Local News

Churches try to fill gap as counties cut services

Posted June 2, 2009 5:14 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2009 6:45 p.m. EDT

— Human services budgets at the state and local level are being slashed as cities, towns, counties and the General Assembly look for ways to cut spending to match declines in revenue.

In Wake County, commissioners probably won't provide funding for non-profits at all this year, while Durham County won't take new funding requests and could reduce support to other nonprofits by 6.6 percent.

Wake County Commissioner Lindy Brown, who also sits on the county's human services board, said it's never easy cutting funding for nonprofits. It's even more difficult when needs have grown during the poor economy, she said.

"You can go to Wake County Human Services, the Swinburg Building, and you will see long lines from the intake department all the way outside the buidling. That's scary,and that's not going away," Brown said.

Churches and nonprofits are trying to stretch their limited resources to fill in the gaps created by the state and local cutbacks.

"At this point, we're all going to have to literally work together," Brown said said.

Mount Peace Baptist Church, for example, is distributing food from its pantry three days a week instead of one. The church gets many of its supplies from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which also is expanding its services.

The food bank plans to sponsor its first summer food program for children, providing breakfast and lunch to youngsters from low-income families – meals they get at school during the other nine months of the year.

"We have to step up because that's what's expected of us from the 900 agencies we serve," said Earline Middleton, the food bank's vice president of programs.

The nonprofit Freedom Community Development Corporation founded the Safe Haven Learning Center two months ago to provide preschool instruction for needy children.

"We realized that some of the younger ones weren't in preschool; they were at home. Some of them didn't even know how to hold a pencil at all," said Betty Thompson, who works with 3-year-olds in the center.

Although only two children attend the fledgling center, Thompson said it is needed to address an ongoing problem in low-income neighborhoods.

"They're going to school not prepared, not knowing their letters or numbers or letter sounds," she said.