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Ministry helps out with Christmas food boxes

By Jane Hogan

For the Salisbury Post

CLEVELAND — A task force for a new satellite program of Rowan Helping Ministries, called RHM West, recently brought together churches, businesses and individuals to provide Christmas food boxes for about 50 families.

In early December, members of the RHM West task force got a list of all the items needed for each box going to a family. The members spread the word, not knowing they would receive more food than they needed, as well as many blankets, when they met at the West Rowan YMCA early Tuesday to prepare the boxes.

The volunteers watched in amazement as the bags of food came in. One man brought in more than 500 pounds of food. Others donated more than $150 to help out with the project.

Linda Coplin, volunteer program manager of the Rowan Helping Ministries, was on hand to organize the project. Altogether, 25 volunteers helped put the project together, preparing and distributing the boxes, which included a ham, food staples and a gift certificate from Cleveland’s IGA Grocery Store.

The YMCA and its staff also assisted.

“It is amazing how generous people have been this year. At RHM in Salisbury, there is barely room to move, we are storing things everywhere. We won’t have to turn anyone away,” Coplin said. “Knowing that this box may be the only food a family may have for the rest of the week or more is heartbreaking.

“Just seeing the gratitude on their faces when they receive their food makes everything we do all worthwhile.”

Others helping to prepare for people to arrive agreed. “Be prepared to cry,” Nicole Sherrill-Corry, Rowan Helping Ministries’ Crisis Assistance Network manager, said.

The names of those in need came from local schools and churches. The task force is going to try to continue to give out the same types of boxes once a month until the agency finds a permanent office for RHM West.

“The need is here, and today’s project confirms that the help is here also,” Coplin said.

Rowan Helping Ministries has been working with community leaders, businesses and churches to extend its services to the western part of Rowan County since September when 27 people, including Cleveland Mayor Jim Brown, first met. Several churches, businesses and area schools attended the first meeting, and a core group has met several times since then.

The group is still looking for a new location in the Cleveland area, hoping to reach west Rowan residents who may not be able to connect with the Salisbury office and to spread word to others who do not know about services provided by Rowan Helping Ministries.

For 20 years, the agency has provided groceries, clothing, medicine and financial assistance vouchers preventing evictions and utility disconnections to qualifying individuals.

A community volunteer who began picking up food from an area grocery store and informally helping needy neighbors brought the idea for a west Rowan satellite program the attention of the Rowan Helping Ministries’ staff, Coplin said.

Rowan Helping Ministries wants to build meaningful partnerships with western Rowan residents, neighborhood leaders, businesses, schools, churches and informal groups who possess the commitment and the capacity to transform their community into a well-connected and supportive place for families, Coplin said.

The United Way and Philip Morris Employee Community Fund have provided grants to Rowan Helping Ministries, part of which will help RHM West get established. The Philip Morris fund is a program managed, administered and supported by employees of Philip Morris USA.

Rowan Helping Ministries is looking for volunteers interested in joining the RHM West initiative. Any individual or group wanted to participate should contact Coplin or Sherrill-Corry at 704-637-6838 or e-mail Coplin her at lcoplin@rowanhelpingministries.org.

More information about Rowan Helping Ministries is available at the agency’s Web site, www.rowanhelpingministries.org.

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