MONROE – It’s not just the people facing unemployment who are in danger of going hungry or losing their utility services or homes – working families sometimes need help, too.
That’s where Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry steps in. The nonprofit provides emergency financial assistance and/or food to families facing a short-term crisis situation, such as an unexpected illness or large expense, that puts them at risk for having their utilities turned off or missing a vital rent or mortgage payment.
Crisis Assistance Ministry needs its own assistance from community members in order to provide these services to Union County residents in need – and that’s where the third annual Crisis Run Race to Prevent Homelessness comes in.
“This will help close the gap in our budget, enabling us to serve families at risk of becoming homeless,” Gloria Barrino, the organization’s executive director, said.
The Crisis Run will take place March 29, a Saturday, at Wingate University, 220 N. Camden Road. The event will include 10K and 5K races, which will start at 9 a.m., and a one-mile fun run/walk at 11 a.m. A kids’ zone with a bounce house and other activities will open at 10 a.m.
Crisis Assistance Ministry has a goal of raising $30,000 through the race. The organization provided more than $383,000 in financial aid to 1,167 families in 2013, and already has seen a fair share of clients this year, Barrino said, including people who needed assistance heating their homes this winter.
“With the cold spell at the forefront … a lot of people have relied on us to stay warm,” she said. “… These are people who are working – not people who are looking for a handout, but a hand up.”
Crisis Assistance Ministry also provides counseling to help families build assets and develop a budget so they can have a game plan if a future crisis occurs. The organization helps clients with credit repair and provides resources to enable families to become financially sufficient.
“So many people’s wages are stagnated,” Barrino said. “It’s so difficult for some people – working people – to sustain, especially when a hardship occurs.”
Crisis Assistance Ministry partners with local agencies to provide referrals to families who don’t qualify for assistance with the organization. A total of 6,583 clients received referrals last year to the department of social services, Turning Point Domestic Violence Shelter, the Union County Community Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Reach Out and other organizations.
“We partner with other agencies in the community to ensure people have all of their critical needs met,” Barrino said.
But in order to continue serving its clients, Crisis Assistance Ministry needs people, like 16-year-old Jesse Helms, who are willing to step up, volunteer with the organization and support events like the Crisis Run. Jesse, a Forest Hills High School junior, is working with his school and other Union County schools – including Weddington, Piedmont and Parkwood high schools – to encourage students to participate in the race and become involved with Crisis Assistance Ministry.
“It gives (students) a chance to see a real organization that helps Union County,” Jesse said. “A lot of times you hear about these things, but never really get a chance to meet the people and be around them … Being around the people, seeing who they are and (how they’re) really helping people – I think that has really impacted me.”
Crisis Assistance Ministry houses a food pantry to provide food items to clients, but its resources are taxed. The organization needs people to step up and contribute food items and volunteer to sort and stock items in the pantry.
“We’ve had a hard time keeping our shelves full because the needs are greater,” Barrino said. “Clients come in … struggling to keep food on the table. That’s primarily why we have one, serving clients at risk (who have) short-term (needs) and don’t need to be subsidized from month to month.”
Crisis Assistance Ministry also needs more sponsors for the Crisis Run. Find more information on how to sponsor, volunteer or contribute to Crisis Assistance Ministry and its food pantry at www.union
crisis.org, or call 704-238-0155.
Sign up to participate in the Crisis Run at www.racesonline.com.