The project is part of Interfaith’s outreach program Open Door, which provides resources for homeless people in the area. Volunteers with Open Door provide assistance with transportation and temporary housing as well as basic counseling. Clients can also get a shower, refreshments and have their mail sent there.
Martha Vandervoort, executive director of Interfaith Ministries, said all of the supplies to make the wreaths were donated, and organizers had 20 pre-orders before the class began Tuesday. The remaining wreaths will be sold at Anniston stores such as Downing’s and Nunnally’s for $30 each.
The clients will be compensated for their work, but much of the proceeds will go back into Open Door’s services. Vandervoort said the wreath class is brand new, but she and other organizers hope it can be an annual project for their clients.
“They don’t have many opportunities; the doors that open for me or you don’t always open for them,” she said.
Mike Witt, one of the clients making the wreaths, said the class helps if only to give homeless residents in the area something to do and a place to go. He said for many people, idle time can be destructive.
Vandervoort said organizers with Interfaith are planning more programs that will teach their clients skills in cottage industries like wreath-making.
Vandervoort said she’s locating sewing machines so the clients can make and sell handkerchiefs. She also said Interfaith officials are hoping to turn a vacant lot into a garden. Once it’s established, the clients can grow the fruits and vegetables to sell at farmers markets.
“You look at the local resources and you say, ‘What can we make or do to make our clients productive?’” she said.
Vandervoort said she thinks there is the potential to one day have a consignment-style store at Interfaith Ministries filled with items made by clients.
“It’s all going to depend on our community stepping up and being involved,” she said.
Steve Berg, vice president for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, said he knows of no research that concerns the effectiveness of programs like Open Door’s wreath class, but any effort to help clients get jobs is an important piece to any program serving homeless people.
He said some homeless outreach programs teach pre-vocational skills — things like getting clients used to showing up at the same time every day.
“Almost any kind of activity can help in that,” he said.
Berg said the best pre-vocational programs are part of broader projects that have an ultimate goal of steady jobs for their clients. The most successful of those programs, he said, are those that consider the needs of employers in their communities.
Vandervoort said that more than the monetary gains from the wreaths, the program gives many clients a social outlet and a small sense of purpose.
“If you just watched one life move to something constructive, I can almost say we’re fulfilling our mission with that,” she said.
For more information about Interfaith Ministries visit their website at http://www.interfaithcalhoun.org or call 256-237-1472. The group’s services are available Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_star.