Meeting the Face of Christ

“This is Sister Sharen with JOIN, are you able to help me with a client?”

Since 2002, Sharen Baldy, SCN, has begun many of her phone calls this way. As assistant director and case worker at Joint Organization for Inner City Needs (JOIN), Sister Sharen has created a network of folks she can call for help on behalf of her clients. Set in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio, JOIN meets immediate needs, providing assistance for low-income families in the area.

Sister Sharen works tirelessly to empower low-income families and to make sure basic needs are met. The Cycle of Poverty consists of a lack of transportation, education, food, and shelter. Sister Sharen works to ease the burden of these immediate needs for her clients. JOIN provides bus passes, assistance with gas, electric, and water bills, and also houses a food pantry and a clothes closet.

Clients include the elderly on fixed incomes, struggling families, immigrants, and others. Each day, this unique nonprofit serves at least 80–90 individuals. “We meet the face of Christ every day,” says Sister Sharen.

Men and women line up each morning waiting for JOIN to open. No matter how early Sister Sharen arrives, she says there are always clients who beat her there. Sister Sharen participates each morning in the staff prayer, then goes out to greet a waiting crowd. With her gentle yet commanding presence, she addresses them, letting them know what to expect, what not to expect, and what papers they will need to have ready.

JOIN operates with the help of 70 volunteers and generous donors. The SCN Ministry Fund assists with the costs of clients’ birth certificate requests, a recurring need. As Sister Sharen explains, her clients often don’t have any identification. Without an ID, the client won’t be able to work or apply for services. Obtaining one’s birth certificate is the first step in getting a much-needed identification card.

On this day, Sister Sharen was able to help Anita who had stopped in for assistance with her water bill. Anita’s water was to be turned off the day she came in. Her rent takes nearly her entire check. Her adult son lives with her as well. Since it was near Anita’s birthday, Sister Sharen was able to send Anita home with some chocolates to enjoy. She then took Anita down the hall to choose from donated bread, toiletries, and handmade hats and scarves. Sister Sharen also worked with another client, a woman from Ghana, who needed financial assistance to get a set of fingerprints made, which she needed in order to apply for a job.

In her small office (filled with books, stuffed animals, baskets of toiletries, and candies for those she helps), Sister Sharen makes little miracles happen each day. The hallway leading from her office to the food pantry and clothes closet is filled with home goods, toys, puzzles and more for clients. “It does kind of look like a flea market,” she says with a laugh.

Laughter comes easy to Sister Sharen. Not only does she help to meet the basic needs of these men, women and children, she also treats everyone with respect, and with a joy that radiates. These individuals, who are at their lowest point, are reminded that there is much goodness and kindness in this world. With not much to offer in return but gratefulness, many hug Sister Sharen on their way out, thanking her repeatedly. Families are not only sent home with much-needed diapers or shoes, but Sister Sharen makes sure they know they are important, they matter, and are loved.