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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Becky Whelchel poses for a portrait at the Impact Hub where MetMin and several other nonprofits share office space.

At the end of each work email Becky Whelchel sends is a quote that not only characterizes her work but also her decision to leave it: "In the end, the only things worth doing are the things that might possibly break your heart. Rage on." — Colum McCann

In 2006, Whelchel, a classically trained pianist and conductor, fortuitously wandered into what was supposed to be a part-time job with MetMin Ministries. Born of a local church outreach in 1979, the registered 501(c)(3) stands in the gap for those struggling to make ends meet, offering direct and indirect assistance to help keep locals housed and fed.

In March, Whelchel will vacate the executive director's chair and start a new chapter.

The 63-year-old has spent the past decade and a half meeting people where they are and walking alongside them. She's found common ground with mental health patients; intervened on behalf of families about to be forced from their homes; paid overdue electric bills to keep seniors warm.

She's also helped shepherd the nonprofit through a pandemic, as well as a move and a new model that put an assortment of complementary assistance providers under one roof at what is known as the Impact Hub.

Here, in her own words, Whelchel shares what she's seen and learned over the past 15 years, as well as what's next.

* In June (2021), we served a total of 769 individuals belonging to 331 households. The number of calls daily is no less than 10,000 a day. We don't even begin to tap the need.

* Probably 50% of all those we've served have been brand-new, and many have never reached out to anybody for help before.

* I never understood why people don't have what they need and I still don't; why, in this land of plenty, and in particular this city of extreme grace and resources, people don't have what they need.

* Being immersed in the lives of those whose lives are characterized by poverty, on a face-to-face basis every day for years and years and years, it either extinguishes that passion or inflames it. And in my case, it inflamed it.

* Is it a calling? It must be, but it's a curious connect-the-dots.

* On the other hand, a lot of nonprofit work, especially at the leadership level, is compliance, governance and a whole lot of financials. There are a number of skills that were already in place (for me).

* Because we had a family business that we were all involved in we all had to have some financial chops. I also enjoy research.

* As people who had enough (growing up), I think we were all aware we had a responsibility to those who didn't.

* "Charity" and "philanthropy" still puts an "us" and "them" on it. I would just say it's the right thing to do.

* It's almost like [poverty] is more institutionalized now. Everybody could afford a gallon (of gas when I was growing up), but some people could afford a tank to drive to the beach. Now, you can't afford a car, transportation sucks, you can't afford insurance. You're out of the playing field. The differential now is just magnified.

* It's always rent (assistance needed these days). That's about neck and neck with emergency hotel stays because people are getting evicted. Once they get evicted, it's over. Housing stock was already a challenge.

* Many landlords are not in much better shape than those they rent to. And the minute a landlord goes belly up on that property, look what happens: A developer swoops in and another slice of affordable housing stock is gone, and it's not coming back.

* I will carry my righteous indignation with me (when I leave MetMin). And I will take away some of the greatest and highest moments of my life, and some of the lowest and darkest.

* I learned one of my most valuable tricks from my dear friend Georgia Hagood. I would go and visit her and cry my eyeballs out. She said, "Is this helping you do your job? Is this helping those who turn to you get more stable? Then why are you doing it?"

* I have learned and practiced and gotten it down to an art now, really, some intentional forgetting. I do that on the way home. Sometimes it takes me a long way to get home because of that.

* I like to think that people feel welcome here. We don't call those who come through MetMin's doors our clients, we call them our guests. And we really do consider them our guests.

* Yes, I'll be walking out these doors in March, but there's never been a better time for someone else to walk in. Our balance sheet is over $3 million, we've got a year's worth of operating expenses in the bank, we've got a baby endowment. Who wouldn't want to walk into a nonprofit like that?

* Somebody is going to take this place to heights I can't even imagine right now.

* It's one of the greatest privileges of my life to be in this insane work, and a great privilege to walk away feeling so good about it. It will be another great privilege of my life to watch the next evolution of it.

* I'm leaving this and I don't know what I'm going to. What I hope for myself is that I can just be still for a while and just do nothing. I'm not good at being still. I'm not good at doing nothing.

* My kids are both in the Midwest. I want to see them until I'm tired of seeing them or until they're tired of seeing me. I don't want to be a professional grandmother but I want to be able to drop everything and go when I want to.

* I feel incredibly hopeful for MetMin — the institution, its capacity, the future it can have. Do I feel hopeful about our city, our world, our state, our galaxy? No.

* Romans 12:12, I carry that (quote) around too. It just means to stand firm and don't miss out on the joy.

* If you drive through some of the poorest parts of town you're going to hear a lot of laughter. What can we learn about that?

* Watch out for joy; be on the lookout. But stand firm; keep going.

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