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As a secondary math and science teacher in Graham County, Misty Shope has helped a lot of students learn critical life skills. But over the past 21 years, her students have taught her a thing or two as well. Like how difficult it is to learn when you don’t have enough food to eat. Or why you must miss school when you are waiting for your hand-washed clothes to dry. Or why extra-curricular activities aren’t an option because your family has no reliable way to pick you up.
These life lessons aren’t uncommon in her rural school where 75% percent of students live at or below the poverty level. They helped shape Misty’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to meet the need at hand. Whether that means keeping a ready supply of snacks in her classroom or volunteering with her church’s food ministry and helping to serve over 300 community meals a week and sometimes more.
As her community’s needs grew during the pandemic, so did her church’s vision. They decided to incorporate Five Point Center as a secular non-profit to make it clear they were there to support the entire community, not just church members. The center’s board, which included Misty and her mother Michelle Shiplet, began to explore other community needs like digital literacy and access to computers and broadband. They partnered with local organizations to provide support for single parents, individuals in unsafe relationships, and those using substances.
When Impact Health began accepting applications for community-based service providers to join the Healthy Opportunities Pilot (HOP) network, it caught the board’s attention.
“This is exactly what we had been trying to do,” Misty shares. “We wanted to work with the whole person. HOP gives us the opportunity to address so many things at one time – you can really impact someone’s life.”
This impact has taken many forms for clients working with Five Point Center.
For Joanne, it meant being able to sleep better after cancer pain forced her to stay in a recliner for more than a year. Thanks to a new mattress purchased through HOP, she has been able to rest comfortably in her bed again. For another single mom, it meant being able to afford a birthday cake for her child because her healthy food box included milk and bread. For others, it means being able to breathe easily again knowing their utilities won’t be cut off or they can repair their leaking roof.
“These are people who are working hard every day,” Misty explains. “Knowing someone is in your corner and cares about you can make all the difference. It can help you breathe again.”
Misty’s mother Michelle couldn’t agree more. As a pastor of a local church and director of several nonprofit initiatives, she understands the importance of seeing the humanity behind the need. “These people aren’t clients, they’re our neighbors. Our goal is to give them some dignity. I believe touching the human spirit is more important than just touching the body,” Michelle shares.
–Misty Shope, Graham County teacher
“We see all the good HOP is doing in our community,” she adds. “We see the worry that has fallen off of folks. They can smile and pay their bills and get to their job. HOP allows us to give them a hand up.”
In fact, many hands are at hard at work behind the scenes at Five Point Center.
Three times a week, two staff members drive an hour and a half round trip to purchase enough groceries to fill healthy food boxes for 75 families. HOP helped the center purchase the van that makes these trips possible. When they return, HOP staff fill the fellowship center’s tables with fresh produce, healthy proteins, grains and other nutritious staples and begin assembling boxes with each family’s dietary needs and preferences in mind. Meanwhile, Misty stays busy answering calls, enrolling new participants, and making referrals to other service providers to ensure people are getting the support they need.
One of the center’s HOP participants recently shared, “My son has struggled since birth, and we now need to make our home handicapped accessible. If it had not been for this wonderful program, I don’t know if we could have afforded to do all the home improvements he needs.”
“I work a full-time job and pay all my bills,” another participant shared. “It is really tough sometimes, and this program helps me and my kids more than anyone knows.”
Misty notes that there are many stories like these from community members who just need a little extra help, who need to know they are not alone, and that there are opportunities for making their lives better.
Thanks to Five Point Center and HOP, there are.