See North Raleigh Ministries in the community.

FEELING GRATEFUL AS NEED FOR HELP RISES

By Alex Granados  

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am. I’ve weathered the nation’s financial crisis pretty well.

I was working at a newspaper in Northern Virginia when our economic system seemed to collapse in 2008.

I didn’t lose my job, but many of my co-workers did, and I was gradually saddled with more responsibilities with no greater pay. In fact, our salaries were frozen, our company stopped matching funds for retirement and we regularly had to take days off without pay to help the company save money.  In 2010, I had enough, found a job in my hometown of Raleigh and came home. That’s how you find me here.  But I’m a lucky one.

And nowhere is that more evident than at the North Raleigh Ministries Crisis Center.

People have always been in need, but North Raleigh Ministries has seen a different class of person walk through its doors since the recession started.

“We’ve gone from people who are on public housing, public support… to the neighbor next door,” said Executive Director Denise Krumpler.

Krumpler has been with North Raleigh Ministries since the beginning. It was started in 2004 by five churches along Six Fords Road.

“They noticed that people were hitting up every church for help,” said Jenny Kano, director of client services at North Raleigh Ministries. “They were just going from one church to the next.”

The churches decided to centralize their donations. North Raleigh Ministries was the ultimate result. A house was its initial headquarters, and then it moved to a location near Snoopy’s Hot Dogs on Spring Forest Road. It finally settled into its current location less than a year ago.

It’s tucked behind the Lowe’s Foods that sits in a shopping center packed between Strickland and Baileywick Roads. It used to be conjoined with the North Raleigh Ministries Thrift Shop, but an expanding stock of donations forced it to move to a separate building.

Clients have to be evaluated by a volunteer from one of the main 12 churches that provide financial support to North Raleigh Ministries. If the person is truly in need, they can get everything from food to clothes to financial support for bills and house payments.

North Raleigh Ministries has actually had to reduce the amount it gives clients because of the large demand, driven in part by people new to neediness.

“Especially in the last year or two, we’ve seen more of the neighbor next door because they’ve used all of their 401(k), they’ve used all their savings, because they didn’t know places like us exist,” Krumpler said.

Those people often don’t know how to go about getting help, which means they lose a lot of their assets before they’re finally driven to the doors of a place like North Raleigh Ministries.

“They don’t know how to navigate the system, and in not knowing how to navigate the system, they’ve stood alone and suffered in silence,” Krumpler said.

North Raleigh Ministries gave out $300,000 in food last year, $60,000 for bills and helped between 4,500 and 5,000 people. More than 40 churches send volunteers, and donations come from all over.

Lilo Miles and her husband, Larry, are regular volunteers. The day I visited, they were stocking items in the food pantry, which resembles a small grocery store more than a charity.

They got involved through a friend and try to come just about every week. Not being in dire straits themselves, they appreciate the ability to give back.

“If you were behind the counter and you heard how grateful everybody was that we’re helping, you get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” Lilo said.

They help clients find the groceries they need and make sure nobody takes more than their due. Families are only allowed to get food six times a year. They get a two-week supply each time, but they certainly can’t depend on the food pantry to feed them full time.

Krumpler hopes to raise money for a $2 million endowment that will help North Raleigh Ministries give $100,000 more in charity each year. She already has $15,000, and she and the staff are having a penny challenge to help things get started in earnest. They hope to raise 1 million pennies between now and Easter. And they’ll continue collecting pennies all year, hoping to raise 1 million pennies every few months.

North Raleigh Ministries is a faith-based charity, though it favors no particular denomination. Its duty is to God.

“God blessed us with this space, and now our challenge is to keep it full,” Krumpler said.

You can help them do that by going to www.northraleighministries.com.

(News & Observer, Sunday, January 29, 2012)

Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him atagranadoster@gmail.com.