Lake Norman & Mooresville

Assistance requests soaring

Lake Norman community support agencies say they are helping more working families than ever with food, clothing and money.

“It stands to reason with the way the economy is, we'd see an increase in need, and we're seeing it,” said Jay Laurens, executive director of the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson.

Through its Loaves & Fishes emergency food pantry, the center provided groceries to 703 people in June, compared to 278 in June 2007, a 153 percent increase. The need increased 64 percent in May and 49 percent in July, and “August is running similarly,” Laurens said.

The center budgeted $45,000 this year in its Sunshine Fund to cover rents and utilities of people in need. The fund limits help to $300 per person. The average year-to-year increase in money given out by the fund in May, June and July was 137 percent, Laurens said. At that pace, the Sunshine Fund's budgeted amount and reserves could run out before year's end, he said.

“They help me out a lot,” said Danelle Moore, 26, of Huntersville, who was laid off from her Cornelius fast-food job on Monday. She sat with one of her children waiting to receive groceries at the center on Friday morning. “They help me put food on the table,” she said.

Ruth Baker, a crisis coordinator with East Lincoln Christian Ministry, said the typical ministry client already wasn't making much money before the downturn, and now they've been hit with layoffs and higher gasoline costs. The ministry provides such assistance as food, appliances, clothing and money to help cover utilities.

The agency fielded an average 145 requests for assistance from July 2006 to July 2007 and an average 202 monthly requests in the fiscal year that ended June 30, Baker said. The number of requests soared to 265 in July and 275 in August, as of last week.

Jody Schwandt, executive director of the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, said other parts of the country were hit hard economically before our area, and workers moved here thinking they'd find jobs.

The Mooresville Soup Kitchen served 2,120 meals in July 2007 and 3,021 this July.

Demand for health services at the nonprofit HealthReach Community Clinic in Mooresville hit its highest level in July, even higher than in January, when more people with sicknesses would be expected to visit, executive director Rory Crawford said.

“It's definitely not slacking off,” he said. “Just anecdotally, I get a lot of, ‘My husband just lost his job,' ‘My company stopped health coverage.'”

Betty Burton, 75, of Mooresville, goes to the Soup Kitchen and Ada Jenkins with her daughter, Pam, who is disabled. Last week, they said, they lived on crackers and water.

The rent on their home in Mooresville's mill village increased $100 this month to $800, Burton said. Burton, whose husband died seven years ago, said she receives $900 a month in Social Security, and her daughter gets a $500 monthly disability check.

“If this didn't exist, we don't know what we'd do,” Burton said as she and her daughter waited for groceries at the Ada Jenkins Center on Friday.