The Cooperative Ministry program aimed at helping hard working people get on the road and off to work is now on the airwaves of a number of local television stations thanks to Corner Pantry.
“This is just the kind of project that we wanted to support,” said Corner Pantry President and CEO, David Tucker.
Tucker’s company is sponsoring this public service announcement that is airing on three Midlands networks from now through December 28th.
“South Carolinian’s are hard working people by nature,” Tucker says. “We hope these ads will prompt more people to donate cars and help provide people who are working pay check to paycheck, a way to get to work and feed their families.”
Unlike most car donation programs, The Autos for Opportunities not only provides funding for programs and services, a donated vehicle can be someone’s transportation to work. When a suitable vehicle is given to The Cooperative Ministry, the vehicle is checked by trained mechanics to see if the donated car is in safe, working condition. If vehicle is deemed safe, The Cooperative Ministry gets the car into the hands of a qualified applicant and back on the roads. All other vehicles are sold at auction to raise funds for The Cooperative Ministry.
“This program can turn someone’s life around,” says Cooperative Ministry Chief Programming Officer, Wanda Pearson.
Pearson tells the story of a Columbia senior citizen who volunteers with a Foster Grandparent program.
“She applied to receive a car through Autos for Opportunities,” Pearson says.
“During the interview, we learned the applicant relied on her volunteer stipend to make ends meet. She’d been forced to reduce her hours when her old car could no longer be repaired. As a result, she was running out of food each month.”
Pearson was able to put her in touch with a Cooperative Ministry Crisis Assistance counselor who assisted this foster grandmother in applying for SNAP benefits. She also received an emergency food basket from the Cooperative Ministry pantry. Pearson says it took a few months, but the applicant did receive a refurbished car from Autos for Opportunities. She subsequently increased her volunteer hours and the restored stipend, together with her new SNAP benefits, greatly increased her food security.
You may have read about this program and the thousands of Midlands residents The Cooperative Ministry helped this year when you opened your water bill. Midas Muffler sponsored an insert that was placed in over 1-hundred and 20 thousand City of Columbia water bills earlier this year.
And that’s not all, Autos for Opportunities is about to get a lift, in a big way.
When Honda of Columbia President Perry Shuping learned about Autos for Opportunities, he jumped at the chance to help. “Honda of Columbia is a family owned business. We’ve been a part of the community since 1978, and believe in giving back,” Shuping says.
“We’re happy to support The Cooperative Ministry because they’re helping people in our area that want to help themselves, but need assistance to get going. They also come to the aid of people in crisis situations, which can happen to anyone at any time. Honda of Columbia is proud to be affiliated with the various churches and individuals who make up The Cooperative Ministry in their efforts to help those in need.”
With the help of Shuping and Honda of Columbia, the Autos for Opportunity program will be featured on 17 billboards throughout the Midlands starting in late October.
“This is a big deal,” says Cooperative Ministry Executive Director Beth Irick. “We currently have a waiting list of qualified applicants who really need transportation,” Irick says. “We’re hoping that when people see the billboards, the commercial and the water bills, they’ll take some time to learn about Autos for Opportunities, donate a vehicle and forever change the life of someone in need. ” For more about Autos for Opportunities or how to donate the program visit our website at www.coopmin.org.
The popular quote, “It takes a village,” was personified at the 2015 Back to School Bash held recently at Finlay Park. Midlands parents brought their children to the event and thousands of students lined up to receive book bags and school supplies.
In addition to picking up a lot of swag, families were able to participate in a number of fun events. The kids got to visit with Columbia’s Reptile Man and The Columbia Housing Authority brought its Mobile Rec truck. It’s a truck packed with all sort of fun activities for the kids to take part in like football and volleyball. They even brought a bubble machine.
TCM Financing Your Future program Director Kara Simmons says the day wouldn’t have been possible without help from a host of people. City of Columbia volunteers and a group of at-risk youth helped guide Midlands families and pass out backpacks.
Also lending a helping hand, the incredible students from Ecclesia Church of God in Christ’s summer feeding program. Over the course of two days a total of 20 students and four chaperones, packed over 700 book bags that were distributed at the Bash. What an inspiration in giving for the future generation!
Then there was the The South Carolina Young Lawyer’s Division. This group has helped people The Cooperative Ministry serves in a variety of ways over the years. As you can see from the picture, their Backpack Drive was a tremendous success.
One of Executive Director Beth Irick’s missions since taking over the helm of The Cooperative Ministry is to restart a dialogue between The Cooperative Ministry and the local congregations it serves. Cooperative Ministry Board member the Reverend Sally Johnston is Pastor at St. Martin’s In The Fields Episcopal Church. Johnston was gracious enough to agree to serve as our committee chair.
We asked Johnston about the importance of this new renewed commitment on the part of the The Cooperative Ministry to work hand in hand with area congregations:
What is the purpose of the newly formed Congregational Committee?
The purpose is to refresh and strengthen the partnership between TCM and the congregations that have worked with us over the years to address the crises that keep the working poor from living whole and healthy lives.
What are the Committee’s goals?
To become more familiar with the current challenges of the working poor by sharing experiences among the congregations and the resources and limitations of The Cooperative Ministry.
To begin to envision how congregations and TCM can best work together in the future, identifying priorities and methods of service and support.
Why did you think it was a good idea to get this group together?
By gathering regularly for conversation and discussion, we hope to encourage communication and collegiality among congregations and with The Cooperative Ministry so that we can work more closely together and better serve the working poor when they are in crisis
The issues facing the working poor are far more complex than even a decade ago. There are fewer sources of funding but more and more people living well below the poverty line, even working more than one job. A sudden crisis – a visit to the ER, a broken down car, an unresponsive landlord, an arrest and inability to post bond – can trigger a series of incidents that affect individuals, families, and especially children. We cannot keep the bucket of funds and resources full so we must become smarter, better coordinated, and more committed to solving problems created by a broken system rather than trying to patch it up at the expense of human dignity.
Faith-based organizations are stepping up to the plate to help catapult The Cooperative Ministry in the right direction.
First Presbyterian Church in Columbia held a volunteer/intern appreciation luncheon to help us thank people like Christian Williams for his service to TCM.
Williams was one of 20 volunteers and interns who were recently recognized for their hard work at The Cooperative Ministry.
At the time of his internship, Williams was a student at Benedict College. After graduation, he accepted a job with Department of Social Services.
Crisis Assistance Director Kameisha Heppard served as his supervisor while Williams was at The Cooperative Ministry.
“We have a great relationship with Benedict College,” Heppard says. “Benedict prepares their students well. Then they come here and we help them develop their skills and be prepared for the workforce.”
Speaking of incredible volunteers, the GENEROCITY that Columbia’s Shandon Baptist Church displayed recently was overwhelming. The congregation donated over 14,000 pounds of clothes to The Cooperative Ministry.
Shandon Baptist’s Julie Crowder, lined up an army of volunteers who sorted the donated items and helped unload the Mobil Attic. Shandon Baptist orchestrated the event from beginning to end.
“Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for the members of Shandon for their participation and support of Project GENEROCITY,” TCM Executive Director Beth Irick says.
“The amount of clothing and shoes donated by far exceeded our expectations,” Irick says.
The Cooperative Ministry fills a minimum of 30 clothing requests each day for the Midlands homeless and the working poor.