Putting Tender Hearts & Caring Hands To Work for God
Employee Spotlight – Kathie Schuster
Kathie Schuster is a walking billboard for Ministry Village at Olive and for loving Jesus. Originally from Gulf Breeze, Florida, Kathie grew up in the Florida Panhandle and earned a marketing and advertising degree as well as a master’s degree in psychology at University of West Florida. A natural caretaker at heart, Kathie worked at Lakeview Center as a Screening Specialist, using her skills to assist those in crisis.
As life would have it, Kathie began to struggle herself, and in 2016, she was admitted into the Charis House at Ministry Village. While working through the program, she began volunteering at the Ministry Village Bargain Center. When she graduated Phase I of the Charis House and moved into Phase II, she was hired full-time at the Bargain Center. As she learned more about the ministry, regained confidence in herself, and discovered stability in her life again, she was offered the opportunity to work at the Ministry Village office as an Intake Specialist under Mrs. Debbie Thaxton, the Tender Hearts Caring Hands Program Manager.
Tender Hearts Caring Hands is the care and kindness ministry of MVO, focused on serving individuals and families in Escambia and Santa Rosa County that have significant need. THCH helps qualifying families with rental assistance to prevent individuals and families from being evicted and uprooted from their community. They provide assistance with power bills and other utilities to ensure no one is eating dinner in a dark, cold house. The program also provides assistance for local transportation and food needs. Using many of the same skills she honed working at Lakeview, combined with her growing love for the Lord, Kathie thrived at meeting and encouraging THCH clients who found themselves feeling hopeless and desperate. In January 2018, Mrs. Debbie retired and Kathie was offered the position of program manager. In 2020, Kathie was promoted to director of the Tender Hearts Caring Hands program.
As program director, Kathie is responsible for coordinating every aspect of the THCH ministry. She recruits and manages a team of volunteers who takes incoming calls, schedules appointments, gathers and organizes food pantry donations, and packs food bags and supplies for families and homeless clients. She coordinates the weekly THCH Budget Class for clients to help them learn how to manage their expenses; she works with local utilities like Gulf Power and ECUA to find programs to help clients in need; and she personally meets with clients to provide them with assistance for rent, utilities, food and transportation. She serves on several local nonprofit task forces and committees, finding new ways to reach people in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, and staying at the forefront of what is needed to better serve the community.
When Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons approach, Kathie somehow finds more time and energy to spearhead special holiday food donations and gift programs, working with other local charities and organizations to identify families with significant needs and match them with church connection groups and other MVO supporters who provide memorable holiday meals and personalized gifts for the children. Kathie is always looking for new ways to make a difference for our neighbors, and she knows most of the area homeless residents by name. She personally cooks a crockpot meal and brings it to the MVO office so homeless clients can have a hot meal each week. She has spearheaded efforts to expand the THCH food pantry beyond nonperishable foods, finding donors to supply hygiene items as well as clean socks and underwear for her homeless friends. She is most excited about the newest MVO project – a shower ministry that will give people access to a clean shower, allowing them to feel clean, regain some dignity, and lessen the tremendous feelings of shame associated with being homeless. Working closely with Jeremy Portmann, MVO’s Executive Director, and partnering with My Father’s Vineyard, Kathie expects the shower ministry to be in operation by Summer 2021.
When she’s not working at Ministry Village, you can find Kathie gardening, cooking, painting, spoiling her cat Raul Bob, and caring for her elderly mother. Kathie is a member of Olive Baptist Church, sings in the choir, and has been blessed to travel on a few mission trips, something she hopes to be able to do again.
Ministry Village at Olive was founded with the mission to put the words of Jesus into action throughout our community – “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV) Kathie leads by example and puts the MVO mission into practice every day. She treats every client with dignity and respect, reminding each one that they are loved by God and worthy of happiness. Her encouragement helps many clients see beyond their current distress and feel hopeful about their futures. Her love for God, enthusiastic personality, and willingness to help are contagious and inspiring to everyone who volunteers at MVO as well as those who work alongside her each day.
“This ministry saved my life,” said Kathie. “Being able to give back and also encourage others who are going through a difficult season in their lives is so rewarding. I’ve always loved to provide meals to others as a form of love and care, so much of what I do at Tender Hearts feels like a natural outreach to me. Working at Ministry Village, I’m encouraged to expand services and do what we can to help those in need throughout our community. I love my job.”
Thank you, Kathie, for showing our community what serving as the hands and feet of Jesus looks like. Your tender heart and caring hands inspire us all!
- The Tender Hearts Caring Hands Food Pantry accepts donations Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 2PM at the Ministry Village at Olive office (1716 E. Olive Road). Donations of nonperishable food items and travel-size hygiene items are accepted. Financial donations are appreciated and go toward purchasing the items THCH distributes each day. Supporters can also make purchases through Amazon and items can be shipped directly to the Ministry Village at Olive office.
- The Tender Hearts Caring Hands Food Pantry provides food to those in need Monday-Friday from 10AM to 12noon at the Ministry Village office (1716 E. Olive Road).
- For financial assistance including rent and utilities for those who qualify, contact the Tender Hearts Caring Hands office at (850) 473-4466. Details for qualifications are available on the MVO website.
- For updates and information, follow the Ministry Village at Olive Facebook page.
- To donate financially to Tender Hearts Caring Hands or any Ministry Village program, click here.
- If you would like to volunteer with Tender Hearts Caring Hands, contact Kathie at (850)475-1118 or by email at KSchuster@ministryvillage.org.