River of Refuge newsletter, August 2023

Generous Donors Scare Up Great Back-To-School Brunch

Saturday’s back-to-school brunch could have been mistaken for a Halloween party.

The skeletons that appeared to be roaming the community room were really adults and kids wearing moisturizing masks applied by volunteer beauticians — all part of the program to provide our families a fresh start to the school year.

Someone That Cares Ministry secured the services of the beauty professionals, including barbers and manicurists. The ministry also provided brunch for the event.

In addition, Raytown Community Christian Church joined an anonymous donor to provide free backpacks filled with school supplies to 30 students, including some kids of families who graduated from the program within the past two years. The students ranged from kindergartners to high school seniors.

Backpacks stand ready for distribution at River of Refuge's Back to School party 2023

In this world of bullying, said Executive Director Pam Seymour, it’s a pleasure to make sure that ROR kids don’t stand out from other students.

“We want the children to feel that they are just like every other child,” she said. “So giving them a backpack filled with everything they need, giving them a haircut, doing their nails … just helps them with their own self-image and helps them fit in.”

River of Refuge parent Lois Bryand was one of the thankful recipients of the generosity extended by the community. She is nine months pregnant and attended the brunch with her daughters, 7-year-old Lily and 2-year-old Devyn.

She has been living at River of Refuge since March and expects to graduate in October.

Not having to pay for school supplies, Bryand said, was a “huge weight lifted off my shoulders.” Her girls also enjoyed the beauty services provided.

Lily in particular, she said, “has been excited all week to get her nails done, and her little face mask, and her hair cut.”

And even Mom had the opportunity to get a face mask and a manicure. “I always love to pamper myself,” she said.

Party attendees enjoy the activities at the River of Refuge Back to School party 2023


Church Volunteers From Texas Rehab ROR Parking Garage

Grace Community Church in Fort Worth, Texas, has supported River of Refuge since we started, and volunteers from the church returned to transform the lower deck of our parking structure during two full days of work in July.

A dozen volunteers contributed a total of 204 man hours by scrubbing off peeling paint with wire brushes and coating the roughly 7,000 square feet of wall space with a fresh paint job.

Volunteers from Grace Community Church in Fort Worth scrape off old paint in the parking garage

Volunteers from Grace Community Church in Fort Worth repainted the parking garage

Executive Director Pam Seymour said the makeover converted a “really ugly” space into one that staff now welcomes as a place to park, which also clears parking spots on the top deck for ROR families. The covered parking area now has 98 parking spots.

She said the refurbished area will also provide shelter for outdoor events, such as the monthly birthday parties we hold for the children living with us.

And to top it all off, the volunteers spent a Monday evening spending time and doing crafts with our kids in childcare.

The parking garage was transformed from ugly to welcoming

From The Director

A recent trip to a taco joint turned into a life-saving moment for Casey Johnson.

I will tell you more about that eventful trip in a moment. But first, some background:

Johnson is a harm reduction specialist with First Call, a nonprofit that provides clinical, educational, and prevention services to individuals and families in greater Kansas City impacted by substance use disorders.

She provided the Narcan training to our staff that I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, and she led a powerful discussion regarding how she interacts with addicts and when Narcan is needed. The stories she shared were heartwrenching.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the drug, Narcan is a brand name for a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Barely a week goes by that Johnson isn’t “Narcanning” someone she doesn’t even know. And that brings me back to the food run Johnson took with her husband.

As she walked in to retrieve her order, she noticed a man slumped against the side of the building. He was still there when she exited, so she took her food to the car, grabbed some Narcan, and began moving quickly through her protocols on the unresponsive man.

She administered the drug, and saved his life — this time. She always waits with the person until medical personnel arrives, if they have agreed to have her call for assistance.

As I said last month, we hope to never have to administer the drug, but we’ve got it and know how to properly use it, so we’re ready if the need presents itself.

And now, on to some lighter topics.

This week’s blazing temperatures notwithstanding, we know that summer is winding down, and it has been a tremendous season in terms of fresh produce from our gardens. We’ve learned a lot since last year, and so far, our corn crop is thriving. Fingers crossed it continues, and we are looking forward to more bounties this fall.

Also, I was so happy we could provide a glimpse of our back-to-school brunch with our top story in this month’s newsletter. It brings my heart great joy to see how excited the kids are getting their haircuts, eating a filling brunch, and in the grand finale, peering inside the backpack filled with school supplies selected just for them.

Until Next Time,
Pamela Seymour, Executive Director