homelessness, health crises, poverty, incarceration and mental illness. They will have a chance to engage with others in a personal way.”

McDougal believes that there is great power in community. “By working through our struggles together at a deeper level we find that we have the strength to keep going.”

According to McDougal, a few ways pastors can help their churches become stronger caring communities include:

  • Be mindful that more people in your congregation are impacted by mental illness than you might think.
  • Regularly acknowledge the real struggles of depression and severe mental health conditions.
  • Have referral information and facts about mental illness handy, and know how to direct people to helpful resources.
  • Teach your congregation to extend acceptance before expecting people to change.
  • Be willing to adjust expectations, attitudes and schedules in order to care well.
  • Help your congregation communicate hope to those who are dealing with mental health difficulties.

McDougal also believes the Church can help address the issue of stigma related to mental illnesses. “There is no silver bullet to solve the stigma problem. It takes effort. We have to suspend judgment and move from talking to listening.” He says we should all be advocates for greater resources to support care for those who deal with mental illnesses. “I would love for [Executive Director] Alice and her staff at The Well Community to have all the resources they need.”

You and your church or civic group could become a channel for resourcing The Well Community. To learn about volunteer opportunities, contact volunteer@wellcommunity.org or to make a donation, click here

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to learn more about The Well Community, mental illnesses and how you can make a difference in the lives of those who deal daily with mental health challenges.

*Name changed

 

A Well World: Sustaining Service

In my career serving with nonprofits, I have found that one of the most critical elements for success, yet one of the most challenging to lay hold of, is a cadre of volunteers who are both faithful and proactive. At The Well Community we are fortunate to have a host of such people who work alongside us to bring about good for Well Members.

The Well Auxiliary started just a few years ago but has already made a huge difference. Made up of about 50 individuals, the group regularly serves meals, sponsors events and provides support for the activities of The Well. Continue reading

An Ambassador for The Well

Margy at the 2018 Well Community Christmas Party

Margy was already a regular volunteer at The Well Community, but she knew she wanted to do more. She first heard about the numerous ways The Well serves those living with serious mental illnesses at church as Vickie Fisk, who would eventually found The Well Auxiliary, regularly shared the need for donations and volunteers. Several times Margy answered the call as she joined others from the church to serve dinner at Thursday Night Life, The Well’s weekly worship service for members. Continue reading

Five Ways The Well Auxiliary Helps Healing Happen

The Well Auxiliary members Becky Hicks and Vickie Fisk with volunteer Jackie Hatton

This month The Well Auxiliary begins its fourth year of serving The Well Community. The Auxiliary was formed in 2016 as a means for volunteers to develop additional avenues to assist The Well Community and to find new ways to help members thrive. For the Auxiliary 2018 was a year filled with service, fundraising, planning and preparing for another year of blessing Well Community members through its efforts.

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A Well World: Acute Awareness

In these closing days of 2018 I have been thinking about the people who call The Well Community their place to belong. And I’ve been thinking about what their year might have been like if we hadn’t been able to offer this safe, welcoming place and these much-needed services to our members.

It’s a sobering reflection, which leads me to two other thoughts:

First, how real it is that without support of individuals, churches, community groups and foundations, The Well would not exist. That would mean the people who belong to the Well—who struggle with severe and persistent mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression—would continue to be overlooked and un-served.

People like…

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Christmas Celebration

Our annual Christmas Celebration was a great success, thanks to donors and volunteers. Like all activities and programs at The Well Community, the meaningful worship service and festive holiday party happened because the wider community turned out to help.

Special thanks for the meal to volunteers from Cliff Temple Baptist Church, Kessler Park United Methodist Church, St. Jude’s Church and The Well Auxiliary. Brent McDougal, pastor of Cliff Temple, and members of their choir lead the worship time, along with members of The Well. Our backpacks filled with personal care items came from donors to Body Oak Cliff, and gift cards came through donations to The Well Auxiliary.

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Recovery Live: Oh! What a night!

Our sixth annual Recovery Live! fundraiser was a smashing success. Take a look at the slide show below to see just a quick recap of the fun, which featured music by the Texas Gypsies with Master of Ceremonies, Brett Shipp. Our special thanks to Co-Chairs, Brooke and Jason Moser and to the sponsors, host committee, volunteers and vendors. To check out photo both pix click here.

And if you missed the fun, it’s not too late to add your donation
to support The Well Community!

This great photography is by Mary Katherine McElroy!

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Basic Blessings

Like many of you, my Thanksgiving Day tradition includes taking some time to count my blessings. So many are obvious: good health, loving family, ample food, a warm home, faithful friends, a great neighborhood, an uplifting church, meaningful work. I suspect most of those items are on your list, too. In fact, for most of us, if we’re not careful to stop and take inventory from time to time, we’re likely to take those good gifts for granted. Continue reading