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An Invitation to a Town Hall Meeting

February 4th, 2012


Dear friends,

I received this invitation from the City of Athens (see below) to speak at the next Town Hall meeting for 3 minutes on Tuesday February 7th @ 6:30 pm.

I am not able to attend this meeting.

I am writing to ask you to SPEAK UP for those who are not able to speak for themselves: the 142 people (including 65 children) who we turned away from the Timothy House last year because of lack of space.

We have asked city officials for help in addressing the struggle of people who are without homes but they have remained silent.  I feel like they want to frame this as a Good Works problem but the fact that our fellow citizens don’t have a place to sleep at night is a community problem that all of us should be concerned about.

On two occasions in 2011, I personally asked our Mayor Paul Wiehl to have a conversation with the Safety Service Director and the City Planner in order to identify areas of our city where Good Works could legally relocate to serve the growing number of people without homes.  The response has been silence.

 Last year, I attended the February 1st Town Hall Meeting and spoke about these concerns, but no verbal or written reply was provided at the June follow-up meeting when the city responded to the other matters citizens brought forth. 

WE are not asking the city of Athens for money. We are asking for justice.

Since we are not allowed to serve the increasing number of people without homes in Athens and the city refuses to step in and provide shelter for them, I believe this is an injustice.  Honestly, I need to be persuaded that those with power actually care.  I want to believe they care but as we turn away family after family, I’m having a hard time believing that those with the power to do something actually care about the people who are so vulnerable.

The city’s Zoning Code was written in the 1960s.  It does not allow for homes like the Timothy House in Athens.  There is no place we can locate without some kind of zoning variance.  In my view, the code itself has discriminated against people in poverty.  Unlike a local business, which could locate in a zone for businesses in Athens, there is no such zone for organizations like Good Works who provide housing for people who are indigent.  The only way for us to relocate is to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals for each property we want to explore.  This process is costly in time and money.

In the fall of 2007, we appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals for permission to purchase the house next door to the Timothy House in order to provide increased capacity and care for families with children.  This request was denied.  The following year, 26 local ministers wrote a Pastoral Letter to the city of Athens asking the city to find a way to address the problem of homelessness.  To my knowledge, this letter was met with silence.

Therefore, I am asking you to attend this meeting for the sake of those who cannot speak up for themselves.

Here are the facts:

  • In 2008, we served and cared for 168 people and turned away 80 because of lack of space. 
  • In 2009, we served and cared for 143 people and turned away 36 because of lack of space.
  • In 2010, we served and cared for 150 people and turned away 86 because of lack of space.  
  • In 2011, we provided 156 people with shelter and turned away 142 because of lack of space (this includes 65 children).


I am not trying to vilify the people who volunteer to serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals.  Hear me again: the Zoning Code was written in the 1960’s, way before we had students living off campus, and a long time before our community was faced with the needs of those without a place to sleep because poverty moved them to a situation of homelessness.

The code provides NO PLACE for organizations like Good Works to locate.  That is the primary reason that My Sister’s Place had to sue the city when they were denied a Zoning Variance.  It was only through a lawsuit that they obtained the legal right to operate their shelter in the location they now exist in.

Most recently, I have written to our whole community in the form of a Letter to the Editor explaining the difficulty the Good Works community is having as we are forced to turn away people we cannot accommodate due to lack of space.  In December 2011, the Athens News and the Athens Messenger both wrote front-page articles on the situation that Good Works is now experiencing.

So, would you raise your voice by attending this meeting and speak for 3 minutes on behalf of those who are not able to speak for themselves?

Can you ask:

1. Are elected and appointed city officials— those with the power to address this issue— aware that Good Works turned away 142 people without homes (including 65 children) because we did not have space to accommodate them?  Are they aware and do they believe that this is not a Good Works problem but a problem all citizens are concerned with?

2. Are city officials interested in or willing to make a commitment to work with the staff of Good Works during the year 2012 to identify areas of the city where Good Works could legally relocate in order to increase our capacity to provide shelter for people without homes? Will the Mayor or City Council appoint someone to address this issue during 2012?

3. Does the city, as it represents those of us who pay taxes, believe it has any moral responsibility to help provide shelter for its citizens who are without homes?

With more people experiencing unemployment and with more financial limits being placed on people struggling with poverty, we need our city officials to work alongside non-profits like Good Works to assist our most vulnerable citizens.  After 31 years, isn’t it time for the city of Athens to step up?  Good Works is not asking for money from the city.  We are asking for justice.

THANK YOU for considering this request.  If you have any questions for me, you can reach me by telephone at 740.594.9000.  My email address is

I am appealing to our community’s compassion.  I truly believe that the people of Athens are compassionate and caring.  Will you express your compassion by speaking on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9)?

Love is a verb,

Keith Wasserman

PS:  If you are not able to attend the meeting, would you write something to the city or a Letter to the Editor and let your voice be heard?


Athens Community Center 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

At the February 7, 2012 Town Hall Meeting community members will have the opportunity to speak on subjects of local interest.  In order to have numerous viewpoints represented, speakers will be limited to three minutes each.

The Mayor and members of the city administration will be present to ask clarifying questions and briefly respond to citizen comments if necessary. At a follow-up June 2012 Town Hall Meeting, city officials will describe steps they have taken to address issues that were discussed at the February meeting.

The February Town Hall Meeting will be an opportunity for community members and organizations to dialogue with each other and with the city government.  It also will be an opportunity to find common ground for solving problems affecting our community. Athens area community members are urged to attend and speak about local issues that concern them.

If weather forces the Town Hall Meeting to be postponed, it will be held on February 15th.

The Athens Town Hall Meetings are sponsored by the City of Athens and the Athens Chapter of the League of Women Voters.


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the Body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

As the Body of Christ, we should seek out the poor, broken and outcast with the intent of embracing them. What is meant by embracing them? Embracing these individuals starts with treating them as human beings who have the same value before the Almighty God as we do. By treating them as humans, whether that is asking them their names or enjoying time to get to know them, several amazing things can  happen at the same time: restoration of self worth, participation in a group that is loving and potential opportunities for discipleship are revealed to the local body of Christ. When the local body of Christ reaches out to all members of society with the desire to do more than fill the pews it begins to demonstrate the desire to change society both local and distant (state, national and global). This desire could be expressed by participating in lives through loving them and instructing them in ways to imitate Jesus it fulfills the teachings and commands God passed on through Jesus, the apostles, church fathers and preserved by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
What does the world gain from the Body of Christ treating people as valuable?  God’s active presence in the world provides a means of understanding humanity’s options including the option to move away from the daily grind of accepting brokenness reinforced by paradigms of indifference. When the local body of Christ intentionally acts with the goal of showing reconciliation and transformation of individuals, families, local and global communities, society is forced to accept the validity of living for something other than the American dream, self-preservation or communal well being. This type of societal response will meet resistance, be scoffed at and be judged by some as abnormal or wrong.  But these expressions of desiring to keep the status quo are okay. They are okay because not everyone gets the importance of changing paradigms. This is either because they refuse to change or they need time to let the idea sink into their thought life. Both refusing to change mindsets and needing reflection were present when Jesus was preaching, healing and performing miracles and they will continue to be represented by parts of society until the Second Coming

-Chip Guyton

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mission Statement(2)

“Good Works exists to connect people from all walks of life with people in poverty so that the kingdom of God can be experienced. “

In this entry and others to come we will be sharing our perspective on this statement. Our goal was not to change it, but to put in our own words, from our hearts, what it means.

Please join our conversation about this, leave a comment.






We are here to build bridges

between people who have financial means

and people who struggle to get by.

To introduce people who would not normally meet

in the hopes that God would

work out justice

and restoration

through these relationships.

—Andrea Horsch



Good Works lives and breathes to bring together people from all perspectives and life experiences with those society looks down upon so that God’s perspective and heavenly view can be realized and lived out. —Kelsey Shetler



As children of God it is our desire and goal to see the world as God sees it; to live life the way Jesus lived it, and to treat, understand, and interact with people the way He means for us to, taking advantage of all the possibilities He opens for us through His love and grace. But essential to the building of God’s community is ridding ourselves of all our stereotypes, misconceptions, jealousies, fears, and reservations about those who are different from us.  And the most effective way to correct our view of others is to spend time and space with them, intentionally creating environments where we get to know them.  That is what we are striving and learning to do as a way of life. —Abbie Drozek


Good Works aims at loving the community in which they are sent and are members, and inviting others to join.  With a heart for the rural poor, they attempt to the best of their ability and knowledge to help, foster relationships, and assist by material and all other means possible the homeless, widows, children and remainder of marginalized society.  In order to invite others to love and learn with them, they facilitate situations and opportunities for interaction, dialogue and revelation.  Love is necessary for community, it is the foundation of the kingdom of God and that is the aim and purpose of Good Works. —Jane Krosse


At Good Works, we are learning to love. We are learning to love those for whom we find love easy, and to love those for whom we find love difficult. We are learning to love as individuals, and we are learning to love as a community. We are inviting others to learn to love with us. We are learning to love in Spirit, and we are learning to love in Truth, for love is never wasted, and love will never pass away.—Chris Linscott


We strive to create opportunities for people of contrasting backgrounds to grow in relationship with one another and particularly with those on the margins of society so that the beaten down are raised up and the affluent humbled. —Jessica Rupright



More to come…



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two Plastic Chairs

Life has seemed to settle into some sort of rhythm the past couple weeks. Life here has become familiar and the new normal to me. While I still miss my family and friends back home, the people here have become great friends as well and I know I will miss them when I leave. It’s been great to get to know not only the people that I work with but also the people I’ve come in contact with through Good Works.

There have been a few here that have impacted my life especially. One is a couple that lives in Athens. They live in an apartment complex that is especially for those with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. We were contacted about them because there was going to be an inspection soon and if their apartment wasn’t clean they would be evicted. I took a middle school-aged group out to their home to clean things up for them doing what we call a Samaritan Project with Good Works.

While the filth that they were living in was a slight shock and a little repulsing and overwhelming, it was their lifestyle that hit me the most. They had 2 plastic chairs set up in their living room with a couple end tables around them and the whole time we were there cleaning they sat in those chairs, mostly silently. It broke my heart to think of them living this silent, seemingly meaningless way day after day. I would ask them questions and they’d answer them and talk with me. I think they enjoyed the company immensely and they asked if we would come back to visit them again. I was able to see my friends again delivering a Christmas meal to them. They were glad to see me again and weren’t as shy as the first time. They joked about making brownies just so I would come visit them.

This experience got me thinking a whole lot about how people end up in the situations and lifestyles that they do. I admit that before coming here and seeing situations like this with my own eyes I hadn’t necessarily thought very deeply about issues like this. I’ve come to realize though, that how you grow up and the resources and material items that are available to you shape a whole lot about you and the person you’re going to be or even have the chance of being. I grew up in a loving home where money was never really an issue. I have no memories of my parents stressing about how we were going to pay the bills or go to the grocery store that month. For the most part my dad has always been able to find work and support our family. I’ve always known that my parents love each other. Life has been fair to me and my family for the most part.

This is not the case for everyone and this is something I think all of us need to realize when relating to other people. People who are homeless are a prime example of this. I feel that there is an unspoken and sometimes spoken view that people become homeless as a result of bad decisions or drugs or criminal activity or negligence. While this is true in some cases, a whole lot of people find themselves in situations beyond their

control. Maybe a family member that they’ve been living with suddenly kicks them out or they lose their job and then soon after that their car breaks down. Perhaps someone in their family gets really sick and they’re left to pay hospital bills with a job that only pays minimum wage. All of these things and more limit immensely the opportunities available.

While someone’s circumstances aren’t an excuse for certain behavior, they do change people’s perspectives of life and the way they look at the world. I think this is key to bringing Jesus to those around us. If I expect everyone to be like me and to look at the world the way I do, what is that saying to people about Jesus? What if Jesus expected me to see the world the way he did before he would love me or let me spend eternity with him? I can tell you I wouldn’t be going to heaven if that was the case.

Kelsey Shelter, AI intern


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