16 Oct Nonprofit Highlight: Christian Hope Resource Center
October’s conversation is with Megan Legacy, the executive director of the Christian Hope Resource Center in San Antonio, TX. She is joined by Elisa, the Communications and Volunteer Coordinator.
Secret Sauce Ingredients
- Leave space for dreaming
- Minister to the “ministers”
- Lean into conviction
- Intentionally seek feedback
- Fight for unity
What does CHRC seek to accomplish in San Antonio?
Since its inception over three decades ago, Christian Hope Resource Center (CHRC) has grown from a small food pantry program to a multi-faceted social service agency that plays a prominent role in San Antonio’s social sector.
Today, CHRC is “a Christ-centered Westside resource center empowering individuals and families in crisis to become sustainable through holistic individualized services, accountability and grace.” The organization seeks to fight poverty, high dropout rates, and hardship through mentoring, on-site healthcare, job training, food and clothing distribution, English classes, and cohorts covering critical topics like parenting, financial literacy, senior living, and spiritual growth.
How would you describe CHRC’s organizational culture?
A Second Family
Megan, CHRC’s executive director, is proud of the work climate the team has created and fights to create a space where employees can thrive. “We are a family. Every person is here because they feel called to be here…We really aspire to be a place where people can grow and learn and are successful where they’re at.”
She wants clients to feel like part of this family as well. “Early on, our culture was that of a food pantry and simply providing food,” she said. “Since then, we’ve changed our culture to become more of a relational one. We’ve gotten away from mass volunteering projects to engaging volunteers in ongoing, relational opportunities with individuals and families.”
“We’ve changed our culture to become more of a relational one. We’ve gotten away from mass volunteering projects to engaging volunteers in ongoing, relational opportunities with individuals and families.”
The culture of CHRC is also one of humility and cooperation. Megan noted that while the organization is unequivocally Christian and believes that the Bible produces unique and profound hope and healing, the team realizes that a plethora of organizations – both secular and religious – can play a role in community restoration. “We are a very open-minded nonprofit organization. We cannot do it alone. We are one part of the body of Christ so we want to collaborate with other organizations to pursue our mission more comprehensively.”
What kind of challenges have you experienced in your sector?
Like many nonprofit organizations, employees at CHRC are tempted to neglect self-care and pour everything they have into meeting the needs of the organization and its clients. This is due, in part, to the type of people attracted to work in the sector. “Self-care is a huge issue in our industry – both from a leadership standpoint (because you’re wearing a million hats) as well as from a social work standpoint,” Megan noted. “You’re listening to story after story all day long, and a person with any kind of empathy will take that home with them. Those in ministry have to have someone that’s also ministering to them.”
“You’re listening to story after story all day long, and a person with any kind of empathy will take that home with them. Those in ministry have to have someone that’s also ministering to them.”
Despite the fact that the number of nonprofits nationally continues to grow, the pool of giving dollars (in terms of GDP) has been relatively flat for the last ten years. Consequently, organizations with great programs may have to do more to show donors and customers that they are moving the needle on the community’s toughest issues. “Capacity is the big issue – it isn’t that we don’t have great partnerships with churches, it just takes resources to build new ones,” Megan shared. “It isn’t that we don’t have great programs, it just takes more resources to scale.”
Big cities like San Antonio are full of big problems. Why do you continue to get up every morning to do this job?
Elisa, the organization’s communications and volunteer coordinator, shows up every morning because of the people that walk alongside her on this journey. “I admire how this organization reaches out to the community and cares for the clients but also cares for the team. It’s a very caring community – you know and feel that every day. It’s God’s agency and you feel Christ’s love here. When clients speak to you – you get to know them.”
Biblical Humility and Conviction
Reflecting on her own background and experiences, Megan shared how both community and Scripture shaped her passions and motivations.“The Bible calls us to care for the widow, orphan, and refugee,” she said. “It couldn’t be more explicit. I grew up below the poverty line in Colorado but had a very strong community. I had opportunity because I had community. It was years later that God broke my heart for the vulnerable and I had to ask myself, “How can we as a society see these issues and not do anything about it?”
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from those you’ve served?
Organizational “deafness” is easy to miss.
“I’ve learned that we as a sector don’t listen enough,” Megan argued. “Even when we go to build a well in Africa, we do it our own way on our own terms. I don’t like the word charity – it implies a one-way giving. You’re giving to someone that ‘doesn’t have.’” CHRC seeks to change the narrative by constantly reminding both staff and clients that everyone can serve and be served. Every human being, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, has hopes, fears, and passions. “We invest in people – we know on the other end of that investment that person is going to do something with it,” Megan explained. “The entire paradigm shifts – when we take an investment approach, it all becomes about the person being invested in.”
Leaders need the bandwidth to cast vision and think strategically.
If executive directors are unable to intentionally set aside time to plan for the future and think through the larger pieces of the puzzle, it can become easy to drift away from your mission or make unwise decisions. “Executive directors can get so in the weeds they fail to focus on capacity building,” Megan cautioned. “Sometimes people with really unique talents may be placed with tasks that don’t match or take advantage of the skills they bring to the table. We have to think more globally and more strategically. We can’t limp along meeting monthly needs but have to think about the investments we need to see profound change in the future, not just small wins today or this week.”
“We can’t limp along meeting monthly needs but have to think about the investments we need to see profound change in the future, not just small wins today or this week.”
What advice would you give to other organizations fighting for human flourishing?
Collaborate to gain greater community insight.
While it can be easy for nonprofits to formulate a plan of action, put their heads down, and get to work, we can’t care for others well if we’re too prideful to solicit or incorporate feedback or advice from others. “Organizational leaders HAVE to listen,” Megan insisted. “They have to learn about what already exists. We have so many people that want to come to us that want to start a nonprofit and they haven’t asked themselves why they actually want to start a nonprofit. They have to be in alignment with others that are already doing good work.”
The deepest kinds of unity on the community level can only be achieved by putting ourselves in proximity to those that are different than us.
Fight for unity.
It is incredibly easy for pride to deceive us or convince us that our ideas and strategies are always superior to those of other organizations. However, Christians are called to care for the vulnerable as the capital “C” Church, not merely as a 501(c)3 or independent agency. “We believe Jesus came to save as well as to reconcile,” Megan reminded. “The Body of Christ is only as powerful as it is in unity.” She also emphasized that the deepest levels of unity on the community level can only be achieved by putting ourselves in proximity to those that are different than us. “Those that serve will probably get more out of relationship-building than those who give. Their kids will also see their willingness to give up their time and learn from their parents and peers that serve.”