Faith Boyd tests the heart rate of a client at the Meridian Gathering & Resource Center. Boyd worked as a nurse for many years and has now been certified through the Faith Community Nursing program. She is one of eight volunteers serving the Meridian community. (Photo submitted by Atalie Snyder at MGRC)
By Gaye Bunderson
Sometimes the best-laid plans go…haywire…or something like that. But the volunteer members of the Meridian Gathering & Resource Center are out to guarantee that the plans they’ve set forth for the center come to completion. They are members of the Twenty Six Eight Church, the mission of which revolves around Isaiah 26:8: “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desires of our hearts.”
The “theme verse” for the center is: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36 NIV).
Current center leadership includes: Todd Baker, Legal Clinic; Melissa Baker, Life Management Classes; Faith Boyd, Faith Community Nurse; Jazmine Martin, After School Programs; Atalie Snyder, Communications and Community Liaison; and others, adding up to eight volunteers in all. The center is located at 237 E. State Ave. in the town known as “the boomtown of Idaho” or “the center of the Treasure Valley”: Meridian.
“We offer support for marginalized people with low incomes in Meridian,” Boyd said. “We also want to ‘live life together,’ not just in a building once a week. We want to walk with them.”
Baker stated: “We support the traditional Sunday service, but what happens during the week? There’s just a lot of need. We help people with whatever they need.”
For Baker, who is an attorney, that includes a free legal clinic. “We don’t check on incomes – we’ll talk to anybody who comes in. We give them advice and a next-step in their legal issue, and we can make a referral to somebody in town.”
Baker went on to explain that first, the focus for all the programs is “identity and purpose” – in other words, teaching and representing to anyone who comes to the center that they are who God says they are, not who they think they are. And God’s perception of them is one of love, esteem, and value that flows from Him.
The Meridian Gathering & Resource Center has a social media presence and displays posters throughout the community and at big events such as a recent Mental Health and Well-Being program, as well as smaller events like Movie Night. Also, word of mouth is providing exposure to the center and its offerings.
The volunteers are well-trained in their areas of expertise. For instance, Boyd served in the nursing profession for 20 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. In 2018, she enrolled to study Faith Community Nursing, a program offered through Saint Alphonsus and combining care of patients’ spirits along with their physical needs. She is certified through that program and called it “a partnership with nurses and families.”
Her contribution to the services of the MGRC is in answering patients’ questions about a diagnosis they’ve received from a physician, helping them understand their prescription medications, or referrals to others where necessary.
Though help from Baker, Boyd, and others is practical in nature, there is something even larger at work. “The No. 1 thing is to build relationship,” Boyd said, explaining it’s not just relationships with center staff but with others who come to the center and its activities – and of course, a relationship with the Lord, as all roads lead to that.
“Our services are a doorway,” he said. “We have conversations about Jesus,” and all staff members are very open about their faith.
Some of the experiences members have had with the public include:
- Baker worked with a recent client who came in with a legal question. When they were done, he asked her if she wanted prayer; she said no, not then, face-to-face, but that it was okay for him to pray for her after she had gone – and she’s coming back later for more help.
Another woman came to him who had moved to the Treasure Valley with her husband and son. The family spent all their money on a home and hired a landscaper to fix up the property. But the landscaper didn’t complete the work he committed to but nonetheless charged the family for it. When they didn’t pay, he filed a lien on the family’s home. Baker helped the woman file a letter to the landscaper and his attorney, and the lien was lifted. Now, the woman, who is originally from Barcelona, Spain, is joining the center as an interpreter. “She’s working with us – she got help and wants to pay it back,” said Baker.
- Everyone who volunteers at the center has a similarly upbeat story. Snyder said: “A young man who had lived a troubled life came to us wanting community. He eventually got into church, got saved, and got training and a job through another member of the church.”
- Boyd stated: “We want to fix it [when people come to us with a problem], but sometimes people just want to be acknowledged.” To be listened to with respect is a powerful need in many folks.
At present, the law and nursing clinics are appointment-based only, but the center is working on expanding.
“We’re extending our relationship to the neighborhood as well,” Snyder said. The center hosts dinners, cleans yards, and invites people to its game nights, movie nights, pancake feeds, and more. “This is a space for community.”
Taking its outreach to the neighborhood a step further, a youth group completed a survey to assess what concerns people in the area thought most important. That included good roads, nearby construction, and their children’s safety.
“We reached out to the mayor,” Snyder said; and Meridian’s mayor, Robert Simison, listened to the MGRC representatives and took the needs of the center’s surrounding neighbors under consideration.
The center works in conjunction with area non-profits, strengthening its ties to others who might help its clients. Then, the volunteers remain with the clients as they go through the next action steps. “We walk with people through the process of finding help, not just giving them a number to call,” Snyder said.
For all the things that are happening currently at the center, there are plans in the works for more, such as a summer camp for kids in the near future; a mental health component to the Faith Community Nursing program; and working to be a prototype for similar centers in other communities. “We want to see this in every city,” Snyder said.
They also want to be a voice in the current housing crisis, and center staff attended a housing symposium in January.
Baker is working on plans for connecting with business owners in Meridian to open up employment opportunities for people in need. He will do this in conjunction with Steve Meistrell, the Leadership and Oversight Director of the center and a pastor and business owner. Job skills classes are on the drawing board, and Boyd and Meistrell will seek to enlist Christian business owners who can help provide the skills and the work, as well as discipleship opportunities.
Boyd’s future plans include uniting with mid-level health care providers, such as physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners, who might have the time to work with her and her clients to help patients better understand their medical issues.
The church that the Meridian Gathering & Resource Center is in was built 15 years ago, and MGRC has been leasing the property for roughly nine months now. Services are still offered in the chapel part of the building.
Boyd said: “We all have those stories where the door of the center was open and someone walked in needing help.” The center will not stop helping those in need, including the vulnerable, the marginalized, immigrants, women, youth, the disabled – anyone. They look to Jesus’s example to guide them.
For more information, go to meridiangrc.org.