One Church One Child Program serves Rowan
Jon Hunter remembers taking a toddler bed to a family being assisted by the One Church One Child program.
The little girl receiving the bed began jumping up and down and crying and hugging him, Hunter said.
"She was just so excited to have a bed to sleep in," he said.
"I'm amazed at how many children in this county are sleeping on on the floor on pallets."
Hunter is the placement services coordinator for the Rowan County One Church One Child program, and he's more aware than most people how great the need in this county is.
"The severity of the issues has grown in the last two or three years," he said, and the numbers of people served by the One Church One Child program have been increasing.
"Last year we helped 1,319 children," he said.
One Church One Child is a mission/outreach program involving 48 churches and Rowan County Department of Social Services. It is designed to make a difference by helping to meet the essential needs of children served by the DSS Children's Services Division, supporting foster parents and relatives who care for Rowan County's children in foster care, as well as identifying and supporting families in church congregations who are or may be interested in becoming foster and/or adoptive parents.
On Sunday Sept. 9, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., the Rowan One Church One Child program will hold an open house at the Assistance Center located at Main Street United Methodist Church, 1312 N. Main St.
Guests will be able to tour the Assistance Center to learn more about the program, says Hunter.
Local churches and pastors have been invited,as well as Rowan County commissioners, DSS board members, One Church One Child advisory board members, local grant foundations and supporters.
Main Street United Methodist Church, where the Rev. Anna Mandelstamm is pastor, provides the program with a two-storey building behind the sanctuary. The church has received grants from the Cannon Foundation and the Salisbury Community Foundation to pay for remodeling work at the center. The Salisbury District Mission Society of the United Methodist Church has also given Main Street UMC several grants to pay for utility costs and remodeling.
The local One Church One Child program was begun in 2007 by Hunter, who became aware of the program from Dr. Wilbert Talley, who managed the Virginia One Church One Child program. Hunter brought the idea to Rowan County DSS administrators and they gave him the go-ahead to travel to Minneapolis, Minn. and Richmond, Va. for training.
To date, the program has assisted 4,017 children and teenagers, Hunter says. Almost $44,000 has been donated by member congregations and individuals, with all funds going to purchase essential items for children and not to administrative costs.
The types of items purchased by financial gifts include appliances, baby items, bed frames, mattresses and foundations, book bags, car repairs, cleaning supplies, dishes, electric heaters, door locks, electric fans, flatware, furniture, grocery gift cards, linens, pots and pans, rent payments and deposits, shoess, storage bins, summer camp registration fees, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and utility bill assistance.
The program has made a tremendous difference, Hunter said, and social workers with DSS have been elated, Hunter says, since it helps provide services DSS can't.
"I think it's made a great impact in keeping kids out of foster care in our agency," Hunter said. He notes that at one point there were almost 300 children in foster care in Rowan County. That number is now down to 125, he says, in part because of the The One Church One Child program, which helps families avoid sending children to foster care or group homes.
The DSS clients who receive the services are "extremely grateful and appreciative for anything we give," Hunter says. "When they come to our Assistance Center, they're usually ecstatic. There are a lot of hugs and handshakes for our volunteers and me."
Right now, the center is handing out a lot of school supplies and book bags, Hunter says.
Last week, he says, a family whose power had been turned off was helped by One Church One Child to pay the reconnection fee to get their electricity turned back on.
Local churches have gotten behind the program. Hunter notes that one small member church donates five percent of their offering money monthly to buy diapers and wipes.
"They usually drop off a whole carload full," he says.
Some member churches choose to sponsor families that have open DSS cases, Hunter says.
At Christmas, member churches donate gift cards so that each child being servied can get a star tree gift.
One Church One Child is always seeking to grow.
"We hope to gain some new member churches during the open house," Hunter said. Churches must attend two meetings a year and agree to sponsor one or more projects during the year.
One Church One Child also works to recruit foster and adoptive families from within member congregations. They hold foster parent information and orientation meetings periodically at member churches, Hunter said.
Twenty-eight people volunteer at the Assistance Center at Main Street UMC to sort and hang clothing, process and receive donations, and assist clients. More volunteers are welcome, Hunter says.
Current needs include boys and girls underwear (new), diapers and diaper wipes. New or gently used items needed are clothing for children birth-18 years of age, towels, sheets, book bags, shoes, blankets, comforters, baby items, twin bed frames and chests of drawers.
The Assistance Center is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 9-11 a.m. and 1:30-4 p.m. The center receives donations and assists clients during these hours. Recipients must be clients of DSS.
If your church is interested in becoming a member congregation, contact Jon Hunter at 704-216-7914 or email email@example.com.
For more information, go to www.rowancountync.gov\rococ