Open Door Ministries aims to open door wider

Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — In 2001, Open Door Ministries of High Point served 100,000 meals at its Father’s Table soup kitchen.

Last year, the agency served nearly 150,000 meals.

With demand growing for programs it provides, Open Door Ministries is looking for ways to expand its services and partner with other agencies, says Steve Key, executive director.

“We can provide additional services or connect clients to additional services or organize our community better and find what we can do better in the community to serve the needs of the poor,” he says.

Formed in 1995 through the merger of Open Door Shelter with Urban Ministry of High Point, the agency also provides emergency assistance for 900 to 950 families a year, temporary housing for nearly 800 homeless men a year, transitional housing for 30 homeless men a year, and longer-term housing for 11 chronically homeless individuals.

The agency operates with an annual budget of $918,000 and a staff of nine people working full-time and 16 working part-time.

It also counts on hundreds of volunteers, most of them working at its soup kitchen, which serves three meals a day, with the evening meal rotating among 50 to 60 churches.

The two agencies that merged to form Open Door Ministries both were launched by churches.

First United Methodist Church formed Urban Ministry of High Point in 1969, providing financial assistance to help people in need pay their rent and utilities.

Urban Ministry also operated a food pantry and clothing closet, a soup kitchen in a nearby church, and a counseling ministry, known as Contact, for people in crisis.

Grace Church, at the time meeting in a building that formerly had housed the YMCA of Greater High Point, formed Open Door Shelter in 1982.

With congregation members taking turns spending the night from November through March, the church served as a shelter for homeless people in the neighborhood.

In 1991, both agencies moved into a new building built to house them, and four years later they merged.

Open Door Ministries operates its shelter, soup kitchen and emergency services at its main location at 400 N. Centennial St., and provides its transitional housing in Arthur Cassell House on True Lane three miles to the east on a three-acre site.

Funding for the agency is diversified, with contributions from churches, individuals, businesses and other organizations accounting for roughly half.

The agency generates the remainder of its funds from federal agencies, grants, fundraising events, United Way of Greater High Point, and interest and rent.

Open Door Ministries, for example, hopes to receive $10,000 from the 2008 OD Run scheduled for June14 at Showplace downtown and sponsored by Renaissance Road Church.

The agency also receives three grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including a $265,000 grant to the city of High Point to pay rent and utility costs for Housing First, Open Door Ministries’ new program for chronically homeless individuals.

Housing First, part of Guilford County’s 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, provides case-management services for the chronically-homeless individuals living in apartments.

Now, Open Door Ministries is considering expanding its Father’s Table soup kitchen, possibly by preparing meals and delivering them to other locations such as community centers and churches.

That could increase to 1,000 or 1,500 individuals from 250 the number the agency serves, and could require a bigger kitchen, more volunteers, a transportation system and additional funding, Key says.

The agency also is looking for ways to improve its delivery of emergency services so it can have a bigger impact and develop “more meaningful relationships” with clients that could lead to delivering other services to them, Key says.

Ultimately, he says, the agency’s approach is “thinking how we can strengthen neighborhoods to be better places to live.”

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