(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
"Furniture. We need furniture more than anything else," said Vivian Salas, manger of the recently created Community Outreach Partnership of Bedford County. "We need children's furniture especially, canned foods, appliances, pots and pans and other household items."
The 501(c)3 non-profit group is trying to propose itself as an umbrella for various charities, including the local Angel Food program, a gardening ministry, a ministry that distributes surplus bread, and the Halfway Home program, a transitional home for men coming out of incarceration. It will soon share its premises on East Holland Street (former location of Drake Signs, which has moved to Noblitt Street) with CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocate organization that recently became independent of the Center for Family Development.
The idea, said Salas, is that people in need can come to one source.
"We have it all -- furniture, food, books, clothing. We can even help with payments in electric or water bills or housing. We're hoping to work with all the churches so they will send people to us."
The group will have a database and applicants will be screened to prevent abuse, but she said the service is there for anyone in need.
"We are out there to help whoever needs help," said Salas. "We're non-denominational and we have translators for Somalian and Spanish."
If there is a need the program can't fill, they can direct the person to someone or some agency who can.
Besides offering assistance with tangible needs or finances, the program will be offering long-term help in the form of education. On other words -- a hand up, not a handout.
"Our main goal is to set people back on their feet and help them learn to manage their money," she said. "We'll have classes on budgeting, on how to fill out a job resumé and more."
Community Outreach Partnership of Bedford County is completely funded through donations, both of goods and money. A recent golf tournament helped a great deal, said Salas, and an auction and yard sale are also planned.
Volunteers are also needed. The thrift store, where all clothing items are only $1 each, needs help getting the goods out on the shelf and helping people as they come in.
Community Outreach Partnership started during the Christmas season, when it raised about $2,000 for toys for 457 children, a number Salas expects to see rise for next year's holiday because of plant closings and layoffs. She said one of the most positive aspects of the organization is that all the donations given locally are distributed locally.
Donations of goods or funds can be made at the Community Outreach Partnership of Bedford County headquarters, 203 Off the Square Plaza on East Holland Street, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
"I drive around yard sales on weekends and tell the people if they have something left at the end of the day and want to get rid of it, I'll come get it," she said.
She will also provide a receipt for tax deductions.
For more information about Community Outreach Partnership of Bedford County and the needs for flood victims, call (931) 580-5083.