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Friday, July 1, 2022

Memorial Assistance Ministries plans to open new Heights resale store and is looking for volunteers.

Memorial Assistance Ministries is growing and anticipates opening its new Heights campus in July. It will feature a 1,900-sqare-foot resale store.

The 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Spring Branch is looking for volunteers to staff the store and serve in other roles. Ahead of the July soft opening, MAM needs 35 to 45 volunteers to sort, hang and price merchandise, work as cashiers and help in other tasks.

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“Because of the new operations, we’re having to build a whole new team out there,” said Sonja Gee, MAM president and CEO. “So that’s a huge need that we have. And then we’re just always looking for folks that really want to give back to the community.”

MAM focuses on developing strong families, a dynamic workforce and active communities. It currently serves families in 17 zip codes across Northwest Houston in a variety of areas that include employment services, financial assistance and mental health counseling.

According to a MAM presentation, the nonprofit assisted more than 13,000 families in 2021, for a total of more than 29,000 individuals. Gee explained that volunteers are trained well so they can be successful in their roles.

The entire Heights campus will be 5,000 square feet and located at 1021 E. 11th St. The resale store will provide a place for area families to shop affordable clothing, home goods, electronics, books, jewelry and other items. The flagship store is located in Spring Branch at 1625 Blalock Road and offers the same items plus furniture.

Funds from resale store sales support MAM programs and services.

Gee explained that finding enough volunteers for the summer months can be challenging because a lot of people travel or get involved in other activities. But she said MAM has a wide range of roles where people can support others in their community. One need is helping with summer English as a second language classes.

Some other volunteer opportunities include working as a job coach or in administrative duties. Volunteers can serve on their own schedule: once a week, twice a week or just dropping in with some friends once every few months.

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MAM has invested in its infrastructure during the pandemic. Nearly all its services are available virtually now, so clients who go to the Heights location will still have access to programs like mental health and immigration services.

The basic needs and benefits program offers rent and utility assistance, helps clients get through emergencies and assists them in enrolling for benefits. Gee said many Houston families are struggling are to find affordable housing. Some earning $20,000 or $30,000 a year and paying 50 percent or more of their wages for housing face some very difficult choices.

Gee said teaching clients about benefits is valuable as well. “Part of it is helping them to actually sign up for benefits, but a lot of it also is helping them to understand how to use them and use them well.” The benefits, Gee said, can give families more of a solid foundation to stand on while laying out a path toward a more financially secure future.

MAM tries to help families by encouraging them to build skills that will produce wages to be better prepared for providing for their families in more sustainable way. Financial coaching, for example, teaches clients to manage their resources more effectively. When many people lost their jobs during the pandemic and some of the jobs didn’t return, MAM assisted clients with job readiness, such as learning how to write resumes and vocational skills landing high-demand jobs with higher wages.

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