Front line, down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty social work. That's how Dr. Barbara Hartnett describes the day-to-day ministry of Friendship House of Christian Service in Peoria, IL, where she serves as executive director. "What we do is meet simple human needs," she says. "Remember Maslow's hierarchy? We're working at the most basic levels here."
Individuals and families find a wide range of assistance programs at Friendship House. Emergency services include a food pantry and financial aid for rent, utilities, prescription medicines, and diapers. A walk-in clinic provides basic health care. English as a Second Language and high school G.E.D. classes are offered regularly. The Dress for Success program ensures that those entering the work world have something appropriate to wear to interviews and on the job. An after-school program, summer camp, and teen program reach children and youth in the community. Senior programs serve older residents.
Hartnett spent most of her previous career as an academic, teaching college for 18 years and then working in a variety of administrative positions. "I had done a lot of things," she says. "But you reach a point where you ask yourself 'What's really important? What do I want to do with the rest of my life?'" Hartnett was drawn to her current position when her husband pointed out that she seemed happiest when volunteering at Friendship House or tutoring a child. "Maybe God is telling you something," he told her.
But it hasn't been easy. "'Love your neighbor' means loving all the people who walk through the door-even those who aren't easy to love," Hartnett says. "But Jesus encourages me and reminds me that He hears and answer my prayers. And my personal faith has been strengthened by some of those I've encountered. Despite the fact that they have next to nothing in material possessions, some have an absolutely unwavering faith in God."
Hartnett's prayers and dreams for the future include economic justice in the community. "I would like the time and resources to work at why people are hungry and don't have a roof over their heads," she says. "I'd like us to help people move up the economic ladder from minimum wage jobs with no medical benefits to a level where they can support their families."
Caring about the poor is just part of following Jesus Christ, says Hartnett. "No matter what church we sit in, there are needs in our community," she says. "Find out what the needs are and then get involved. We can't be Christian and just sit on the sidelines!"
Barbara Hartnett has been married to Michael Hartnett for more than 33 years. She loves animals and describes herself as a huge White Sox fan.
Ed.D., Adult Education, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL; master's degree in Psychology, Illinois State University, Bloomington, IL; bachelor's degree in Psychology, University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana, IL
Executive director, RiverTech Center, Peoria, IL; director of Continuing Education, Illinois Central College, Peoria, IL; administrator, Illinois Central College, Peoria, IL; professor of Psychology, Illinois Central College, Peoria, IL
- Birthday: December 5
- Became executive director of Friendship House of Christian Service: October 2001
HOME MISSION HIGHLIGHTS:
Friendship House of Christian Service served some 34,000 meals in the last one-year reporting period.
Through the Friendship House donated used vehicle program, 150 cars were given away in the last year to individuals and families in need of reliable transportation.
The Dress for Success program at Friendship House outfitted 250 women for job interviews in the last year. Of these, 160 were successful in obtaining employment and were still employed after 90 days, qualifying to receive five more outfits suitable for a work setting.