When I was named executive director of Crisis Assistance Ministry nearing the end of 2018, like everyone else, I had no idea the scale of the crisis we would face in 2020.
Having started at CAM as a volunteer in 1992, then hired as staff in 1994, I have personally seen many members of our community in crisis, and can recall times when we had so many requests for assistance that we could not see everyone in line at our door when we opened.
Today’s crisis is unlike anything our modern world has faced, but CAM, founded in 1976, is still here to help. We are currently assisting with food, rent, and utilities for most area residents in Gastonia who have been affected by COVID-19, and the need is great.
I want to thank everyone who is making this possible, and the list is long. Our community has rallied to support our small staff in a myriad of ways as we try to navigate this crisis and maintain our ability to assist those in need, all without our volunteer staff of about 130 caring folks.
We miss them all greatly! Our office is closed to the public for safety, and only through some creative partnerships and a few volunteers (mostly our family) have we been able to remain available to help.
So thank you to our staff and their families, a very few key volunteers, and all those who have helped in our pantry. On April 2, we were able to provide 130 produce boxes, with some extra goodies added, all with the help of just a few people, all socially distanced, of course.
Monday through Thursday we are able to receive produce, meat, deli, and bakery items from Food Lion through our partnership with Second Harvest, thanks to volunteers who are able to pick up for us, then drop off items at our office.
Many, many, many others have donated extra items from their pantries, as well as shopped in local grocery stores for needed items.
We cannot thank you enough for your donations. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all our member congregations (43 churches and the Synagogue) who, even while not gathering in person, have managed to collect and deliver food for our pantry.
To assist financially without being open to the public has presented its own set of obstacles; I would like to thank Dwayne Burks and the Resource Connection Gateway, for providing a solution, and helping CAM get needed information to be able to assist our neighbors with rent and utilities.
The Gaston County Virus Relief Fund, created by the United Way of Gaston County and Gaston Community Foundation, has also provided needed assistance in the form of a grant to enable us to assist with rent.
The city of Gastonia came through in a big way with money available for utility bills and promoting the Good Neighbor fund, which will allow CAM to continue assisting with utilities.
Thank you to Mayor Reid and Pastor Spargo! All these creative partnerships are allowing us to continue to serve those most in need.
So thank you, to those who have volunteered at CAM over the years, to those who would love to be at CAM to help now, if not for safety issues. We want everyone to stay safe, so that they will be back once we are open.
Thank you to all those who have donated food items, as well as those who have given financially, so that we can continue to serve. Thank you to those who have just called to see how we are doing.
We are grateful that we are able to provide help to those in need all because of the support of our caring community.
Kim Wheeler is executive director of Crisis Assistance Ministry.