United Community Ministries to host fundraisers

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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United Community Ministries strives to prepare homeless residents for self-sufficiency, and organization staff are heeding their own message.

On Saturday, residents, staff and volunteers will be up-and-at-’em early to prepare and execute three simultaneous fundraisers in the parking lot of Providence Bank, 2401 Sunset Ave. The public is invited from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to find a new treasure from the yard sale picks, get their car washed – and enter for a chance to win a $30 Hess gift card – as well as fill up with $8 chicken plates complete with two sides and a drink.

“Residents will be doing the cooking, they’ll be washing the cars and they’ll be selling the items,” organization Executive Director Chris Battle said. “This is a family event, so we are all pitching in to do our part – that is if we can duck the rain.”

All of the proceeds will go toward the purchase of a passenger vehicle to be used to provide rides to medical appointments, court and social services meetings, educational classes, job interviews or shifts and more.

“Public transportation only goes so many places and only during certain times of day, but having transportation provides our residents with assistance they wouldn’t otherwise get. I mean, a lot of people miss out on opportunities like jobs because of a lack of transportation,” Battle said. “We don’t want our residents to miss appointments with doctors or job interviews, so having transportation available is important toward their efforts to become self-sufficient and productive citizens in our community.”

Currently the organization uses a 15-passenger van to provide rides for the more than 100 daily residents of the Bassett Center family shelter and the Community Shelter on McDonald Street, but doing so is costly at the gas pumps. Using it for daily rides also has resulted in missed donations since the van is utilized to pick up large donations, but can’t if it is being used to take a resident to a job interview.

“We’ve had two vehicles in the past and we actually spent less money on gas,” Battle said. “I’m $400 or $500 over each month because it is not nearly as efficient as a smaller, four-door passenger vehicle. In the long-run, we save with two vehicles used for their designed purposes.”

More rides in the big van also means more wear-and-tear that could result in unplanned maintenance that could leave the organization without transportation for residents or to pick up donations.

“We don’t want to get to that point,” Battle said. “We are trying to do this fundraiser to purchase this vehicle and maintain our 15-passenger van for what it is designed to do. We really want to avoid a problem before it happens.”

The organization is accepting all donations for the cause, but also talking with local car dealers who might help with the purchase.

“It’d be awesome if someone donated a reliable vehicle to us, but in the mean time we are doing the best we can to earn it,” Battle said. “We are being part of the solution by raising money to buy our own vehicle.”