At 10:45 on a recent Tuesday morning, the lobby of Western Wake Crisis Ministry was already packed with clients.
They squeezed past each other into the small hallway that leads to a food pantry. The space is big enough for only two people to shop at a time, and the carts barely make it through the rows of shelves.
The ministry, which started 31 years ago as a community partnership of local churches, has been operating out of its small location on East Chatham Street in Apex for about 10 years.
“It’s cramped,” said Katie Sholtis, a volunteer. “There’s not even enough room to walk around.”
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But the volunteers and clients won’t have to deal with the cramped space much longer. The crisis ministry is moving to a new 3,600-square-foot location on Chapel Hill Road near N.C. 540 next spring.
Construction on the new facility is set to begin in August.
JVI Development, a longtime supporter of the organization, approached Western Wake Crisis Ministry and offered the new facility for the same rate as the current space.
Currently, the ministry offers a food pantry and financial assistance to families in need.
With a larger facility, the group will have an expanded food pantry, along with space to offer classes on nutrition, budgeting and job skills. A computer-training area will allow clients to look for jobs and create resumes.
“It makes it easier for people to have a one-stop shop,” said Rebecca Sidden, director of Western Wake Crisis Ministry.
The group helps about 200 families a month. Last year, the ministry gave food to 2,330 families and provided more than $100,000 in financial aid.
Western Wake Crisis Ministry depends heavily on volunteers.
Deb Purks, 49, has been a volunteer at the ministry for five years. She used to volunteer at her children’s schools, but as they got older, she was looking for other ways to spend her time.
“I just love being there to listen to the clients,” Purks said. “Whether something is bothering them or they just want to talk. Sometimes all they need is for someone to ask how they are doing.”
Purks said the crisis ministry is in desperate need of an expansion.
“We will more than double our space,” she said. “Clients will have more room to shop, and we will have the ability to take on new ways to help our clients.”
Tammi Greco, 44, has been volunteering at the ministry for two years. She has seen people from all walks of life come strolling through the front door.
“You see people from guys in three-piece suits to someone with basically no shoes,” Greco said. “It’s not a demographic of people you can pinpoint.”
The food pantry is set up like a grocery store. Through the “food choice” program, volunteers guide clients through the area, and they can choose items they need.
“It’s a lot more dignified,” Sidden said.
For Sidden, it’s all about the small things. Recently, an Apex businesswoman and former crisis center volunteer emailed Sidden and said she was struggling to pay her rent and utility bills.
The ministry was able to cover part of the costs and help her business stay afloat.
“She was eternally grateful,” Sidden said.
The crisis ministry is always looking for more volunteers and donations.
Marjie Johnson, a five-year volunteer, said one of the biggest problems is that much of the donated food lacks nutritional value. It can be hard to provide families with healthy choices.
She offers this advice to people who donate: “If you had $20, how would you spend it to feed your family for the longest amount of time?”