SOCS began informally in 2011 when Lynette Hartzman worked for a multimillion dollar nonprofit in downtown Flint.  Her role was to assess the needs of individuals in her Ward 5, Flint neighborhood where her office was located.  She was assigned the task of developing programs or services to meet those needs, and implement such programs.  As Lynette did her work, she became disheartened at the politics involved in planning the programming instead of focusing on the real need of relationship and mentoring.  Lynette sat in meeting after meeting the leaders of her organization and other large nonprofits, leaders from various large foundations, and governmental officials in Flint. These meetings were redundant and resulted in much talk and no action.  Yet relational action was needed.

            With the data that Lynette collected and various personal experiences with neighbors in need, she determined then to continue working with in her own community to provide programs to meet the needs of her neighbors.  A woman who lived across the street had come to Lynette’s home three times within 2 weeks between 3-4 am, knocking and crying for help.  The first two times, Lynette opened the door, called 911 for the woman, and then watched the woman go back across the street. The third time this happened, Lynette stayed in bed, somewhat irritated that the woman ran back so quickly.  In the morning, irritation turned to conviction when Lynette opened her door and saw drops of blood on the porch.  Lynette never saw the woman again.  Lynette’s heart then burned with sincerity that she had not ever offered the woman the hope found in Jesus, assured her that God had greater purpose for her life, or even offered practical help of telling her the local resources for safe housing.

            These situations and a few more seemed to define Lynette’s calling as one of filling in gaps in services. Lynette did this by looking at examples of other organizations with similar missions and visions.  “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” This Chinese proverb is not stated in the mission and vision of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), but is practiced daily in their services. Using MCC as a model, Lynette contacted MCC hoping to be able to partner with them, asking them to add Flint as one of their ministry outreach locations. 

            A representative from MCC’s Great Lakes office, came to Flint, Michigan upon invitation to advise and give direction to the mission and vision of Lynette.  Lynette shared a report of the area which included a breakdown of the services offered to individuals in Flint in the following areas:  housing, clothing, food, education, support systems/discipleship and community empowerment. After the list of services offered was examined, Lynette identified needs still remaining in each of those areas. The needs were based on the data gathered from her neighbors, personal observations, and city statistics and data.  Next, she identified the missing pieces that were necessary to meet the needs in each area more effectively, as well as the resources needed to implement those services. These gaps in services became the focus of design and implementation of SOCS.

            Upon returning to Goshen, the MCC representative informed Lynette that the corporate MCC office would not be able to take on another stateside outreach project, but encouraged Lynette to continue to act upon the mission and vision.  Lynette did just that, and by February of 2012, sent in the 501c3 paperwork to the IRS for Shammah Outreach and Consulting Services. 

            Various services have been developed and implemented since the time of SOCS’ formal inception (as seen on the attached timeline) by Lynette and many volunteers. Truly the goal of SOCS is to fill in gaps in services that will empower people to thrive.  SOCS believes that at the foundation of this empowerment is a personal relationship with Jesus, so discipleship is a part of the services offered. 

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