By Polly Hargrove
After years of hard work, Community Ministry of North Augusta has raised $2 million, and on Aug. 15, it opened the doors of a new facility designed to meet its needs and enhance its ability to serve the local community.
Community Ministry of North Augusta began more than 36 years ago when area pastors—under the leadership of Grace United Methodist Church’s Dr. John M. Younginer Jr.—gathered to discuss the most effective way to minister to those in need.
The result was a multi-denominational community ministry better equipped to handle this outreach than individual churches. Financial support comes from partner churches and individuals. A thrift store stocked with donations from the community provides an important source of income. A director and managers for a large volunteer staff. Once clients complete an interview process, services include financial assistance with utilities and medical expenses. A food pantry provides grocery needs. No one in need is denied food or clothing.
The purpose of the ministry is, “Meeting needs and improving lives by serving as the hands of Christ,” with a goal of helping clients to become self-sufficient.
Over the years, as needs grew, the ministry and store grew to meet them, but always, facilities were what was available and affordable, and the ministry adapted as best possible in several different locations. Continued increasing demands resulted in cramped office space, inadequate space for the food pantry, overcrowding in the thrift store and, most importantly, a lack of privacy in client interview spaces.
A search for a building to purchase and remodel was unsuccessful, and in 2016, Community Ministry of North Augusta purchased property and formed a fundraising committee. A Christian-based fundraising consultant, DB&A, was hired, and the journey began.
The first step was a feasibility study, with a cautious recommendation that we could raise $1 to $1.5 million—but we needed more.
So we decided to move “Forward in Faith”—and to name our campaign the same. As with so many volunteer positions, none of us realized the scope of this effort or the many hours, days, weeks and years it would involve.
It was an exciting, demanding, frustrating, rewarding, educational and spiritual journey. Our comfort zones were pushed, stretched, redefined and pushed again, but the rewards were tremendous.
We and other members of the board of directors were charged by our fundraising advisor with revising some of the record-keeping methods, improving our branding and recognition in the community, taking full opportunity of available grants and other housekeeping issues—and this was before we began our actual assigned task of fundraising!
Then came tours to make groups and individuals aware of the ministry’s services and needs: development of a case for support, financial projections, naming opportunities based on size of financial gift and gift agreement forms for an informational folder. We held individual meetings and group meetings in the homes of supporters and publicized the effort in partner churches. We held a Holiday Gala & Auction as well as other events, and we also produced a booklet to share information and plans.
All the while, our building chair worked with architects to design, redesign and try again for a facility that would work on our property and, most importantly, fit our budget. We learned more than we wanted to know about site preparation and creating business plans to apply for construction loans. The pandemic also slowed down our progress.
Of course there were times when we would become discouraged or tired, but God blessed us with energy to cheer each other on, as well as with many others who helped in ways both large and small.
And with unexpected generosity from those who gave of their time, money, talent and resources, the goal was achieved: $2 million was raised.
On Aug. 15, Community Ministry opened the doors of a new facility designed to meet its needs and enhance its ability to serve. There are private interview rooms, meeting space for other agencies, a spacious food pantry, a chapel, and a large thrift store across the parking lot.
Grace UMC was generous financially, enabling the chapel to be dedicated to our beloved Dr. Younginer.
Much of the printed material was designed and produced at Grace with the help of Church Administrator Marianne Harlan, providing significant savings. Member Jenn Waller assisted in designing an important booklet.
Overall, this experience was so very gratifying as I learned, grew in faith and made wonderful new friends who inspired me with their faith and dedication.
Hargrove is donor relations chair and Forward in Faith campaign member at Grace UMC.