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Looking Forward with Hope: A Fiscal New Year's Reflection from The Night Ministry's President & CEO

paul Paul W. Hamann is The Night Ministry's President & CEO.

Dear Friends,

The end of the year is always a reflective time for me. It is one of my traditions to take December 31 as my last personal day of the year, so I can spend time in reflection, as the holidays come to a close. I find a quiet space within my heart to reflect on the challenges of the year that is passing, what have been my personal and professional highs and lows, and what my hopes are for the new year. In my annual New Year's message to staff, I also reflect on the lyrics below, from The Armed Man Mass – a Mass for Peace (1999), by Karl Jenkins.

Ring, ring, ring, ring
Ring, ring, ring, ring!
Ring out the thousand wars of old
Ring in the thousand years of peace
Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring happy bells across the snow
The year is going, let him go
The year is going, let him go
Ring out the false, ring in the new
Ring out old shapes of foul disease
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old
Ring in the thousand years of peace

To me, these lyrics summarize the content of my new year reflections: saying good-bye to the toils and challenges of the past year, and ringing happy bells of peace, bells that ultimately resound with hope.

Right now, although it is only the end of June, I find myself in a similarly reflective mood. More than I usually do on December 31, I find myself wanting to ring out the old and to ring in the new. On July 1, The Night Ministry will start its new fiscal year; this year, the passing of the current fiscal year on June 30 and entrance of Fiscal Year (FY2021 on July 1, has really got me to thinking.

FY20, to say the least, has been a challenging one for our mission to provide housing, health care, and human connection to the poor and homeless here in Chicago. Obstacles we faced last July and August obtaining building permits for our new facilities at 1735 North Ashland pale in comparison to the many challenges we encountered as the COVID-19 pandemic made its presence known, as we developed and implemented practices to protect the health and safety of our staff and clients while continuing to provide critical services and adapted to uncertain economic timesThen, as the fiscal year neared its end, our nation was confronted, once again, by the systemic discrimination that has impacted the lives of so many members of The Night Ministry communityclients and staffand we experienced both hopeful protests and civil unrest.

The last four months have been full of sleepless nights worried about finances and the well-being and safety of our staff and those whom we serve. The days have been filled with finding answers to complex questions, making the best decisions we could at the time, only to find new answers and to once again have to change protocols three or four hours later.

I have been involved in nonprofit leadership, in some shape or form for 30 years . . . and it has been a year like no other. Never before has a day that marks the end of either the fiscal year or the calendar year made me want to ring out the old with such earnest.

Yet, as I wait to welcome the start of The Night Ministry's new fiscal year, I do so with the same anticipation as I do when I ring in the new of the calendar year.As we "ring out the old shapes of foul disease," learn to live with new realities and embrace new possibilities, we do so knowing that we have so much for which to be grateful and proud:

  • We are grateful for our staff whose heroic efforts have kept our programs running and clients served during the pandemic
  • We are thankful for the hundreds of groups and individuals who have dropped off food and meals to be distributed on the streets and in our shelters
  • We are humbled by the generosity of thousands who responded with financial contributions to help us meet the increased costs we encountered while responding to COVID in all of our program settings
  • We are proud of the "can-do" attitude of our staff who collaborated in ways not seen before, to meet the changing needs of our clients
  • We are grateful to have finally taken possession of 1735 North Ashland, our new headquarters

And, despite the many unknowns that the future holds, we are filled with hope as we turn the calendar and start a new fiscal year. We are hopeful because:

  • Our Health Outreach Bus has now returned to its pre-pandemic hours of operation
  • We are restarting some services we had to halt in the early days of the pandemic, such as HIV testing
  • In July, The Crib, our overnight shelter, will move into its new space at 1735 North Ashland and our Youth Outreach Team will resume their weekly outreach in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood
  • On July 1, non-essential staff will be allowed to return to their work site, 1 to 2 days a week, while ensuring that our efforts to provide as safe a workplace as possible are functioning well
  • We have held virtual forums, allowing employees to talk about race and how we as an organization can do a better job of adopting a lens of racial equity in how we operate
  • Volunteers, in small numbers and under specific circumstances, are being allowed to return to our programs

Every new year is filled with hope and uncertainty, and as I look at the world and the eco-system in which The Night Ministry functions, we face A LOT of unknowns . . . perhaps as never before. But, when I see the resiliency of those whom we serve and the compassion with which our staff serves them, I do not let that uncertainty fill me with fear. Rather, I am filled with hope and excitement this new year. And, I am so grateful for the support that you have provided us in the last twelve months, for the partnership you have deepened with our mission, and for the care you show for the homeless. We could not have and cannot continue to do our work without you.

Come, let us ring out the old, and togetherwith hope and excitementlet us ring in the new. Let us ring in the thousand years of peace.

Happy New Year!

In gratitude,

Paul W. Hamann, MA, MNA
President & CEO 

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