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A shelter for the ages

The opening of the new Rowan Helping Ministries building in May was one of Rowan County’s happier events in 2014. It wasn’t the news story of the year, but it was a telling moment — one that showed what the community was dealing with and how generously people responded.

The new shelter is better suited to today’s homeless population, which includes women and children. While the old shelter was built with men in mind, the new one was designed with the sad knowledge that homelessness can be a family affair. Children now board the school bus at the Rowan Helping Ministries shelter— something unimaginable a couple of decades ago.

Also improved is the soup kitchen, dubbed “Jeannie’s Kitchen” for one of Rowan Helping Ministries early volunteers, the late Jeannie Jordan.  It is a stainless steel marvel, equipped to prepare and  serve meals efficiently. That’s a good thing. RHM served over 95,500 meals in 2013-14.

Also that year, the agency distributed 549,256 pounds of groceries to more than 20,000 individuals. Imagine that —20,000 men, women and children relying on donated food for their next meal. And more than 11,000 people received donated clothing.

All this comes about through the generosity of others — donated food and clothing, countless volunteer hours and the cash donations that make all the difference. And just when the community’s cash reserves might have seemed the lowest, Rowan Helping Ministries leaders were able to raise the millions required to update their old building and construct a new shelter and kitchen. “The miracle on Long Street,” banker Paul Fisher called it, and indeed it was.

Now Rowan County could use a miracle of another sort — jobs and resources so more families can enjoy the independence of buying their own food, clothing and shelter. Nothing against Rowan Helping Ministries; the agency is a lifesaver and a life-shaper. In addition to helping people through crises, it also helps clients improve their circumstances through transitional housing, life coaching and other programs. The ultimate goal is for people to be self-sufficient. The goal is to be sure the overnight shelter and soup kitchen are as big now as they’ll ever need to be. That can be a New Year’s resolution for 2015 and every year to come.

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