Christian Help Center struggles to meet needs

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At the Nov. 25 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza restaurant in Uptown Roxboro, Cynthia Wilson and Melissa Lancaster with Person County’s Christian Help Center addressed the club on the activities of this community charitable program. Lancaster is Director of Operations and Wilson is Executive Director.

Wilson noted that the Center began serving 400 families and now serves 1,400. It began with food and clothing, then expanded to serving lunch. It also helps the needy with electric bills and assists the homeless with finding housing and employment. It can aid persons with Social Security disability applications and in obtaining medical care for those in need. Some of its funding comes from ESG (environmental, social and governance) assistance from the federal government, administered through the state.

Wilson explained that the Christian Help Center is not able to help with any financial assistance at present because of what she refers to as a “perfect storm.” The food bank of NC does not have enough food, and its allocation to every charitable pantry in the county has been cut by 60 percent; and Wal-Mart, the Center’s only source of local food since Just Save has closed, is only able to provide about two-thirds of the amount that it once did. She indicated that monetary donations are down and the center is using its available cash to purchase more groceries locally, particularly meat.

There will be a coat give-away at Long Memorial on Dec. 4-6. In the last 10 years more than 1,000 people have been helped with fuel oil, but there are no longer funds for that service. Several local industries have donated turkeys and there will be a push to educate the public that sustainability requires more than just assuming that the Christian Help Center will take care of the needy.

Wilson emphasized that the center is a good steward of its resources. For example, it only helps with one bill per person per year. Beyond that, the applicant is required to attend a budgeting class. She reminded club members that many of those who work for minimum wage need help as well.

She encouraged the club to let friends and family know that everyone needs to help and that every little bit makes a difference. Wilson noted a trend toward renovation among landlords with more affordable housing, resulting in increased rents and exacerbating financial pressure on those with minimal resources. She highlighted the wood cutting ministry in the city parking lot adjacent to Long Memorial as a significant factor in keeping the less fortunate warm during the winter.

She noted that poverty is “an interesting creature,” in that those who grow up in poverty do not develop financial management skills. This is something which the Christian Help Center seeks to address.

Volunteers are always needed to help with preparing or serving the lunch which is provided for the needy each week day at the center office on Depot Street. Wilson noted with regret that mail carriers no longer encourage those on their route to donate food. She attributes this to the fact that there is already a surfeit of mail filling the delivery vehicles due to the proliferation of online shopping.

In response to a question, she indicated that the Christian Help Center has freezer space of its own and there are some churches who allow it to use their freezers as well. Under normal conditions the center spends an average of $1,000 per month on food, but it does not have the funds to do so presently.

At the close of her presentation, Wilson was presented with a contribution from the club in support of the work of the Christian Help Center.

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