Onslow Community Outreach purchased a 27,000 square foot building which immediately will become the permanent home for Christmas Cheer. Located in the New River District, the former Piggly-Wiggly building at 1210 Hargett Street has been vacant for over twelve years but will be used this year for Christmas Cheer distribution.
This is a major milestone in the growth and maturation of the Outreach. For many years, our friends and financial supporters have encouraged a permanent facility for this purpose after going from one borrowed location to another.
The Outreach is grateful for the many generous business people who have allowed Christmas Cheer to use their facilities. However, the lack of a permanent home in the past has made it challenging for our dedicated volunteers to operate the program and for families to find us. In 2014, Christmas Cheer helped 4,900 Onslow County residents including 1,370 families and almost 3,000 children.
Onslow Community Outreach is an umbrella nonprofit which serves as the home for the Soup Kitchen, Caring Community Clinic (free clinic), Homeless Shelter, Christmas Cheer and Onslow Oktoberfest. Collectively, these programs reduce hunger and food insecurity, transition homeless people from living in cars or outdoors to clean and safe housing, and improves the health and quality of life of Onslow families and children. The combination served through all Outreach programs in 2014 was over 7,000 clients.
Combined with the purchase, needed renovations and new programs, the Outreach is planning to invest $1.5 million in the project over the next five years. Herring said the strategy is to repay the purchase loan through a community wide capital campaign. Private individuals, businesses, civic organizations and churches will be asked to make donations toward the building purchase. The campaign will be augmented with focused appeals to business leaders and major donors with the capacity to make large gifts.
Plans are being made to transition additional programs and services to the Hargett Street location over the next several years as the building is renovated and resources become available, said Theo McClammy, Executive Director. The first big task is installing a sprinkler system next year.
The Outreach has a vision for the building to become a multi-purpose neighborhood center that could be advanced through nutritional programs, comprehensive housing services, Farmer's Market to bring essential food to the residents, flex space for Christmas Cheer, meeting space for self-improvement workshops and social programming, and storage of water and ice for humanitarian relief, if needed.
McClammy said the New River District is a priority investment area for the City's community development program. The food assistance programs, new neighborhood engagement and self-improvement activities along with Christmas Cheer, will be supportive of community development and revitalization in New River. The building will be aesthetically pleasing and will become a source of pride for the neighborhood.
Christmas Cheer began with a group of concerned Onslow churches and individuals who saw a need for the coordination of assistance for families who needed help with toys and food at Christmas. Families may have experienced a loss of employment and/or housing or unexpected emergencies but through the Christmas Cheer program, the magic of Christmas is provided to needy children and families.