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New Life Center: Just Like Us

By Jordan Maahs, COO and Producer at Yarn Media
Photos courtesy of Yarn Media 

Brian heard his wife scream. He saw headlights. Then everything went black. When he woke up, his back was on the cold pavement in North Fargo, looking up at a blurry paramedic. He had an excruciating headache and a sharp pain in his arm. His daughter cried, and his wife lay next to him in broken glass. She was motionless.

That’s part of the story in “Just Like Me” a video by Yarn Media for the New Life Center, a homelessness recovery organization in Fargo. This video featuring “Brian” is a fictionalized dramatization that combines elements of several local homeless men’s stories into one powerful story of loss and recovery.

The video follows Brian, whose car accident triggers a downward spiral of addiction, depression, the loss of his daughter and, ultimately, homelessness. But the story doesn’t stop there. Brian finds the New Life Center, where volunteers and staff help him reconnect with his daughter and get him back on his feet. The story struck a chord with the Fargo community. In the first two days after it’s release, the video received hundreds of shares and comments of support on social media with over 15,000 views.

As temperatures get chilly, this story reminds us to remember the homeless in our community, and remember that they’re like us in so many ways. The opioid epidemic is not going away. If we don’t take action, families and children will pay the price. This film is a reminder that we’re all responsible for helping our neighbors.

Rob Swiers, the Executive Director of the New Life Center makes it clear that each person has the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Many people look for opportunities to get involved this time of year, but often don’t know where to start. The New Life Center’s efforts provide powerful insights into how each of us can more effectively help those around us who are in need.

Here are four lessons we can learn from The New Life Center on how we can all make a difference.

npschmidt final 1801Four ways to make a difference this holiday season:

1. Challenge your assumptions

Brian’s story seemed to resonate with so many because the causes of homelessness in Fargo is often different than we think. “It’s not just the person standing at the off-ramp with a sign,” says Swiers. In Fargo, hundreds of homeless individuals remain in temporary shelter, out of sight of most city residents, while struggling to meet their basic needs and gaining a true path to recovery.

And the solutions to homelessness can be just as surprising. “We provide food, shelter, and clothing. That’s where it starts, but it is not where it ends. We walk with them, guide them and help them. That’s where the transformation happens,” said Swiers. Often, providing dignity and respect are the first steps in supporting someone as they come out of homelessness.

2. Work Together

Effective growth only happens in an environment of healthy cooperation. The New Life Center collaborates with other agencies like Sanford and the Fargo Police to effectively serve others.

Rather than trying to do everything on their own, The New Life Center partnered with Yarn Media to produce a video that allowed their team to stay laser-focused on their mission. Similarly, they partner with dozens of other local agencies and programs to ensure every person who walks through their door is provided with the best possible care.

npschmidt final 5 13. Spread the word

Thousands of people learned about the work of the New Life Center because people were willing to spread the word. No matter what causes you’re passionate about, it’s likely that you have people in your network that have a similar passion, but have not yet taken a step towards getting involved. If you plan to volunteer at the New Life Center for the first time, invite a friend to come along. You can double your impact while helping a friend engage with something you’re passionate about.

Sometimes it’s worth investing in professionally produced storytelling like the New Life Center did with Yarn. But each of us can make an impact just by sharing our firsthand experiences with our personal and professional networks. Sharing an online review of a charity you admire or simply telling a friend about your volunteering experiences can make a big difference in moving a cause forward.

4. Step out of your comfort zone

“We’ve been around for 112 years. In that time, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of change,” says Swiers. The New Life Center has stayed relevant throughout the years by embracing change rather than resisting it, and that forward-thinking mindset has allowed them to grow their impact over time.

Volunteering with the homeless can seem uncomfortable, but oftentimes, it’s the uncomfortable experiences that lead to the biggest results.

Starting is often the hardest part of making a difference. Consider taking a small step, like donating or volunteering at a local organization. You can find opportunities to get involved at the New Life Center at volunteer and you can watch “Just Like Us” at Yarn Media’s website

Written by Brady Drake

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