Cooperative Christian Ministry helps homeless go back to school

  • Posted: Friday, September 14, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, September 14, 2012 2:45 p.m.

CONCORD - For Carol Hamm, being homeless is just a part of who she is.
"It's my life now and that's OK," says the cheerful 56-year-old, sitting at the only emergency night shelter in Cabarrus County. "It's not going to be forever."
Hamm and others like her are taking steps to emerge from homelessness and improve their situation in life - and hopefully encourage others to do the same. Cooperative Christian Ministry's crisis programs encourage individuals to engage in activities that will provide solutions to their crisis.
The mission of Cooperative Christian Ministry is to provide immediate assistance to members of our community who are experiencing crisis in the areas of food, shelter or finances, while providing them access to resources that will empower them to move beyond crisis.
Currently, Hamm is only one of three women in the homeless programs of CCM who are going back to school. The National Honor Society inductee wants to be a Christian counselor and is working through the transfer program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Bernadette Carballo is participating in CCM's Teaching Housing Program while finishing her degree in teaching at UNC-Charlotte. Luanita "Tootie" Pendleton is participating in CCM's shelter program and is in the associates program at RCCC, with the goal of becoming substance abuse counselor.
Hamm first came to CCM's emergency shelter on January 1, 2010, after losing her job and not being able to find another. Since she couldn't stay at the shelter all day, she would leave and go volunteer places. She tutored young children, spent time at the library and volunteered with the American Red Cross "to keep myself busy."
Marshall Smith, Shelter and Housing Manager for CCM, saw a spark in Hamm and worked with her to help her become the Soup Kitchen Coordinator for CCM. She also works as House Mother at the Mothers & Children Housing Ministry. Now in her second year of school - and a newly inducted member of the National Honor Society at RCCC - Hamm is passionate about encouraging others to move beyond their own personal crisis by sharing her story. At school, she often tells her classmates about her life. "You always have to tell somebody a little bit about yourself," she says.
"I'm not ashamed of it," she adds. "I'm just a normal human being. That's how homeless people want to be treated. I think we all have common ground in life experiences."
For Tootie Pendleton, going back to school is like receiving "the greatest gift ever." She went to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College only a few days before school was starting back, and the last day applications were being accepted.
"God said, 'Go fill out the application Tootie,' " says the cheerful woman, who also volunteers at Cooperative Christian Ministry when she is not at school. She figured she would not be approved because it was the last day of the application process and more information would be needed. "It was instantly approved. God put his hand in it.
"I can't believe I've gotten in," she says. "This is something that I've wanted to do for a while. I lacked the motivation then to make it happen."
Tootie became homeless after her landlord found out she had two others living with her that weren't on the lease. After being kicked out, she stayed at a hotel. In 2009, she served a year in prison. The recovering addict admits she made some bad decisions, but in April, she decided it was time to make some changes.
"I'm actually doing something for myself now," says Tootie. She's been clean eight months and is going to get her two year associate's degree at RCCC before transferring to a four-year college. Her ambition is to become a drug and alcohol abuse counselor. She goes to school eight hours a day, two days a week. The other three days, she can be found volunteering for CCM. "I like helping people and it makes you feel good to be able to help somebody else out."
"Teaching people to persevere through crisis leads to hope, and hope drives people to believe in a better tomorrow," says CCM's Executive Director Ed Hosack. "A little faith and hard work can change things."
For more information, contact Shelter and Housing Manager Marshall Smith at 704-239-7265 or msmith@cooperativeministry.com

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