Running through the foundation of the fastest growing nonprofit in our region is a rich history of generosity beyond measure.
Two of the founding mothers of Dorcas Ministries are still at work. Jeanette Evans and Bessie Baker helped launch Enrichment Kindergarten in 1968 as a way for impoverished families to care for their children. Back then, Baker provided transportation for the children.
“We stepped out in faith to do the right thing,” said Baker who is in her 46th year as a volunteer for Dorcas.
It wasn’t long before the volunteers realized the children also needed clothing. The idea for a thrift store was born and was given the name Dorcas as a Biblical reference to the woman who made clothing for people in need. The thrift store, located on High House Road in Cary, is now the primary revenue stream for the nonprofit, bringing in $1.1 million last year.
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The annual Thanksgiving Breakfast, scheduled Nov. 13 at Preston Country Club, is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.
Howard Manning, executive director of Dorcas Ministries, offered me a tour of the facility. As we traveled through the plaza building, Manning told stories about the nearly 15,000 Cary and Morrisville residents who found help last year through their outreach efforts.
Last summer a teacher who recently moved to the area with her 8-year-old daughter was at risk of being evicted from her apartment.
“She needed help to budget a 9-month salary to stretch over 12 months,” said Manning, 61, of Cary.
The first step was addressing the single mom’s immediate need – hunger pains in her daughter’s stomach. The teacher was given a cart to shop in the food pantry that is set up to replicate a grocery store. The shelves are kept full by local groups.
As a Cary resident, the teacher was eligible for housing assistance, which solved her secondary crisis and gave her time to meet with a volunteer from PNC to learn how to budget. Putting a prevention plan in place was the final step in addressing her need for stability.
Everyone who walks through the crisis doors at the Cary nonprofit receives a personal assessment from a trained volunteer who compassionately reviews their needs. Referrals are made to Jobs for Life, an eight-week intensive training for those in need of a job. If someone needs skills to be eligible for jobs, training is offered.
“It’s been the best thing to help people who are in need,” said Evans who is now the volunteer day manager on Mondays.
The continued success of the nonprofit comes from the faith-based volunteers who are from 32 active church partners and the community.
Gary McKinney was hooked on volunteering for Dorcas from the moment he started as an attendant 25 years ago.
“It’s great to see people regain the encouragement they had lost,” said McKinney, 66, of Cary.
Every inch of space is used at the 50,000-square-foot facility Dorcas Ministries owns. Even the roof is leased to Duke Energy for solar energy production.
“It’s a creative way to protect the environment and generate a revenue stream,” Manning said.
No stone is left unturned to bring in food to help the hungry. Fields are gleaned to bring in fresh produce. In October, the pantry had boxes of sweet potatoes and peppers.
The food recovery program extends to local businesses that bring in unsold food. C-Tran is hosting its second annual food drive Nov. 10 to 15, offering free transit rides in exchanged for food donations.
Items that are donated that can’t be easily sold in the thrift store may be recycled, including scrap metal. Ads are placed on the Dorcas eBay store for items that may have vintage or antique value.
The parking lot and grounds are turned into festivals and gospel sings for fundraising events. It’s all part of the vision for Dorcas to help people get beyond a crisis to become self-sufficient.
“We rely on guidance from above as we change and grow into what the community needs,” Manning said.