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ST. MARYS — It was a busy weekend for the Resource and Opportunity Center in St. Marys.
A 5K Saturday morning raised funds for the center, the proceeds of Christian music festival Waynestock went to the cause and on Sunday, founders Joe and Bev Hurlburt rounded out the week serving a weekly free supper. As the ROC creeps up on its first birthday Oct. 1, the founders can look back at how the center has grown into its mission of giving people the resources they need to make success for themselves.
“We started out on a Sunday with three people,” Bev Hurlburt said of the Sunday suppers. “And now we average 25.”
What’s also been surprising she said is not so much numbers growing as relationships. Where once she served supper to strangers, they’re now people she knows by name. She said she thinks there’s a misconception that the center serves only people who are hungry for a hot meal, but it’s more about fellowship, she said.
In the fall, the center will expand to have a group called the After-the-Supper Gang, for praise, prayer and sharing.
“Our motto is, ‘It’s OK not to be OK,’” Bev Hurlburt said.
Since meals start at 5 p.m., the group will meet at 6:30 p.m.
So far the center has helped at least 20 people navigate their job search, has assisted those who want to get a GED and has found temporary housing for a homeless person who had been living in a shed.
“There’s usually a problem when people can’t find a job, either a past circumstance, a felony or a handicap,” Bev Hurlburt said.
Showing people how to hunt for jobs online is something the Hurlburts offer, along with an open computer any time during business hours or by appointment. Joe Hurlburt said one of the struggles for people who have been out of the job market for a long time is how much things have moved online, from finding the openings to applying for positions.
“We can also help them compose a resume and do a practice interview,” Hurlburt said. “Some people haven’t interviewed in forever. We try to equip them with the tools they need.”
Unemployment is rampant in this economy, he said, but beyond that he noted there are life skills some people need help learning like budgeting money. Often getting paid once at the beginning of the month leaves people running out of money midway through and relying on services.
The goal, Hurlburt said, is to increase skills that reduce that need and promote independence. The proceeds from Waynestock will support computer and technology purchases for people who are learning those job skills along with basic operations.
“At the beginning, we learned there’s more need than people realized,” Hurlburt said. “People in the community are hurting.” Hurlburt said people think things like homelessness only happen in bigger cities, but St. Marys has those problems, too.
What was interesting for the Hurlburts was that they knew they wanted to be in the mission field, and had opened themselves up to move anywhere in the country, but the opportunities in other places like North Dakota and the Appalachian Mountains never materialized.
That’s when they realized, Bev Hurlburt said, that they were called to serve the area, the area her husband loved and grew up in. She said even in college, when he lived in Toledo, her husband came back to the area every weekend because he loved where he grew up.
“This is what we should have been doing all along,” she said.