Photo by Jonathan Heeter
The Rev. Roger Vent and his wife Bonnie bussed tables at CiCi's Pizza during Saturday's fundraiser to support the Harlem Summer Feeding Program. All tips and parts of the proceeds benefited the feeding program. The program accrued more than $250 in tips during the fundraiser.
Photo by Jonathan Heeter
Needy families in Columbia County struggling toward independence will soon have a little help.
Local United Methodist churches are joining forces as part of the Augusta District of the North Georgia Congregation of the United Methodist Church to create a transitional house in Harlem for families in need.
The purpose of the North Georgia Transitional Housing for Families Program is to assist homeless families with children to become more self-sufficient.
The program provides housing, job training, placement and retention, child care, budgeting, transportation, training in nutrition and parenting skills, educational development and counseling, said the Rev. Roger Vest of Harlem United Methodist Church, which coordinates the effort through Augusta Urban Ministries.
Up to 75 percent of the program's costs are provided through grants from the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
"There are a number of houses in Thomson, Lincolnton, Washington and several in Augusta," Vest said. "This particular grant is for more rural areas, so it would fit in Harlem, but not Evans or Martinez."
Vest said the group has found a few homes for rent but would eventually like to own a home for needy families.
The Rev. Carolyn Moore, of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans, said she was glad to see a comprehensive program coming to Columbia County and believes that people who really want to become self-sufficient need more than a bag of groceries, a place to sleep for the night or one-time medical treatment.
"Even if there are other houses, there is always a need for one more, always, " Moore said. "... There needs to be somebody who can take those families who are ready for it, one at a time, give them a place to live free of rent and then give them the social support they need to find work, to get their family infrastructure back in place, to get the kids back in school and in a stable situation and to stay with them as long as it takes."
Vest, who sits on the Augusta Urban Ministries board of directors, said the grants cover rent, utilities and the added programs for the families in housing, but the community had to provide the extra $6,000-$7,000 to operate the house for one year.
Two churches, Wesley United Methodist in Evans and Mosaic, have already donated $1,000 each to the program. Marvin United Methodist in Martinez gave $500, and another $1,000 was chipped in by the Columbia County government, Vest said.
Vest and several other "celebrities" will be serving guests at CiCi's Pizza on July 10 in an effort to raise money for the house. From 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., the guest wait staff will bus tables and wait on customers for tips that will be donated to the program in addition to 10 percent of all sales for that week.
"People in Columbia County are hungry to serve," Moore said. "They just need to be asked. Whenever I have asked or seen other organizations ask, people just jump to it very enthusiastically. It is healthy and positive."
Vest said he is hoping to put together a community support team of volunteers to help provide other needed items and services to families in the transitional house such as transportation and household items including pots and pans, furniture and linens.
Tax deductible donations earmarked for the program can be made to the Harlem Foundation at P.O. Box 99, Harlem, GA 30814 or to Harlem United Methodist Church at 115 Milledgeville Road, Harlem GA 30814.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Vest at 556-6885or 556-3116 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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