Just an After School Program…
In 2003, the “School Success Profile” was created by the Jordan Institute of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to collect data from students and parents in the school setting to identify areas of high risk for families and children. The survey was distributed and completed by students and parents in 10 public schools in Garner, NC in the spring of 2003. The School Success Profile revealed that over 500 children and families served by the schools in Garner were at-risk for academic and/or social failure. The data suggested the strong need for, yet evident lack of programs offering academic intervention during non-school hours in the Garner area. The “School Success Profile” data was then used to articulate a “statement of need” for a 21st Century Community Learning Partners grant specifically aimed at faith-based organizations willing to host after school programs for students in the greater Garner area who were below grade level and also who qualified for free and reduced rate lunch. Multiple partners united to write the grant and the Wake County Health and Human Service department signed on as the fiscal agent for the federal funds. The grant writing team was notified in Summer of 2004 that it would be awarded a $1.4 million dollar grant. The team then began actively recruiting churches with adequate facilities for after school programming to become host sites for an after school program. The grant team met with a group of interested individuals from First Baptist Church of Garner who listened and prayed about all of the opportunities that God might put before the church with an on-site after school program. First Baptist Church of Garner became the only church within the Garner town limits which agreed to become a partner. Thoughtful planning and prayer led the group at First Baptist Church of Garner to create a separate 501(C)(3) organization to receive the federal funds from the grant for the after school program and Community of Hope Ministries was born.
The mission statement of Community of Hope Ministries is to identify and facilitate the use of God’s resources to serve the at-risk and needy population in Garner.
God at Work
Community of Hope Ministries hosted its first cohort of students for its after school program in 2005 and was originally funded for four years by the 21st Century Community Learning Partners grant. Community of Hope Ministries launched its after school program aiming to break the cycle of poverty and increase student success in the classroom by offering free, academic tutoring in a safe, structured environment. Within a short time after the program opened, the leaders of Community of Hope recognized that children in need were simply representatives of families in need. In the years since Community of Hope started, God has grown and provided the resources for the addition of seven additional ministries under the Community of Hope umbrella. What began as a tiny food closet with a few boxes of spaghetti sauce, some peanut butter and a few cans of tuna has grown into the largest food relief agency in Garner. Community of Hope distributed over 171, 474 meals to food insecure families in Southern Wake County in 2016. It now offers an 8-week Christian summer day camp providing scholarships for families who have no funds to provide a safe, fun environment during the summer months. It coordinates a crisis assistance program for families who are struggling to make payments for utilities and rent. It serves the elderly, widowed and physically challenged in the community by offering free home repairs to those who cannot afford or who are unable to complete the work themselves. Community of Hope is a Southern Wake County site for Jobs for Life, a 16-week biblically based Job Skill readiness program designed to help unemployed and underemployed individuals attain the necessary skills to get back to work. The Garden of Hope is used to supply the COHM food pantry with fresh vegetables in the summer and also serves as a classroom in the summer to instruct young campers how to plant, sustain and harvest fresh vegetables.
With every program added, God has provided the people and the resources to operate Community of Hope. Every ministry is an opportunity for the Community of Hope team to build a relationship with a new family. Every relationship built is an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those families who do not know Him as Lord and Savior. By meeting the physical needs of the hurting, Community of Hope prayerfully seeks the privilege of addressing the spiritual needs of the family as well.
Since 2005, one program has exploded into eight different ministries, and COHM is now recognized in the corporate, civic, and faith community as a vibrant relief/development agency in the greater Garner area. In fact, Community of Hope has been highlighted as one of three Garner area programs demonstrating innovative community collaboration in the Town of Garner. It has won a Community Service Award from the Garner Chamber of Commerce. In January 2017, it was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dream in Action Award.