Justice Ministries: Building a stronger community one relationship at a time

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson Nancy Rea, director of Justice Ministries of Pagosa, Inc., works to connect those in need with organization and volunteers who can help.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson
Nancy Rea, director of Justice Ministries of Pagosa, Inc., works to connect those in need with organization and volunteers who can help.

“What Justice Ministries really wants to do, is to link people who have the desire to help, with people who have needs,” Nancy Rea, director of Justice Ministries of Pagosa, Inc. told The SUN in an interview last week.

Justice Ministries, a homegrown nonprofit, was founded in 2010 to serve Archuleta County by providing a “social services networking hub,” especially for those facing problems often related to poverty.

The nonprofit works with people in all manner of situations, from those who have lived in poverty for generations, to people who are dealing with a one-time situation where they need a little extra help.

“Our focus is on transforming the lives of the abandoned and fatherless in our community and offering a broad safety net,” the organization’s handout states.

“I can oftentimes be the link that might help (someone) get the services they need,” Rea explained. For example, if someone comes into the organization’s office, located at 459 Lewis St., in need of food, Rea can connect them with one of the five food pantries in town. She can sit down with them to talk about the circumstances that led to them being without enough to eat, and possibly get to a deeper issue, such as the loss of a job, high medical bills, debt, etc.

Rea said that Justice Ministries works to help individuals with not only their pressing needs, but with the extenuating circumstances that led to their current situation. Long-term solutions and life-skills training are important to the nonprofit — instead of focusing only on a current crisis, the focus is on taking small steps toward “success,” whatever success means for that individual person.

“We don’t solve problems with money,” the director stated, “but we do solve problems by listening and caring and forming relationships and building trust.”

Rea expanded, saying, “What we want to do … is teach people to become solution-finders and problem solvers … people have so much value and all you have to do is come along beside them and say, ‘I believe in you; I care about you. Things may seem hopeless right now, but I’m going to give you a little bit of my hope … we’re going to stick with you.’”

In many situations, the director explained, people just need an outside perspective to help them see the resources available to them.

The way in which the organization provides support varies drastically, depending on what a person needs. If a man needs a ride to the doctor, but does not have anyone to take him, Rea will call one of the organization’s many volunteers to find someone available. If a single mother just moved into a new apartment and needs furniture, the nonprofit will work to connect her with someone who is relocating and has furniture to give.

“There is something about the way things work around here, that it just works,” she stated.

Beyond transportation and material needs, the nonprofit is also there for emotional support. If someone has to go to court, but does not have anyone to go with them, Justice Ministries will provide a friendly face in the court room for support.

“We’re neutral, we never take a side,” Rea explained, “but maybe just having somebody sit in the courtroom with you, if you’re scared and just need a smiling face there — I’ll go do that.”

“The main thing is a relationship,” she emphasized. “People have to feel like they’re worth something. By giving someone a little bit of your time, a little bit of your talent, you develop a relationship that opens more doors.”

Rea said she works together with individuals to problem-solve, so she is not “rescuing,” but is instead offering support and hope.

“People are so incredible. They don’t even know what they can do. If you just believe in them and encourage them … they flourish,” she said.

When asked if she sees people making progress, beginning to take initiative and reaching out to community services on their own, Rea said, “I do see people moving forward. I really and truly do.”

Rae explained that if someone who has already been helped by Justice Ministries calls again needing assistance, maybe this time for something different, they will often outline for her the steps they have already taken to get the help they need.

The director was quick to add, though, that even if “somebody doesn’t move forward, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to help them.”

“We’re nonjudgmental,” Rea said, stressing that “… when people walk in our door, they are always welcome.”

In 2013, approximately 644 people came through Justice Ministries’ door in need of assistance, resulting in 348 logged “needs requests.”

According to the organization’s handout, to meet those requests, “With 1 staff member (Rea) and a 6 member Board of Directors, (Justice Ministries) utilized over 75 volunteers” and networked with community organizations to provide services such as moving assistance, food assistance, transportation, emergency shelter, childcare, domestic violence and substance abuse counseling, mental health services, wood distribution of over 100 cords and much more.

Justice Ministries also works with the 6th Judicial Court’s Useful Public Service Program and helped manage 675 hours of community service in 2013.

Currently, the nonprofit is privately funded by individuals who believe in its mission. Last year was a busy one for the ministries and Rea said that the organization is looking to expand so that it can continue to meet the needs of the community.

“After four years of meeting case-by-case needs using low or no cost solutions,” the organization’s handout states, “Justice Ministries recognizes the need for LIFE SKILLS TRAINING. Our goal is to empower the people we serve to move from poverty to sustainability.”

“We want to see people thrive, instead of just survive,” Rea told The SUN.

Areas where need has been identified for more community training include parenting classes, goal setting and accountability, budgeting, healthy relationships, entrepreneurism and business plans, and vocational training.

Justice Ministries would also like to continue to partner with existing community organizations, such as the Department of Human Services and San Juan Basin Health Department, filling the gaps that those organizations do not have the resources, or personnel, to cover.

“Somebody said, ‘It’s like stone soup. If everyone throws in just a little and stirs it up, we’re going to come out with something really good.’” Rea said. “I feel like we’re a part of that in this community — I’m privileged to be part of that.”

If you are in need of assistance, or if you have services or time to volunteer, contact Rea at Justice Ministries by calling 264-4483. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This story was posted on July 31, 2014.