Contributed by Sherry Carrington, Executive Director of Connect Palmer
Palmer has been my home now since 2003. I’ve found it a very friendly and generous town. The last three years have been amazing.
While I lived in Fairbanks, I started a ministry called Father’s House, Single Parent Family Center. It helped single parents, with everything from car care clinics (where we changed oil and offered a maintenance checkup on their vehicles) to budgeting workshops. We had parenting classes and the Great Alaskan Coat Swap, where families could come get winter gear for their families.
We also held bike care clinics where we would gather some bike mechanics to help with those garage sale and hand-me-down bicycles. This was such a blessing for many moms, including myself who as a single parent of three, I had a difficult time fixing a bike chain or repairing a flat tire. It was a great ministry that I loved and was sad to leave.
After a few years in Palmer, my husband and I with a few of our friends had it in our minds to start a ministry in Palmer that helped people with practical needs. Not just single parents, but others that were struggling. From my time with Father’s House, I learned that with most practical needs assistance, usually the greatest underlying need for those struggling is work. There are a variety of reasons that can make it challenging for some to get a job or keep their job. Before leaving Father’s House, I had begun to write up the beginnings of a back to work program. God’s Work Design, was a program to help individuals focus on getting a job and addressing the challenging that could be hindering their success.
We started Connect Palmer with that being our primary goal. We wanted to help people get the tools they need to look for work and have the tools they need to keep the job they get. But as it is with many grassroots ventures, especially when you’re looking for God’s plan in what you’re doing, our vision began to shift. In the first year of offering the God’s Work Design program, almost 70% of the ladies who applied for the program where without homes. These ladies were living on the Mat-Su River, in cars, trucks, tents or couch surfing.
In October 2015, my husband and I become aware that one of the two apartments above our training center was becoming vacant. We looked at each other and he asked, “Do you call the landlord or do I?” We both felt strongly that God had not allowed us to be confronted with such a great need and not try to address it in some manner. So we rented the apartment to allow us to offer a safe and caring place for the ladies to stay while they participated in our God’s Work Design program and the LIFE Connect program. LIFE Connect is a life skills program to help them set goals and make plans to move toward the changes they want to make in their lives.
We painted and put out the call for furnishings - bunk beds to toilet bowl cleaner. We were pretty much furnished by the time we moved in our first lady on Dec 30, 2015. We’ve had over twenty-five women stay at Sarah’s House over the last year and a half. We’re coming up on Sarah’s House’s two year anniversary and we have rented the other apartment that’s above our training center.
We’re excited to have eight beds available for women who are needing a safe and caring place to stay while they enroll in our work-ready and life skills programs.
Esther Greene, one of our newest board members shared her heart about becoming part of the board, “We care about the people here. Every time we go down to the Butte and we see the people camping out by the river, we know that may be somebody that is homeless. That is somebody whose world has turned upside down and they don't care anymore. And Connect Palmer, one-by-one is changing lives. Isn't that kind of what the Bible says - one by one?”
Our tag line from the beginning has been “Connect Palmer to the Love of God, One Need at a Time.” And that’s still our goal. One lady at a time, trying to show them God’s love and kindness.
Sherry Carrington, Executive Director
Connect Palmer is a 501c3 non-profit organization.