Square Pegs & Round Holes: Our New “Lunch & Learn” at SLP

Posted by: Lila Anna Sauls

Years ago, through a special grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation, we were able to work with Moss Blachman, an expert in homelessness, capacity building and strategic planning.  Moss spent months working with our staff and board, teaching us how to make our organization stronger so we could better serve our homeless families.

One afternoon, sitting on his back porch (because that’s how we do meetings at St. Lawrence Place), he asked why we held our mandatory Life Skill classes on Monday nights. Our answer was, “because that’s how it’s always been.”  He continued on, “but what if someone works at night?” “What if someone gets sick?” “What if they have a legitimate excuse and just can’t be there?”

He compared our schedule to making a round peg fit in a square hole and told us that it was our responsibility to adjust and fit the needs of our families. But SLP was in a ditch, and we had more important things to deal with, like keeping the lights on and repairing buildings. So we filed his words away with all the other incredible advice he was providing.

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The SLP Program team–so glad they’re thinking out of the box!

Over the past five years, as our agency has gotten stronger, we’ve been able to pull most of his advice off the shelf.  This week, my Program Team brought yet another incredible idea…or the square peg we needed for our square hole.  In addition to our Monday night life skill classes, we’ll now offer a Lunch & Learn class each Monday at noon for our families.  Those we serve will be able to choose which class works best for their schedule, and we’ll present the topics in a casual setting where they feel like it’s a conversation – not a lecture.

The team has also invited the residents at The Family Shelter, since we’re only a few blocks apart. Eventually they want to spread the word throughout our entire neighborhood, so this can become a community event.  Yet another way of making sure our village at St. Lawrence Place is a good neighbor to those in our neighborhood.

I’m still grateful to Moss for challenging us to think outside our comfort zone. Most importantly, I’m forever grateful to our Board and team for being willing to accept that challenge and make things happen for the sake of our families here at St. Lawrence Place…and our surrounding community!