Huntersville resident Anne Crawford has undergone her own metamorphosis in creating and leading a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young children.
Before moving to Huntersville, she had worked for six years as a children’s minister in Fort Collins, Colo., focusing on the needs of residents of a local mobile home park.
After five years as a children’s minister at Christ Community Church in Huntersville, she had an epiphany.
“On my way to church in 2007,” she recalled, “I passed by a trailer park with lots of young people whom I felt may not have had a chance to hear about Jesus.
“As a children’s minister, I was not able to work with the youth who were not being brought to church. I felt God tugging at my heart and decided to leave my job and begin a ministry to tend to the physical, spiritual and academic needs of these young children.”
She called it a big test of her faith. She was leaving a paying job with two children in college. “But God provided everything. It has worked out now that they have graduated and my third child is about to graduate.”
Crawford, 56, decided the name Caterpillar Ministries would be an apt description of her goal for the children, saying, “The concept of transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is a close analogy to what our mission seeks to accomplish.
“In our work with the children, we are trying to help them become the best person that God designed them to be.”
Huntington Green Mobile Home Park, the focus of Caterpillar Ministries’ efforts, has 350 trailers, with a population that is more than half-Hispanic. “The families are predominantly economically challenged,” Crawford said, “and it took me an entire year to gain their trust.
“We work with about 180 kids from infancy through high school age. Unfortunately, because the needs are so great, we are unable to address them all,” she said, “but assistance with academics is a top priority.”
Tutoring is provided for elementary students in conjunction with Blythe Elementary School by adult volunteers, with assistance from students from North Mecklenburg High School. Adult volunteers also offer tutoring to middle and high school students two nights a week, in conjunction with a youth ministry.
For the younger set, there is a story hour and a pre-school playgroup three days a week to prepare them to enter kindergarten.
School supplies are provided for the students in the fall, and as many as 200 snacks a week are also made available. In the summer, when free or reduced school lunches are not an option, the ministry provides a hundred bag lunches on weekdays.
Approximately 75 percent of the distributed food is donated by churches and other community organizations, and the ministry also has a relationship with Angels & Sparrows Soup Kitchen in Huntersville.
To ensure that fresh vegetables are included in the lunches, the ministry maintains its own garden, growing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables. An added benefit is the opportunity for the children to learn how to work in a garden while growing their own vegetables.
In addition to the summer lunches, the ministry offers a summer camp experience 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday for 10 weeks. The camp includes field trips to local attractions such as Discovery Place, local parks and community swimming pools.
Because they have a partnership with Lydia’s Loft in Huntersville, they are able to offer clothing to the kids as needed, and additional funding comes from churches, local businesses and individuals.
“At Christmas, we collect donated toys which we sell at a substantial discount, prices ranging from $1 to $5, so that parents can have the experience of choosing toys for their children themselves,” Crawford said.
“We also have small group Bible study, with separate boys and girls groups – they are more attentive with members of their own sex – and we offer referrals to other agencies as needed by our clients.”
Caterpillar Ministries has attained nonprofit status in North Carolina and is in the process of obtaining federal nonprofit status. Operating out of a trailer “rented at a significant discount” from a local business, it is governed by a five-member board of directors.
Crawford serves as chairman the other board members are, as Crawford describes them, “individuals who are like-minded and acquainted with the families we seek to serve.”
Reflecting back on the journey which led her to the creation and operation of Caterpillar Ministries, Crawford said, “We are, in a manner of speaking, a funnel by which God provides for us so we can provide for the children. The most exciting thing in our mission is watching God work.”
Bruce Dunbridge is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bruce? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to help?
People interested in donating time or money to Caterpillar Ministries can visit www.caterpillarministries.org