A Step Toward Independence by Michael Thompson

January 02, 2023

Michael Thompson, Foundry ID Ministry VolunteerRecently I marked my first year as a volunteer for Foundry’s ID Ministry, and I’d like to share some of my observations about this remarkable program.

Our ID Ministry equips volunteers to help our low-income and unhoused neighbors obtain precious documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, and non-driver IDs. As you can imagine, these documents are essential for anyone applying for jobs, housing, health insurance, and public benefits.

The ID Ministry operates for two hours every Friday morning and the first and third Saturday mornings of each month in the Community Commons area. When necessary, cases are handled via phone interviews. We don’t issue the documents; we offer expertise and financial support to enable people to obtain the documents.

Volunteer training involves both learning the detailed procedures for obtaining certain documents and, more importantly, learning how to welcome and confer with our neighbor who is the client. A significant portion of training entails shadowing and assisting an experienced volunteer. You’ll sense when you’re ready to work on your own. No one expects a volunteer to be completely knowledgeable about ID documents. We’re always asking each other questions, and the team has compiled many resources to provide answers.

When I reflect on the one-on-one experiences I’ve had, the word “conversation” pops into my mind because listening is a vital aspect of what happens. Each neighbor who enters the Commons area has different needs, and I’m sure they’re hoping for a different experience than they might receive at the Department of Motor Vehicles. At the same time, it’s important to make sure our conversation is focused and purposeful: we don’t want to get sidetracked.

Trust is another cornerstone of this ministry. These neighbors are sharing their personal stories. They are trusting that we will respect them while they’re possibly sharing some difficult details about their lives. A key sentence on Foundry’s web page describing this ministry reminds us, “…we believe all persons are created in God’s image, the Imago Dei.”

When volunteering with the ID Ministry, I’m frequently reminded of the central message of Micah 6:8: “To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” We have siblings in our city who are one step away from a job or an apartment, one step away from bettering their lives. They’re looking for justice. They’re looking for a neighbor who will help. If you’re that neighbor, seeking justice in this strained world, consider using your gifts as part of the ID Ministry. To learn more, contact jackie@ foundryumc.org.

Michael’s partner, Ralph Williams, introduced him to Foundry in 1999, and Michael became a member in 2010. Both have participated in several social justice programs at Foundry.