Group hopes to cut down on the number of people turned away
UNION COUNTY – Last year, Donna Hyatt’s world came crashing down.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her husband left her. She was going through heavy rounds of chemotherapy. She was unemployed and coming up short on her bills.
“I couldn’t find a job, because nobody wants to hire the lady with cancer,” she said. “… My world just fell apart.”
Alone and desperate, Hyatt turned to Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry for help.
But the ministry had also fallen onto hard times with budget shortfalls and donations much lower than expected. Hyatt was turned away.
“It’s very disheartening,” said Gloria Barrino, executive director of Crisis Assistance Ministry. “People know already that we are a last resort.”
Determined to never let that happen again, the Crisis Assistance Ministry has organized the first ever CrisisRUN.
The April 28 event at Wingate University includes a 5K race and a 10K race, both beginning at 8:30 a.m., and a 1-mile fun walk/run, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The 10K costs $30 and the 5K costs $20 and walkers can donate any amount to participate in the fun walk/run.
The group hopes to raise $150,000, about what they’ll spend this year to help local families.
CrisisRUN will be the center’s first annual major fundraiser. Although Crisis Assistance Ministry has launched initiatives in the past, such as last year’s Mother’s Day/Father’s Day fundraiser, this is the first time the organization has hosted something of this magnitude.
In 2011, Crisis Assistance Ministry had to turn away 475 families, including Hyatt. Grant money and donations were slow to trickle in because of the bad economy, but the number of residents who needed help was growing.
“We just simply could not serve them because we didn’t have enough money,” said Doug Brandees, chairman of the group’s finance committee. “We knew we needed to have our own signature fundraiser.”
One of the group’s biggest sources of income was an annual FEMA grant. In 2010, Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry received $100,000 from the federal agency. That amount was cut in half for 2011, and the group has received no assistance from FEMA so far this year, Barrino said.
“That’s a big chunk of what we would use to help local families,” Barrino said. “That’s a big part of our budget.”
Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry was founded in 1985 when several area churches wanted to provide a network of emergency support for needy families. Along with providing cash and food, the group also helps connect people to other agencies and support groups whenever possible.
That network allows the agency to help out even in lean years.
When the group turned away Hyatt last year, leaders were able to connect her with an anonymous donor who provided a $300 Walmart gift card and a $100 card to pay for gas.
Hyatt has been passionate about giving back to the organization ever since.
Hyatt is serving as the CrisisRUN food coordinator, soliciting donations from area restaurants like Chick-fil-A, Subway, Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Hungry Howie’s. She will oversee handing out food and refreshments at the event.
Hyatt’s cancer is in remission, but the heavy rounds of treatment have left her weak. She plans to walk at the event, and she’ll continue being one of the Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry’s biggest cheerleaders.
“They’re a wonderful organization,” she said, “and I encourage everyone that can, to give whatever they can to Crisis Assistance Ministry.”
About Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry
The Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry helps more than 7,000 struggling families every year by connecting them to other agencies. More than 1,200 families annually receive money from the agency to help pay mortgages, power and heating bills.
Crisis Assistance Ministry is a last-resort agency, and leaders asked families to first reach out to family members or state and federal agencies.
For more information about the group or to speak with someone about receiving help, call 704-238-0155.
To register for the CrisisRUN, visit www.unioncrisis.org.