Nonprofit Stories: Metropolitan Ministries

Start by looking at their faces.

It happens less often than you realize, and if you think they don’t notice — well, think again. The lobby at Metropolitan Ministries, known as “MetMin” to its friends, is more like a doctor’s waiting room. Its clients are a diverse mix of members of our community, who have fallen on hard times.

And unfortunately, these members of our community are too often ignored. The staff and volunteers at MetMin have a simple goal — for this never to happen, to anyone. To make our community more hospitable to those whose lives are characterized by poverty.

“Everything we do is built on compassion, kindness, and mutual respect,” says Rebecca Whelchel, MetMin’s director.

Their methods are simple, too, and intensely practical — they provide food boxes through the Food Bank, help guests call utility companies and landlords to negotiate fair payment plans, and work with other agencies to provide long-term strengthening and support.

Some are experiencing a one-time challenge with paying utility bills or buying groceries — after the tornadoes of 2011 tore through Chattanooga, MetMin was one of the first on the ground to help. Others who visit their offices are are in a chronic struggle with achieving self-sufficiency. Everyone is welcome.

What began as a mission venture of the Episcopal Church, ready to serve Chattanooga’s who found themselves in in need for any reason, has grown into the hub at the center of partner agencies throughout the region, all focused on basic care that helps prevent homelessness and foster hope. A safety net, for people who have exhausted all of their other options.

In recent years, the Community Foundation has given practical, everyday help to MetMin, including funding for a handicapped access bathroom at the McCallie Road offices, and outside benching so guests can wait for assistance in greater comfort. But the Foundation have also given strategic consulting and support.

“At MetMin, we see neighbors when they are in times of need. The Foundation has been there right alongside us in those times — but also in more halcyon times, when study, analysis, and conversation better brace the community for the next inevitable trials.”

The old saints believed: Act, and God acts. The new saints are no different.