With the number of people in need of emergency assistance steadily increasing, the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry has opened its cupboard every Thursday to distribute food.
The Crisis Ministry, located at 35 W. Chelten Ave. inside of the First Presbyterian Church, is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1997. Its mission is to help clients stabilize their lives by equipping them with community and organization donated resources to become self-sufficient.
Most people just need a helping hand to bridge the gap and relieve some of the burden before they fall too far behind. The ministry provides a variety of services to residents of Northwest Philadelphia. Services range from food, fuel, clothing, housing and referring clients to outside organizations.
Clients who visit the food cupboard are generally in need of temporary support to overcome unexpected obstacles placed before them. Some of the most notable crises are that the head of household is unemployed, illness, exhausting the use of public assistance and limited income. Eileen Jones has been the director of the ministry for 10 years. She has witnessed over the past few years a shift in the clientele because of the economic downturn.
“There was time when we would see a lot of our clients have some form of mental health issue that may have debilitated them but now many of clients are just like you and I,” Jones said.
There are several organizations in Germantown that offer emergency food assistance. The Crisis Ministry is one of the few that allow clients to go into the cupboard to select their own items for their food packages.
Family size determines the number of items an individual receives and the packages are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The cupboard provides perishable and nonperishable food items every 30 days for the residents and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday.
Deborah Jackson-Smith, a new client of the ministry, is unemployed and has turned to the organization’s food cupboard for assistance.
“I have no money and now I’m down to no food. My electricity is on shut off notice and my son will be coming home from college soon. I don’t want him to come home to no lights and food,” Jackson-Smith said. “[The Crisis Ministry] have been here for several years and have been a great asset to the community. I recently found out about the days that the food is distributed and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
Once a client has provided proof of residence and income, a valid photo ID and Social Security cards for the entire household, the individual can receive assistance from the Crisis Ministry. Clients have turned to the ministry for different services, but they all want to achieve some form of stability for their families.
“I hope to receive food today and some solid prospects for the future. They have several programs here to help the underdog and I hope that they will be able to assist with other aspects of stabilizing my future,” Smith said.
The food cupboard has been able to stay afloat with the help of individual donations and contributions from other local organizations each year.
“The more food that we have donated that’s the less we may need to purchase. It allows our cupboard to have variety because when we purchase we’re going for the best buy and that may be no name or off brand items,” Jones said. “The donations give clients the option where they can come in and select and see some of the things that if they had the resources they would be buying themselves.”
Holiday seasons bring in the most donations and is the busiest time for the ministry.
“We do get food from Philabundance. We have other congregations who take up collections for us, individuals who bring us food and schools,” Jones said. “Thanksgiving and Christmas is wonderful. Last year, we did 200 baskets complete with turkey and trimming for Thanksgiving.”
The ministry’s volunteers are the hands behind the cupboard. They make sure it stays clean and functions properly. Over the past year, the ministry was able to hire administrative assistance. However, Jones said she would like to see the ministry expand and administer budgeting classes to individuals in need of financial guidance. She would also like to establish a more formal computer space for client usage. More than anything, she wants to help the clients overcome the negative times and reach a level of independence.
“We want people to be more grounded and be more understanding of how to handle issues while under stress,” Jones said.