The dismantling of the Sampson Crisis Center has been slow and painful, with board members and staff doing everything within their power to right the sinking ship. But the inevitable happened last Friday, the impact of which hasn’t fully been felt yet.
Unfortunately that pain is coming, and it will be severe, particularly for those who have turned to the non-profit organization in their time of greatest need. Whether that need centered around a little help to bridge the financial gap in rent or utility payments, to offset the cost of expensive medications or to put food on tables and clothes on backs of those who’ve fallen victim to a fire, the Crisis Center has been there, year after year, crisis after crisis.
The center’s closing ends the wide outreach provided by an agency whose staff worked hard to separate need from want in an effort to be good stewards of the many, many donations that have found their way to the agency since its inception back in the 1980s.
Some might call it a sign of the times, this inevitable collapse of a non-profit which depended upon contributions from churches, individuals and the United Way to keep it afloat, coupled with a once-profitable thrift store’s receipts.
Since the financial downturn a few years back, donations have dwindled and been spread out among growing food distribution centers, other outreach attempts within the community and each individual church’s own fundraising efforts. And that mean the slice of the financial pie that once belonged solely to the Crisis Center and its efforts was suddenly being divided many, many ways.
On the one hand, that’s not a bad thing. As Crisis Center board treasurer Jim Johnston said earlier this week, the Crisis Center was the catalyst for so much of the outreach now seen from one corner of the county to another. But growth often brings its own set of challenges, and for the Crisis Center, the challenges just became insurmountable.
It is a tragedy those who understand the Crisis Center’s great reach recognize more readily than perhaps those who know of the agency but truly don’t realize just how many lives it has touched — perhaps even saved — over several decades.
While the Crisis Center will go away quietly into the night, the needs will not. The question now becomes who will meet those needs, and how? And who will be the watchful guardians — like director Rochelle Stuart and assistant Lorie Faircloth have been — that ensure that those helped are, indeed, the ones with true needs?
While we know there are food distribution centers and soup kitchens within Sampson, all offering a greatly needed service, there is no real place for the neediest residents to go for help with their most immediate needs that stretch beyond staple goods.
Johnston noted that the Center’s board was in discussions with another organization to pick up the Crisis Center baton, but that’s no guarantee nor a quick fix.
More will be needed and likely sooner than anyone can anticipate. While some might think this is not their problem, the truth is when there is need within a community we all must do our part to help meet it.
We are all called to be community-minded. It is our hope we will be, facing this situation together and finding solutions that will strengthen and not weaken Sampson.