Many years ago the ministers of our community wanted to find a way to avoid duplication of efforts at Christmas. The idea was simple, get someone to keep a list of people in need, and let the various congregations select from that list the families they will help. The idea was Christmas Cheer, and today, more than thirty-five years after it began, it still flourishes as a testament to our community’s desire to help the less fortunate.
After one particularly successful year of providing for families, there was an amazing amount of food items left over. The volunteers of Christmas Cheer were pleased with the giving spirit of our community, but frustrated at the thought that many of these families could use this food throughout the year and not just at Christmas time. These volunteers knew that the need existed for year around food assistance. They approached their churches and rallied their support. The churches realized that if they all pitched in, they would be able to assist more needy families than separately and they would eliminate a duplication of services.
They created a nonprofit, in February 1990, a small group of Onslow County citizens created Onslow Community Ministries, borrowed a small kitchen from the Catholic Church, put a pot of soup on the stove, readied bowls and spoons and stood ready to serve the hungry in Onslow County. The hungry came; people who had lived on the street, people who went without an adequate meal and people who suddenly found themselves in need of help. All were welcomed without question in the spirit of helping others as an unspoken but powerful testament of the faith of those who had formed the Soup Kitchen.
In 1996, the Soup Kitchen moved from borrowed quarters to its present location in downtown Jacksonville. The move allowed the Ministries to provide a shelter for those who found themselves without a home. Designed to serve both families and individuals, the Shelter has provided refuge from the cold and the street for thousands of people.
Another ‘faith step’ came in 1999 with the creation of the Caring Community Clinic. This logical outreach of compassion for those who are sick but do not have insurance or a means to pay for their health care, found support from the medical community and from a community of volunteers.
Onslow Oktoberfest was founded in 2008. The festival has fostered collaboration in support of charitable programs and attracted visitors to Jacksonville-Onslow. Held the fourth Saturday in October, the festival is drawing over 12,000 patrons.
In July of 2009, the Board of Directors changed the name to Onslow Community Outreach Inc. The name change reflected organizational growth in human service programs and diversified income sources.
In 2016, the Soup Kitchen served 140,000 meals, the clinic assisted 1,700 patients and 300 residents received housing at the Homeless Shelter. And Christmas Cheer, the program that birthed Onslow Community Ministries, helps approximately 4000 people a year.
Onslow Community Outreach came from the heart of the people of Onslow County. It is a story of the compassion of our community, the abundance of our giving people and a vision to help those in need.