Bracing for winter

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With the weather getting colder, Crisis Control Ministry in Winston-Salem is getting ready for a surge in demand for emergency assistance.

“This is the busiest time of the year,” says Margaret Elliott, executive director, “the time of year when our lines start getting longer outside our door.”

The nonprofit, which also has offices in Kernersville and Rural Hall and provides financial, food and pharmacy assistance to people in crisis, is looking for volunteers to help work with people needing help.

While 600 volunteers work at the agency, including 150 who interview people needing help, a shortage of volunteers forced it to turn away 600 people in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Elliott says, although many of them likely returned and were able to secure assistance.

Formed in 1973, the agency is supported by 325 religious congregations in Forsyth County, up from 270 five years ago.

With a staff of 15 employees working full-time and three working part-time, the agency has an annual budget of just over $2 million for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, up from $1.9 million last year.

After growing 56 percent over the two years ended Sept. 30, 2003, demand for food assistance fell in the fiscal year just ended but returned in October to the level of October 2003, Elliott says.

Part of the reason for the increase may be the Client Choice Food Pantry the agency opened Oct. 1 that is set up like a mini-grocery and lets clients select from an assortment of items, Elliott says.

The new pantry, at the agency’s offices at 200 East Tenth St., replaced a food room in which volunteers pre-packaged food orders.

“It adds dignity to the process,” Elliott says.

The value of a typical food order, which provides a family of four with two meals a day for a week, totals $207, with the agency filling 182 orders in October alone and providing more than $292,000 worth of food in the most recent fiscal year.

Crisis Control Ministry also provided nearly $770,000 in emergency financial assistance in the fiscal year just ended, down from more than $805,000 a year earlier.

The reduction in financial assistance, which includes support for rent, mortgage payments, and for fuel, gas and electricity bills, resulted from an effort to keep expenses within the organization’s budget, Elliott says.

Still, the agency provided just over $72,000 in financial assistance in October, just under the total in October 2003.

And in the fiscal year just ended, it filled nearly 34,000 prescriptions valued at $2.08 million, up from nearly 32,000 prescriptions a year earlier valued at just under $2.06 million.

The agency raises money to provide financial assistance and to pay for any food and medications that clients need beyond what is donated.

In the fiscal year just ended, it received food, valued at more than $266,000, donated by local religious congregations, schools, supermarkets and individuals, and it received medications, valued at $1.86 million, donated by local nursing homes and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The agency at the end of September transferred to the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission its clothing room that provided clothes to needy people.

The mission offered to operate the clothing room in the wake of a Crisis Control Ministry survey of all homeless shelters in the county that found 95 percent of people using the clothing service were clients of the Bethesda Center for the Homeless next door.

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