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Joan Morris retires from Board
Joan Morris retired in 2012 from her six years of service as an Off the Floor Pittsburgh (OFP) board member. She worked for 25 years as a librarian, so research and meticulous record keeping was in her blood. After retiring from that position in December 2004, she began praying for a Christian ministry in which to be involved. A year and half later, OFP founder MJ McCarty, newly acquainted with Morris, invited her to be a part of the first board, established in January 2006. Morris began her tenure in May. OFP was established in 2004.
“I knew I wanted to work as closely as possible to the core of the ministry – delivery of used furniture to families who were desperate for it. I had been involved in community service ministries for years, but I felt that I had done the right things for the wrong reasons. Now I was ready for something better, something that would fundamentally change my life,” Morris said.
McCarty and Morris made a terrific team. McCarty was gifted with an extraordinary memory in tracking the number of families served since 2004, while Morris begin writing the data down and creating spreadsheets to organize the ballooning information. They petitioned churches around their neighborhoods for more volunteers and encountered the pastor from Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church, who has made his own valuable contributions to OFP.
Three important components of OFP include a steady stream of incoming furniture to be donated, financial contributions to cover those costs, and strong, able-bodied volunteers who can pick up and deliver the furniture. “It has been an awesome experience to see all these components come together so that we can make a significant difference in the lives of local families. In 2006, we delivered furniture to 63 families with 120 children,” Morris said.
Ask Morris about what she’s most proud of after six years as a board member for OFP, and she’ll tell you about three amazing things. She developed spreadsheets to track recipients, furniture donors, volunteers and financial contributions. She also pulled in an estimated $50,000 for OFP through grant writing and the amount of information Morris gleaned for OFP was instrumental in it becoming nonprofit. The impact survey was another tool Morris developed to gather data. She created a form for furniture recipients to complete regarding how OFP had benefited them. What she discovered was a mixed bag of overwhelming gratitude and angst over a long wait for furniture. The recipients who didn’t respond by paper responded positively over the phone. Morris learned how transient the recipients can be. Contact information can change from week to week. Morris learned that the furniture needs were even greater than she realized. But the crowning jewel of her accomplishments was cultivating relationships with social service agencies. It is social service agencies who refer potential furniture recipients to OFP. The agencies gained a better understanding of the amount of time involved in waiting for furniture, thanks to Morris. Morris also wrote letters to the agencies explaining how OFP helped recipients.
Morris’s work with OFP has deepened her faith in God. What she has gained is a deeper appreciation of how extensively God is involved in the world. “OFP would be impossible for any volunteers. If God wasn’t helping, OFP would not exist. God is our CEO and ‘just-in-time’ manager,” Morris said. For example, Morris would sense a prompting from the Holy Spirit to talk to someone about contributing financially and when she acted in obedience, the “someone” didn’t hesitate to write a check.
“Our experience is that we have connected with something bigger and more complex than we can even perceive. In countless ways and places, God is touching hearts and people are responding generously. Mostly it happens beyond our awareness, but frequently a part of it unfolds right in front of us and supports our ministry,” Morris said.
Joan Morris receives an award in recognition of all her contributions to OFP from executive director Bob Myer during the OFP fundraiser luncheon December 2, 2012
One is taught to believe that ministry is supposed to run efficiently: everything is orderly, on time, everyone knows what is expected of them, and all communications among employees are effective. “I have begun to think that the sign of doing something for the right reason is accepting considerable lack of control over what is going on. We usually feel like we have a tiger by the tail. A visiting priest at my church once said, ‘real ministry is messy.’ I think we qualify. We have been on the verge of being overwhelmed most of the time, wondering if we can do this at all. We know that we could not do it without the constant presence and support of God. We are the arms and legs for a Force which is already involved and working in the world. We have been given the grace to see and serve people in this area that God has been comforting and supporting all along,” Morris said.
Morris shares her vision for OFP’s future. “I hope OFP never loses its faith based operations. It would be easy to turn OFP into just another secular nonprofit. When you offer to pray with the recipient families, you see God at work, and the gift of furniture is a symbol of God’s love,” Morris said. She is also grateful that OFP now has an executive director and a part time pick up and delivery coordinator.
In December 2012, after six years of service on the board, Morris retired, however, God and OFP still have plans for her. She will continue to visit local churches to raise additional funding. She’s already got half a dozen on her list, which is another example, she adds with a wink, of how God works.
“Somehow, God can find a way to put all of us in a position where we can be of most use to his eternal purposes,” Morris said.
All the volunteers and board members, both past and present, would like to thank Morris for her years of devotion and the love she shared for so many.