As the director of Enlighten The World Ministries, Thom Miles has a vision to end hunger and poverty in Sampson County.
Although the pastor and staff members are always helping needy people throughout the year, it’s a challenge that can not be done alone. That’s the reason, Miles invited local leaders to Lunch-N-Learn Thursday at the ministry’s facility, “The Light House.” Statistics raised a few eyebrows of those in attendance.
“One in four of our adults here in Sampson County are suffering from poverty and 32 percent of our children are going to be hungry every night,” Miles said. “We’re trying to bring the community together to reduce those numbers.”
Miles stressed that it’s not about promoting Enlighten The World Ministries, but everyone working together for the greater good of the area. Some of the organizations represented U Care Inc., Eastern Baptist Association, Sampson County Department of Social Services and United Way.
“If we all get together and each of us do just a little bit, that little bit is going to go a long way,” Miles said about pulling resources together.
While addressing an audience of business, civic and non-profit leaders, Miles stressed how North Carolina was in the top 5 when it came to the highest poverty levels.
“That should touch your heart just a little bit,” Miles said while addressing poverty and children living in poor conditions.
Last year, Enlighten The World Ministries served 92 tons of food to more than 12,000 people and provided 39 families with assistance after persona disasters. Also, 43 families received help with utilities or housing. Those were just some of the ways used as examples to help people.
In addition to providing food, clothing an personal hygiene products, some of the other ideas included cooking lessons, crop donations from local farmers and partnering with local emergency organizations. In 2017, Enlighten The World Ministries will work with police and fire personnel to count the homeless population in Sampson County.
“We have some families sleeping in vans and cars, hopping around from house to house,” Miles said.
To help homeless individuals, some of the other distribution ideas listed included sleeping bags, tents, batter powered lamps, care packages and water.
“We never have enough water,” Miles said. “Even at the food bank, it’s given away like hotcakes.”
For the future, Miles continued to stress that poverty is not going away in Sampson County and how everyone needs to be involved to stop it. To explain his point, he brought attention to the vast amount of churches in the county. He said there’s 167 and a monthly donation of $5 or $10 from each can go a long way when it comes to filling up 11 food pantries.
“Can you see how far that can go?”
The idea was also applied to about 300 businesses too when it came to donations or drives to collect food and items for people in need.
“It’s all about the people who are out these doors, that’s not getting proper food,” he said.
Sarah Bradshaw, director of Sampson County Department of Social Services, implied that it’s good to have a system where everyone is aware of area efforts and to share resources. She also indicated that its a way to make sure individuals are not taking advantage of charity.
To continue the needs of helping the needy, a couple of the plans include building a community garden and build a shelter on the grounds of Enlighten The World Ministries. Some of the features would include a kitchen and shower. The idea is to allow struggling families to live in the facility for about 90 days.
Becky Spell Vann of Tim’s Gift, spoke about the importance of unity when it comes to ending hunger and poverty throughout the community and the importance of letting the public know about philanthropic efforts through local media outlets.
“We got to let people know what’s happening and when we join together, our voices will be heard,” Vann said.
Before a group prayer, spoke about group efforts while talking about nonprofits such as Tim’s Gift, which provides medial and hospice equipment to patients.
“When it’s just one light, somebody may not see it, but when we shine from one end of this county and beyond, those lights will be seen,” Vann said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.