|Area food banks focus on feeding the homeless and those without income.
But meeting the needs of those living in poverty or those who’ve lost jobs involves more than just nutritional nourishment. The social safety net also includes clothing, small appliances, furniture, rent and utility assistance and practical education.
In Rutherford County, Community Helpers, West Main Mission and Greenhouse Ministries, with the help of United Way, step in to provide these services.
“Everyone needs help sometimes,” said Ann Jordon, the interim director of Community Helpers.
Jordon’s agency helps people pay their rent and utilities.
Most of its clients have lost jobs and are trying to live on unemployment benefits, which can reduce an individual’s income by more than 75 percent. Or they’ve been unemployed for so long their unemployment benefits have run out.
In the past two years, Community Helpers has seen a significant increase in clients who’ve never received help before.
“A lot of new people are coming in for help,” Jordan said.
Last year the agency assisted 1,600 people. Of those, about 50 percent were new clients.
The agency limits their assistance to once per year per household.
While Community Helpers focuses on helping people stay in their homes and keeping the lights and heat on, the West Main Mission provides more long-term assistance in the form of clothing, small furniture and appliance needs.
Clients must provide proof of residency and income. They can visit the Mission no more than eight times per year to pick out clothing, furniture or appliances. Those who can are asked to pay a yearly registration fee of $15.
Rev. Jim Hargrove, the director of the Mission, said his agency has also seen a significant number of first time clients. And while the Mission does have income guidelines, meeting the need is most important.
“Anybody that can show a need, we’re going to help them as much as we can,” Hargrove said.
The Mission also provides boxed lunches to those in need.
Though the Mission and Community Helpers are there to meet immediate needs, they also want to help clients become self-sufficient. To this end, they often refer people to Greenhouse Ministries’ budgeting classes.
“Money will rule you or you’ll rule your money,” said Cliff Sharp, Greenhouse Ministries founder and director. “We’re a faith based organization and the Bible says more about money than anything.”
For these reasons, Greenhouse Ministries offers several budgeting classes per week and each class focuses on basic principles such as knowing how much money is coming in and how much is going out. Some classes are taught one-on-one and others are taught group style. Groups usually have no more than five people in them and are designed to be fun.
Only 25 percent of those who begin the class actually complete them, Sharp said. But for those people, the class is life changing.
Greenhouse Ministries requires a budgeting class after a client has sought services from the ministry four times. If they refuse the class, Greenhouse Ministries no longer assists the individual and other United Way agencies are notified.
All United Way agencies work hand in hand but the Mission, Community Helpers and Greenhouse Ministries have a particular partnership; they serve the same clientele.
“We try hard not to duplicate services but to refer to other agencies,” Hargrove said.
United Way serves as a financial partner to Community Helpers, the Rescue Mission and Greenhouse Ministries.
Community Helpers and the Mission are full-fledged United Way agencies. As such Community Helpers receives 90 percent of its budget from United Way and the Rescue Mission receives about 70 percent.
Greenhouse Ministries is a United Way affiliate and select programs are funded by United Way grants. One such grant is for the budgeting classes.
All three agencies said United Way is an integral partner in their mission.
“I don’t think we could be functional without United Way,” Jordan said. “And when you can help other people, that’s a beautiful thing.”
United Way’s mission is to advance the common good by focusing on education, income, health and rebuilding lives. They do this by partnering with outreach agencies in a community. For more information about United Way in Rutherford County, visit uwrutherford.org.