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Who Founded SHALOM?

By Jeffrey A. Diver
Executive Director of SELF
(Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families)

Some may wonder, "Who founded SHALOM?" The short answer is that God founded SHALOM and used willing souls to organize and launch this church-based effort. Who else could ever bring together such diverse churches and faiths?

The Lord used me in the summer of 2002 when Hope House announced it was going to close October 1, 2002, leaving the community with literally just weeks to respond. My concerns were foremost for the homeless. Where would they go? Would they overwhelm the Hamilton emergency shelter system? What could we organize in such a short time?

God gives everyone gifts and I used a gift He had given me -- being able to bring people together to focus on human needs issues. With help from the media and heavy doses of prayer, I began to organize and facilitate a series of meetings -- called the "Greater Middletown Meetings on the Homeless Crisis" -- initially of just community agencies to discuss the dilemma of the closure of the city's only permanent homeless shelter.

The first meeting was September 10, 2002 at one of SELF's Middletown offices. About 15 individuals attended. As word began to spread, church leaders began to step forward and attend meetings on their own. After much discussion of various options, a rotating church-based network was selected as the best alternative to help the homeless. While it was initially nameless, SHALOM, as it is known today, was born. My personal experience coordinating my former Maryland church's involvement in a similar effort there was helpful in providing SHALOM with sample forms and procedures.

Rev. David Bailey, then of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, coined the "SHALOM" acronym and served as the church coordinator in the early days of SHALOM; that same church's senior pastor, Rev. Walt Mycoff, and a member of their congregation at the time, Monica Neiderman, took on additional roles. Other key pastors/individuals in the early development of SHALOM included: Rev. David Chivington, then of the First United Methodist Church and church employee, Brenda Kohlhorst; Rev. Christos Christakis, then of St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church; Rev. Dan Justice, then of First Church of the Nazarene; and Dan and Ruth Perry, then of Breiel Boulevard Christian Church.

Two of the first pastors -- Rev. Chivington and Rev. Mycoff -- to commit their churches to participating in SHALOM announced at one of the community meetings that God had told them they must participate. I stayed the first night of SHALOM -- in early October 2002 -- which was hosted at the First United Methodist Church. A number of additional churches then came on board in subsequent years. While Hope House eventually stayed open, the churches felt there was a need for more assistance for the homeless in the Middletown area.

Credit for coordinating SHALOM's day-to-day operations in the early years and working tirelessly to recruit other churches goes to Roy and Pat Ickes of the First United Methodist Church. Many others supported Roy and Pat in their work.

Throughout the early years, SELF provided the organizational support and even some of the start-up funds for supplies. While no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of SHALOM, SELF continues to provide case management, along with Transitional Living which focuses on the homeless with severe mental health issues.

SHALOM is a shining example of how churches and other organizations can work together despite their differences to impact the lives of the poor. While SHALOM operates with volunteers and on a shoestring budget, the love demonstrated by the participating churches continues to hearten me. It speaks to the adage, "let you prayers wear work boots!"

The glory will always go to Him for inspiring and continuing to bless this ministry.

*As Butler County's community action agency, SELF is a nonprofit organization serving low-income families. SELF's mission is to enhance the quality of life for county residents by impacting the causes of poverty and empowering individuals to achieve, sustain and advocate self-sufficiency.

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