On June 14, Gemeinschaft Home hosted an event to install a 25.0 kilowatts solar panel system on the main house and program building. A project spearheaded by Give Solar (http://give.solar), a local organization led by Jeff Heie, in collaboration with community partners, including general contractors and solar energy service Green Hill Solar (http://greenhillsolar.org), the “solar barn-raising” combined the efforts of community experts, volunteers, and Gemeinschaft Home residents to install the panels in one afternoon.
The project will enable Gemeinschaft Home to save about 80% of current energy costs (approximately $5,000 each year for up to 25 years) that can be used instead to support the organization’s programs and services. A significant part of Give Solar’s mission is to help fundraise for the project, with as little output of resources from the organization as possible, as well as to coordinate with professional contractors and solar energy experts to ensure the appropriate installation and maintenance of each system.
Over the last few years, Give Solar has provided solar panel installations for Eastern Mennonite University, Gift & Thrift, and Our Community Place (OCP) in Harrisonburg. Specifically, Give Solar seeks to help nonprofits in which those served by the organization can immediately benefit from the solar system installation. Because our program participants either live full-time or receive direct services at Gemeinschaft Home, the organization was selected by Give Solar as a project recipient.
The total cost of Gemeinschaft Home’s solar system installation was $32,310 ($1.29/kw). Starting with a grant from the Merck Foundation, Give Solar raised additional funds through large contributions from community sponsors, as well as small gifts from crowdfunding sources and in-kind donations, for a total amount of $25,009. While we ultimately fell short of the total fundraising goal, the energy savings that the organization will see over the next couple years will cover the difference, while still providing energy savings overall.
On July 19, Gemeinschaft Home hosted a formal ceremony to turn on the solar system—or “flip the switch”—and the electrical system of the house immediately began to make use of energy generated by the new system. We are proud of this project and ever grateful to the people who made it possible, from the generous contributors to the volunteers who gave their time, energy, and labor. Thank you for helping us to make our community stronger and better equipped to serve others.
Gemeinschaft Home's New Canine Friend
Animal companions are a source of comfort in our lives; people living with pets, who often greet them when they come home each day, have claims to lower blood pressure, less stress, and a near constant source of love and affection in their lives.
During their time at Gemeinschaft Home, residents are not allowed to own pets, but, fortunately, there is still a way for them to experience the benefits of interacting with one, thanks to a new opportunity generously provided by Kathryn (Kasia) Rathgeber and Judi, a therapy dog.
With a vivacious personality and a great smile (see photos), Judi exudes warmth and a clear sense of purpose when she arrives at Gemeinschaft Home, usually on Friday afternoons, which happens the instant Kasia puts on her therapy dog jacket.
Judi is a certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs—she is not a service dog—and provides emotional support and affection to anyone who encounters her. There is never a set agenda during her visits; instead, she trots from room to room, seeking interaction with people who in return give her lots of attention and cuddles. Judi always brings a positive vibe and leaves those she visits with a smile.
Residents have responded positively to Judi and ask about her when she has not visited for a little while. Her energy is contagious!
Through a partnership with Give Solar (http://give.solar) and a grant from the Merck Foundation, Gemeinschaft Home is getting ready to install a solar panel system on the premises this spring. Gemeinschaft Home is one of two community organizations to be selected for this project, which will save us thousands of dollars each year in energy cost savings. Jeffrey Heie is leading the initiative to coordinate grant support with crowd-funding revenue and major donations to support the project. He is also in the process of organizing labor, with the help of local contractors and volunteers, to begin construction in May. Make a donation today!
A program that began in Fall 2017, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, JMU Music and Social Work faculty and students continue working together on a songwriting and storytelling project that help educate the broader community about the issues facing incarcerated individuals and their transition back into society. Robby McCoubrey is in charge of the program this year, meeting with residents on a weekly basis, in conjunction with students who assist in the project. The group occasionally performs in the community, providing a productive way for local citizens to learn about our residents.
In the Fall of 2018, Gemeinschaft Home intern Kat Webel (JMU Sociology and Writing/Rhetoric major) started conducting interviews with residents who wanted to share their experiences prior to coming to Gemeinschaft Home—and while in the program. The purpose of the project is to collect stories from current and former residents and make them available for viewing in a series of videos available on our website and social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Webel is joined this spring by another intern, Felisha Lawrence (JMU Justice Studies major), who is researching the experiences of (formerly)incarcerated individuals within the criminal justice system. The videos will be available online soon!
Gemeinschaft Home residents have been the recipients of generous donations by two organizations in recent months. The Rotary Club of Rockingham County has made significant contributions of men’s clothing and the youth group at Emmanuel Church of the Brethren in Mt. Solon assembled and delivered nearly 30 hygiene kits (a bag of toiletries and personal items that each resident receives upon arrival) in March! Your kindness helps make Gemeinschaft a better community, and we thank you!
Harrisonburg, VA - Thanks to a grant award from the Learning by Giving Foundation, in partnership with James Madison University, Gemeinschaft Home hosted an open house on September 21, 2018, to give local area college students the opportunity to learn about our nonprofit mission and the people we serve.
Throughout the afternoon, nearly 100 students from JMU and Eastern Mennonite University were on grounds, talking with residents and staff, touring the main house and program facility, and taking part in various activities and light refreshments. As more students become familiar with Gemeinschaft Home, they are increasingly seeking out opportunities to volunteer, to become interns, and to find other ways to be involved with the organization.
For more information about student involvement at Gemeinschaft Home, visit our website and ask to join our mailing list. Look for the next College Day Open House happening in Fall 2019!
Harrisonburg, Va - The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Drug Court was notified last month that it had been awarded federal grant funds ($2 million in total over 5 years) through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to increase the level of support services and the number of participants in the drug court program. Gemeinschaft Home will provide recovery housing to eligible participants referred through the program, as part of the five-year collaboration and we seek to expand our capacity to serve women as well as men in a residential setting.
Gemeinschaft Home implements a new cognitive behavioral program.
Harrisonburg, VA - One of the hallmarks of the Gemeinschaft Home residential program is the cognitive behavioral component, a curriculum of life recovery topics covered in group and one-on-one counseling settings. During the 90-day program, residents participate in sessions that are designed to help them manage issues ranging from anger control to addiction.
In October, Gemeinschaft Home launched another type of cognitive behavioral curriculum called Decision Points, an established program used both in re-entry and incarceration facilities around the country. The Virginia Department of Corrections uses the program in some institutions as well, and some residents arrive with experience already in the program.
The approach asks residents to use critical thinking to avoid a “trouble cycle,” using the following questions as a framework: What am I thinking and feeling right now? Who else cares what I do right now? What could I do right now? What are some motivating thoughts?
Residents are given an opportunity to think about the choices surrounding any given decision and the people affected in the process, as a means to establish new, healthy patterns of thinking and living.
Starting in the Fall of 2017, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), faculty and students from the School of Music and Department of Social Work at James Madison University created a music-making/storytelling project that was entirely based on contributions from residents in the program, including a community-based performance with local musicians at the end of the project year.
The purpose of the project is to provide a forum for formerly incarcerated individuals to be heard in society, to share those experiences with people who would otherwise be unaware of the barriers they face.
While the NEA grant concluded, faculty and students have continued working on the project this fall, meeting once each week on Monday evenings, under the guidance of Robby McCoubrey.
The project will continue after the new year, and there will be opportunities for community members to hear some of the music and stories created by Gemeinschaft Home residents at local venues in the near future.
Watch out for updates on our website and Facebook page!