Crisis ministries' needs grow

The calendar changes to a new year Sunday, but Catawba County crisis ministries' needs of donations and volunteers stay the same.

Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry (ECCCM) and Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry (GHCCM) — agencies that serve the needy with crisis assistance programs — need donations to restock supplies that were given to the community around Christmastime, officials said.

"As the economy decreases, our business goes up, and our available funds go down at the same time," said Crystal Bowman, chief financial officer of GHCCM.

"The biggest need for money here is health care. For every $1 donated here for health care, it's stretched to a value of $9."

GHCCM operates free medical, dental and eye clinics, and offers a free pharmacy.

The agency also needs end-of-year cash donations, Bowman said, to help people pay rent and utility bills during the coldest months of the year.

ECCCM — which operates a food pantry, thrift store and other crisis assistance programs — closed last week and won't reopen until Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., said the Rev. Robert Silber, the agency's executive director.

“This is a heavy giving season for those folks who are making those last-minute tax donations,” Silber said. “According to IRS rules, their donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31.”

Silber said financial gifts help provide food to the needy better than donations of canned and boxed items.

“I can buy the food so much cheaper than someone who buys it at the store,” Silber said. “If you give me $1, I can buy about $3 with what you could buy with that dollar. The financial contribution is so much more useful than the food donation. Financial donations provide good leverage for food.”

A Greater Hickory merchant gives ECCCM a good price on food products and the ministry maintains partnerships with area vendors to purchase food at attractive prices, Silber said. ECCCM leaders also visit Second Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte weekly to retrieve products.

The ministry also takes small pieces of quality furniture, kitchen accessories and flatware, and clothing.

“We have a vendor that recycles clothes that are not wearable,” Silber said. “Don’t throw them away. Ripped clothing can be reused. Also, if a family can’t make a financial contribution and it is, say, cleaning up the house, those contributions are just as good to us.”

ECCCM is also ramping up its volunteer opportunities for next year, Silber said.

The organization is looking for volunteers who can serve as cashiers in the thrift store, provide administrative help and perform data-entry tasks in the ministry’s warehouse.

“We’re scheduling the volunteers so we can meet anybody’s schedule,” Silber said. “Volunteers are a very important resource for us. Somebody who doesn’t have the money but they have the time, that’s as valuable to us as the money.

We rely and thrive on our volunteers.”