When you think of someone who may need help getting their birth certificate or ID, who do you picture? Do you picture a woman who has fled domestic abuse and knows she cannot go back home because it's not safe? Do you picture a man desperate to apply for a job, but the car he has been living out of was stolen along with all of his personal papers and belongings? Do you picture a woman trying to rebuild her life after serving time in jail? Do you picture a homeless woman trying to get a copy of her birth certificate but not having an address to mail it to? Do you picture a displaced single mother needing to get her kids' birth certificates so she can enroll them in school?
We have seen all of these situations at Reconciliation Services, people walking through our doors, hoping we could help them get that piece of paper or little plastic card that could set them on the path to self-sufficiency or rebuilding what they had lost.
However, not everyone we serve is poor, homeless, or desperate. We have also helped people that may simply need some caring direction and information about how to access their documents.
When Diane Charity first came to Reconciliation Services, she was inquiring about document needs for some students she was working with at Cristo Rey. Herself a community activist, as the president of the Manheim Neighborhood Association and chairman of the Community Advisory Board for KCPT, Diane knew that RS was an invaluable resource for the community.
“In May 2008 my mother passed,” Diane said. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but my driver’s license had expired. I was 58 and I hadn’t needed to produce my birth certificate for anything that I could remember. Of course, I knew my mother had to have one, but I couldn’t ask her where it was.”
Diane said she decided to go ahead and request one from New York State where she was born.
“They had given me a form and a list of things that I would need in order to get my birth certificate,” Diane said. “I filled out the forms and put in my mother’s maiden name, my dad’s name, and the rest of the information. But they said, ‘no, that’s not your mother’s maiden name.’”
Diane was at a loss. She went back and forth with the office in New York and tried to figure out why they didn’t recognize her mother’s first name. She wasn’t sure what to do next.
That’s when she decided to go back to the place that had been such a great resource for her when she had tried to help others, Reconciliation Services.
“So, I went up to Reconciliation Services and asked them what I should do,” Diane said. “They told me what I was going to have to do. Since I couldn’t prove my mother’s maiden name, I was going to have to provide proof of who I was. I was going to have to request a letter from my congressman, provide verification of where I lived. It was quite a process. But, at least at Reconciliation Services I got help figuring out what I needed in a friendly manner. They really helped me with the whole process. They allayed my fears and showed me how to get what I needed.”
With a little help navigating the process and patience from caring RS staff, Diane was able to get her birth certificate so she could renew her driver’s license.
RS will provide nearly 1,400 IDs and birth certificates in 2017 and we have become one of the largest providers of document and ID assistance in the state of Missouri. We have seen firsthand the importance of that birth certificate and ID in order to access health care, housing, school enrollment, visiting a sick kid in the hospital, opening a bank account, voting, and so much more.
“I was so happy to know that RS was right there at 31st and Troost, with a whole lot of resources available to help. It’s like one of the best kept secrets in town,” she said. “You can get the help you need and it isn’t degrading. At RS they are kind and patient and will walk with you through the whole process.”
Walking “with” someone in the process is what sets RS apart. We don’t just offer a voucher or payment for a document. Our caring case workers help clients navigate through paperwork, offer guidance, and often advocate for them with other agencies.
Even an active and dynamic community advocate like Diane may need a little support at times. “At Reconciliation Services I felt like they really cared about me. It really renewed my faith in humanity. It is good to be reminded how valuable each person is,” she said.
Thriving, vibrant community life shouldn’t just be reserved for some. When everyone, the whole community, has access to the same services, privileges and rights, we will be a healthier, more engaged city.
Join us in seeing the strength of our community revealed as we strive to ensure that all its members can participate, sharing their hopes, their experiences and their lives. Learn more about the “I’D Be Campaign” and consider giving a little so that someone can get their ID today!