Metro Baptist Center
Serving the poor of downtown Indianapolis in the same location, at the same time since 1987, Metro Baptist Center has “standardized the process of helping a person”. Though an extremely small organization, Metro’s Baptist affiliation and long-term partnership with local churches and church organizations have enabled it to consistently serve for 29 years through its partners’; volunteers, program facilitation, and donations.
The Benefit of Partnerships: Metro Baptist Center
Metro Baptist Center is a downtown Indianapolis ministry headed by Tom Polak, pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. Focused on the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the poor in Marion County, Metro has been giving out food and clothing in the same location and at the same time since 1987. Its services also include job placement, a twelve-step program, and support groups. In an average year, Metro will serve 8,000 to 10,000 people. Polak’s description of Metro’s mission encapsulates its simple, yet important, mission: “Although we can measure the pounds of food given or the pieces of clothing distributed, real success, in our organization, is the change that takes place in the lives of people being freed from poverty. Working alongside other faith based organizations, we regularly see people quit drinking, find a place to live or reconciled a husband and a wife.”
Though Metro is a small organization, Polak being the only full-timer besides two part-time staff, Polak attributes its success to its consistency and longevity. One key way that Metro has achieved these successes is through the consistent support of affiliated church communities and organizations. The Baptist organizations with which Metro is affiliated—as well as its tight connection to Cornerstone Christian Fellowship—is intrinsic to the strength and variety of Metro’s services. Through working in cooperation with Crossroads Baptist Association, State Convention of Baptist in Indiana and the Southern Baptist Convention, Metro is supported by sixty churches that donate their time through volunteers (between 50 and 75 volunteers in a typical month and as many as 300 for special events), their money, as well as facilitation of support groups and programs. Metro benefits from this network of spiritual communities that provide manpower and resources for the individuals using Metro’s services to take steps towards longer-lasting recovery. For example, the Nehemiah House is an Eastside home that was refurbished through Cornerstone Christian Fellowship and other volunteers as a halfway home for women just leaving prison; though not a Metro-specific program, it is a resource available to which Polak and others at Metro can refer individuals looking for help.
Another key reason is Metro’s ability to develop a process which is consistent and reliable. In Polak’s words, Metro has “standardized the process of helping a person.” For instance, Metro hasn’t changes its hours of operation since 1987. Additionally, Metro developed a software program in 2000 to track and maintain contact with its visitors. When someone comes to Metro, a caregiver enters the client’s address, phone number, financial information, and how Metro is currently meeting their needs; today, there are 40,000 individuals in this system, an incredible resource for not only Metro but potentially other Marion County organizations. This database allows Metro to follow-up with individuals and to send mass emails to as many as 10,000 households about a Fourth of July picnic Metro hosts or the Christmas gift program. Metro holds the copyright to the system and has shared this information with 6 local pantries, although it hopes that other organizations will utilize this resource. Polak acknowledges that Metro is not particularly strong in getting its message “out there”; he has witnessed many
lives transformed, and yet Metro has not yet figured out how to communicate in ways that will encourage and inspire. For this reason, Metro’s rich database of the needy in Marion County has yet to be distributed as widely as Polak would like. However, the database serves and enhances Metro’s mission to be consistent and available for the people coming through its doors.