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East Lincoln Christian Ministry: Helping those who need a helping hand

JOHN FORTENBERRY
john@newsatnorman.com
  A bag of food…a gently used outfit…furnishings for a home – it’s that and so much more.  Love, compassion, and a kind word or deed when someone is down on their luck is the backbone of the East Lincoln Christian Ministry (ELCM). 
  What began with $500 in seed money, a 500 square-foot trailer and a dream back in 1983 has grown to the Crisis Ministry, The Pantry, Home Meals, Education Ministry and The Closet. 
  The current 23,500 square foot facility built on land behind the Rock Springs Campground back in 2005, is once again bulging at the seams.  They are close to needing another expansion.  While the Ministry started in a trailer, its capital campaign brought the construction of a new building in 2005, and today ELCM has evolved into a multi-room complex that provides goods and services to hundreds of families in need.  As the economy continues to drag toward recovery, ELCM may play an even more important role in the lives of East Lincoln residents.
  Hard times bring people in need. 
  The ELCM is, “a shared ministry of Christian men and women who are compassionate, caring, unselfish and who share love with all who are in need,”  reads their promotional information.
  Among those men and women are Al Lovin, president; Laura Moore, vice president; and her husband Larry. Together they volunteer countless hours to help make the ministry function.   Joining them is an endless number of volunteers who work tirelessly to give people a helping hand when needed. 
  “The ministry gives you a purpose,” said Larry Moore. “It’s very rewarding to make a change for someone.”
  Laura is in charge of a lot of day-to-day administrative duties.  Larry works in the pantry, stocking food and organizing meals for a number of families. The two began volunteer work following Hurricane Katrina when they went to Mobile, AL and spent a week cleaning and rebuilding.  
  Volunteering got in their blood then and they brought that passion back with them to Denver. 
  Laura, Larry and Al, spend many of their days at ELCM, providing support, generating smiles, and working hard to serve the Lord. The three of them, along with many other volunteers make this ministry work.
  “The Lord led us to give people hands up over a hand out,” said Laura. “God has used us as a channel of blessing, and we believe we are called to do this.”
  The ELCM is a 100 percent volunteer, nonprofit organization. It receives financial support from area churches, civic organizations, local businesses and individuals. The majority of donations received are food, clothing and furniture, but there is always a need for more food including canned goods, and even household items like laundry detergent.
  With the economy in the shape it’s in, ELCM has seen an increase of families needing assistance.
  “We reached a peak last year,” said Laura. “Most people do all they can before coming to us, but they don’t need to get to point of desperation before we are willing to help.”
  The volunteers also believe if unemployment assistance ends, and funds continue to be cut in the state and federal budget, there will be more of a need for the ELCM services.
  “The ministry will serve a critical need in the future,” said Lovin.
  With the need growing, East Lincoln Christian Ministry is hosting a food drive on May 7 at all Food Lions in the eastern part of Lincoln County. 
  Helping give a hand goes beyond food.  In addition to food drives, the ELCM has a GED program through Gaston College which began in February of 2010. The program helps high school dropouts receive their diplomas so they may further their education.  One of the greatest needs for ELCM is a desk for every student in the GED program.
  They also serve food to 200 families a month.  Meals include spaghetti, canned goods, meats, and vegetables.  Well-balanced meals are important.  Participants who want to be served must apply and meet federal guidelines.  The ELCM also has a mobile food pantry that serves as many families.
  Their Home Meals program brings warm food to the home-bound. Recipients pay for meals according to their ability.  Anyone who resides in East Lincoln area who can benefit from the Home Meals Ministry can call them for help.   But Home Meals Ministry does another service that may mean even more to those it serves by checking on clients.  Last month they delivered 1,373 meals. The meals are provided by Butcher Boys at low cost and include meat and vegetables.   Sometimes those delivering the meals are the only contact with other people for the client – their lifeline of sorts – and sometimes their only meal of the day. 
  During special events like Easter, the ELCM works hard to provide for families in a significant way. They make Easter meals and baskets for children under the age of 10. During Christmas they feed hundreds of families, and provide 1500 angel gifts to children.
  But the giving doesn’t stop there.
  The ELCM offers gas vouchers for clients to go to doctor appointments or job interviews, clothing vouchers, aid for rent, power and water bills, and medical equipment like wheelchairs and walkers. In April of 2012, the ELCM is planning to have a Dental Bus serve clients and low income families with dental care.
  Every three weeks, the ELCM has a silent auction for unusual items like a cider press, old Elvis collectible items, train sets, toys, furniture, and jewelry – things that may not sell well in the Ministry’s resale shop known as The Closet – or bring in nearly the item’s value.   You never know what might turn up in the auction and you never know what kind of bargain you might get.   Proceeds go to continue the Ministry work. 
  If you are interested in volunteering with the East Lincoln Christian Ministry, show up to the site on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday between 9-12 on Catawba Burris Road.
  “Just be a willing heart,” said Laura about the opportunity to volunteer. “You need no skill to help.”
  Volunteers range from 13 to 90 years old and include a former nuclear scientist, a Duke mechanic, a retired college professor, and many others from all walks of life.
  “The Lord sent us to do this and do work,” said Lovin. “We are blessed and we have fun doing it.”
  The next big event following the food drive on May 7 is one for school supplies. The ministry will be filling book bags with supplies like pencils and erasers, crayons and colored pencils, papers, binders, and other necessary items as kids start back to school in the fall.
  “Rather than a maintenance agency, ELCM offers various types of assistance to those in a crisis situation until they are able to find stability in their lives,” from ELCM printed material.
  Because its work is never done, the Ministry continues. 

ELCM Programs
Crisis Ministry: Helping people work through the crisis in their lives while treating them with dignity and love.
The Pantry: Food and personal hygiene items to provide assistance for those in need
Helping school age children with everything from after school snacks to school supplies.  Also helping adults earn GEDs.
Home Meals Ministry: Serving homebound clients nutritional well-balanced meals
The Closet: Source of funding for ELCM through sales of items donated from people in the community. 

Willadene Isenhour, Nell Parker and JoAnne Carey

Education Ministry:

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