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One Church One Child marks 10 years of serving youth

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — This year marks the 10th that One Church One Child has served Rowan County children.

Under the umbrella of the Rowan County Department of Social Services, the organization seeks to use faith communities to provide for the needs of children in the foster care system or in child protective services.

Jon Hunter, program coordinator and local Methodist minister, said it’s been a long time since the initiative launched in late 2006 and early 2007. At the time, they partnered with a handful of churches and served around 200 to 300 children. In 2016, that number was close to 2,000.

“We continue to grow,” he said. “We’ve grown tremendously.”

In addition to providing for the practical, immediate needs of children, One Church One Child also encourages local congregations to be involved with the local Department of Social Services in some way, shape or form — whether that’s becoming a foster family, volunteering with One Church One Child or by donating items.

“That’s part of Christ’s ministry,” Hunter said. “…We are called to be mission-minded and to take care of the children.”

One Church One Child is a national ministry that began in Chicago in the 1980s. Originally, the program’s goal was to have at least one family in every partnering church adopt a child.

“But we have tweaked the program to be more of a placement program to serve our needs here,” Hunter said.

The Rowan County branch aligns its goals with those of the local Department of Social Services, which seeks to keep children with their families or close relatives, if at all possible.

“We believe that children fare better emotionally in their own relative’s place or with their birth family,” Hunter said.

Instead, the organization provides needed items like clothing, toiletries and furniture — particularly beds. In 2016, Hunter said they purchased nearly 250 beds for children who would otherwise be sleeping on the floor or sharing with a parent. It’s their biggest expenditure, Hunter said.

Currently, One Church One Child operates out of Main Street United Methodist Church. It’s open two days a week to those referred by a social worker or those who are actively receiving child protective or foster care services.

While One Church One Child is selective about those who receive its services, in the past 10 years it’s served in excess of 10,000 children, Hunter said.

“We couldn’t do it without our community’s support and our churches’ support,” he said.

Hunter said over the years he’s been able to see the smiles, excitement and joy the items bring to the faces of children, and the relief it brings to caregivers. A partnership with the faith community, Hunter said, is essential to helping families overcome the obstacles that they face.

And it’s something that everyone can be a part of.

“You don’t have to go beyond Rowan County to find families that need care and assistance and love and support,” he said.

In 2013, the Rowan County branch was awarded for Best Practices in Social Services by the North Carolina Social Services Association.

“This began small and we’ve grown to 72 member churches,” Hunter said.

All items are donated or funded through foundations and grants. Clothing can be donated via a clothing bin at 1312 N. Main St., Salisbury.

One Church One Child will celebrate its 10th anniversary with an anniversary dinner on Monday, April 24, beginning at 6 p.m. The event will be held at Oakdale Baptist Church, 200 Charles St., Spencer. Reservations are required.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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