When Joyce Cooper became president of the board of directors at Garner Area Ministries in 2001, it was a small organization, serving a few, two days a week.
That year, the non-profit organization, served about 415 families total. Under Cooper’s leadership that number has nearly quintupled by 2014. Garner Area Ministries is a organization that provides financial help, food and clothes to people in need.
Cooper retired as the organization’s president last month, but the mark she made on the organization and those she served won’t be forgotten.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Margaret Hryniuk, Garner Area Ministries thrift store manager, said. “She’s an inspiration. Just her love and devotion into this place. She has inspired us to do our best with this organization.”
Carol Oriel, the office manager and new president of board of directors, said the same.
“She’s a very faithful woman,” Oriel said. “She firmly believes in God and believes that if we wait for God, he’s going to give us what we need when we need it. And to tell you the truth, He did.”
Oriel and Cooper had previously worked together at Garner Elementary. Cooper encouraged Oriel to volunteer for GAM.
“So I did and I’m still here,” she said.
Much of the ministry’s success can be contributed to Cooper. When she joined the board, there wasn’t much space.
“We had half a duplex on Aversboro Road with four small rooms, which was 1,300 square feet of space,” Cooper said.
As president, Cooper was responsible for all facets of the organization.
She got the word out to the community that there was a need in Garner for clothes and food for people who were less fortunate. Donations from individuals, churches and civic clubs poured in, and each year it increased.
“If we didn’t get donations from the community we wouldn’t have anything in the thrift store,” she said
.Garner Area Ministries soon opened five days a week and over the years continued to outgrow their facilities. It is currently housed in Garner Village on Aversboro Road. It has four rental units.
“Over that time I have had deep faith,” Cooper said. “I look back over these years and see how God provided things before I saw we needed them: cash donations from churches and civic clubs and sales in the thrift shop, individual donations.”
If you ask Cooper why she joined Garner Area Ministries, she’ll tell you it was her calling.
She wanted to help those in need after she retired from the public school system in 1992 and stumbled upon Garner Area Ministries, which she says, she had never heard about.
A minister at her church, Ebenezer United Methodist, was looking for a volunteer to go to a meeting that he could not attend. The meeting was with Garner Area Ministries.
“I looked at my cousin and said I’ll go if you will and she said I’ll go if you go,” Cooper recalled. “And the two of us went to the meeting. We were both hooked on it. We both recognized it as something that we wanted to do to help people with needs in the community.”
Cooper has served at Garner Area Ministires for 22 years. She said her biggest accomplishment was growing steadily in helping the people who had needs in the community. Cooper said she will continue to volunteer her time but it won’t be in the same capacity.
“Praise the Lord I still have my mental capaciiy, but my physical condition is not that good,” she said. Cooper said as long as she can drive she will be a part of Garner Area Ministries.
To honor her years of service, Garner Area Ministries will have a reception for her at Aversboro Baptist Church Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Those she has served are welcome.
More about Garner Area Ministries
GAM, a 501(c)3, non-profit agency, has been helping those in need in the Garner area for more than 30 years with food, clothing and financial support. In 2014 the non-profit supplied close to 1,300 families (3,600 individuals) with food, and spent more than $120,000 on financial assistance for utilities, rent and prescriptions. Despite the many contributions of food, the group found it necessary to spend more than $17,000 to keep our pantry shelves stocked.
The amount of food supplied depends on the number living in their household.
The thrift store, which is open to the public, provides more than half of GAM’s revenue, with all sales being used to pay for assistance and overhead. At this time the thrift store is most in need of gently used household items such as glassware, knick-knacks and small appliances. Tax receipts are available for all donations. GAM is open for assistance Monday through Friday between 9 and 12.
Applicants should bring Social Security cards for all members of the household, a photo ID and proof of residence. Financial assistance for utilities, rent and prescriptions is offered once every 12 months. Food and clothing are offered every three months.
CONTACT INFORMATION: PO Box 797, Garner, NC 27529