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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Crosslines director is retiring after 19 years

Friday, December 31, 2010

Work at Crosslines never slows down. Director Jolene Garoutte, shown at right, paused to look at some of the latest donations dropped off at the resale store, as shown by Mike Rust. Garoutte plans to step down as director in February after 19 years. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Jolene Garoutte will step down as the director of Crosslines, the Monett charity, on Feb. 2, 2011. MaLinda King, who has been Garoutte's assistant for the past three years, has been selected by the Crosslines board as the next director. Garoutte is spending her final weeks busy and looking forward to a new role.

Garoutte started as Crosslines director in 1992 when the operation was located on Seventh Street, where the Mary Beck Studio now operates. In her third week Garoutte discovered the job was more than running a store and handing out food.

"A man called who had slept in a culvert by Walmart," Garoutte recalled. "He was leaving a broken relationship and traveling on foot from Oklahoma to Florida. He didn't think he could go on. I wasn't trained for that. That's when I realized I'm in over my head."

The man came to Crosslines, ate, rested, received encouragement and left in a better frame of mind. Garoutte never knew what happened to him, but the experience became a model for what was to come.

At the time Crosslines was a small operation. Garoutte was the only full-time employee and had one part-time assistant. There was only enough money to help 20 families a month with food and gasoline. Within three months a better organized store generated enough money to help 30 families a month. Today, Crosslines has 14 employees, full and part-time. The store, with its food pantry, supports families with basic needs, plus provides help with bus tickets, housing and gasoline. The amount dedicated to helping families with rent and utilities costs has grown from $750 a month to $6,000.

Garoutte said the big leap in what Crosslines has been able to do came when the operation moved to its present location at Seventh and Cleveland.

"I started down an unknown path when I came to Crosslines," Garoutte said. "My 31-year marriage had ended. God gave me a new purpose in life. It came at the right time."

Garoutte had worked at Penney's and United Missouri Bank in Monett before moving to Arkansas for five and a half years. She credits much of the sensibilities she developed to her mother, Edith Kenney, who worked for 24 years as head cook for Hatcher's café.

"Mama was a woman of her word," Garoutte said. "She wasn't trying to impress anyone. I don't get impressed by flattery.

"I grew up on a farm. I was a tomboy," Garoutte continued. "Mama would say, 'If I can't find Jolene, she'll be up in a tree.' I never wanted to be a secretary and do paperwork all day. I'll be relieved to get out of the office and be free to do my ministry without that."

Garoutte has learned many lessons about dealing with people and their problems.

"You cannot be judgmental in this job," Garoutte said. "You have to look at people like Jesus would. People are still hungry. Their kids still have needs."

In addition to providing funds to people who come for help, Garoutte said she tries to counsel people, especially in how to manage their money.

"I've been telling people this year you need to be able to live within your means," Garoutte said. "People have come in with cell phones and their kids have them, and they want Crosslines to pay their electric bill."

Garoutte has a prayer list that she has updated over the years. The list is pages long and she cannot recall some of the people any longer. She has prayed for some on the list for years and in time she has seen surprising results. One man had been on the list for 10 years. She invited him many times to come to her church. A year ago he came. His life has since completely changed and now he works for Crosslines.

"It's worth it not to give up," Garoutte said.

As Crosslines has grown, it has been operated more like a business. Garoutte said the board has had to change its vision of what the charity can do. She sees more needs emerging for people needing help with medical issues, like the man who came in after trying to pull his own tooth because of the pain.

In the coming years, Garoutte anticipates a bigger store will be needed. With it will come more resources. Even now significant help still comes from churches and private donors.

Working at Crosslines has not been easy, Garoutte said. She has had to deal with con artists and admits she has helped people who misrepresented themselves to address bigger needs.

One night she took a woman who had been stranded in town to the woman's home in Wentworth and had to face a hostile boyfriend who threatened and cursed her. Garoutte said she didn't stop shaking for three hours. The man had two protection orders against him and eventually went to prison for drugs.

Garoutte has wondered what Monett would be like if there was no Crosslines. She immediately recalled a woman who had been in town visiting her dying mother, only to find out her utilities back home had been turned off in her absence. Crosslines was able to help.

"If there was no Crosslines," Garoutte said, "more people would lose their homes. More would be in shelters. Some people have no one.

"We've had people who are so grateful they just break down and cry," Garoutte said. "I've had people pay us back. Some have given us groceries when their food stamps arrived for what we gave them. I'm just glad we're here. There's not a better feeling than when you know you've truly helped somebody and made a difference in their life."

Garoutte plans to continue working at Crosslines part-time in the afternoons. She likes to paint and write poetry and hopes to have more time for herself. She also plans to take her prayer list with her.

"This is my home and family," Garoutte said. "Crosslines has changed me. I think I don't have any problems compared to what I've seen. My job has made me thankful for everything I have. It's been an awesome journey."

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