A COMMUNITY UNITES TO HELP ITS MEMBERS WEATHER EVERY STORM
Out of natural disaster a non-profit is born to meet everyday emergencies
Tornados always weave a path of mass destruction, but sometimes they also leave a stronger community in their wake. When Jefferson County, Kentucky was beset by twisters in the 1970’s, neighbors came together to help one another repair their homes and lives. After that disaster passed, the cooperative effort continued helping local residents overcome everyday crises, eventually incorporating as Eastern Area Community Ministries in 1990.
Today, this non-profit gathers volunteers from 38 local churches, and coordinates six social service programs that provide struggling families with assistance paying utilities and rent; access to a bustling food pantry; diapers, baby food and clothing for new parents; as well as English language classes and case management for foreign-born neighbors seeking citizenship.
IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE TO STAVE OFF A CRISIS TOMORROW
Executive Director, Carrie Gerard started working with EACM in 2008, just as the worst financial crisis since the great depression gripped the nation. While Jefferson County is fairly affluent, with only about 13% of local residents at or near the federal poverty level, Gerard says she sees a growing need to help both middle-class and low-income families in crisis. “The loss of a job, or a sudden medical expense, can spell disaster even for a family which has been doing fairly well. We step in with eight weeks of assistance to cover their urgent needs, so parents don’t have to stress about how to put food on the table tonight as they scramble to find a job and next month’s rent.”
MARSHALLING COMMUNITY RESOURCES TO HELP NEIGHBORS IN NEED
To fund these social programs EACM relies on government grants, private donors and support from community businesses. Connections with local banks brokered by findCRA have proved to be of particular benefit. EACM’s food pantry operates with items donated from member churches, but an introduction to First Capital Bank led to a collection drive at all their branches to cover increased demand during the holiday season. findCRA helped secure a grant from Old National Bank for EACM’s homeless support and self-sufficiency program called Helping Hands. When the non-profit sought to open a computer lab to help residents increase their computer skills, file for benefits, and search for jobs, findCRA worked with MainSource Bank to set it up with a suite of computers.
Listening to EACM’s clients, it’s clear that the most valuable thing they receive from its services is the support of a community that believes in them, so they can believe in themselves. As one woman said during their recent annual fundraising event, “You have to be willing to help yourself, and the mental and moral support I’ve found in this program helped me do that. I didn’t just come here and say I need my rent paid, because I need more, I’m broken right now and you [EACM] understood that.”