Waste It or Taste It

It's an easy question, right? But when farms, factories, and retailers make this decision it results in billions of pounds of perfectly edible food going to waste.

That's a hard stat to swallow when Americans across the country – even in your community – struggle to put food on the table. How can you help put an end to this needless waste?

Friend, take our Waste It or Taste It quiz now to test your smarts about food waste and make an impact! If you complete the quiz, a generous donor has committed to donating a meal on your behalf to help our food rescue efforts.

We need 5,000 people to take this quiz before April 22 to help fight hunger – take the quiz now >>

Art Helps Struggling Citizens

Shelter guests recently enjoyed pottery classes at Pottery 101 thanks to funding from the Rowan Arts Council, the North Carolina Arts Council and Rowan County donors. The goal of the pottery program was to allow guests to use creativity to cope with stress and difficult experiences and to boost self-esteem.

The classes prepped them for working with students from North Hills Christian School to make bowls for our Empty Bowls fundraiser in February. 

Empty Bowls is a fundraiser designed to raise awareness and funds in our battle to end hunger in Rowan county. Ticket buyers received a simple meal of soup, drinks, and dessert, as well as a handcrafted bowl made by the students or shelter guests. The bowls serve as a reminder that someone's bowl is always empty and that we need to continue our efforts to alleviate hunger in our community. The event raised $2,400 for the programs and services at Rowan Helping Ministries. Thank you for supporting our pottery program and our Empty Bowls Fundraiser.

Putting God's Love Into Action

Howard Kessler, a regular volunteer in our Food Pantry, recently was interviewed by Carolyn Peterson for her Community Focus program on WSAT "Memories" Radio.

Listen to the two links below as Howard describes how he became a volunteer at Rowan Helping Ministries, why he supports our organization and what he gains personally from serving those who are less fortunate.   

Howard, his friends, and their wives have structured a unique way for large groups of friends to enjoy being with their friends and volunteering to help others at the same time. Maybe you can borrow these ideas for your own circle of friends! 

For more information on volunteering, please visit our volunteer page here.

Howard Kessler, Stewart Ash, Kay Ash, Scott Hay, Carol Hay, Del Denny, Richard Hudson, Barbara Hudson, Tommy Paffrath, Patty Paffrath, Gary Linza, Jane Brittain, Rich Kurey, Cheryl Kurey, Pam Evans, Martha Parrott, John Todd, Betty Denkar, Jennings Hudson(not pictured).

Barbara Perseveres Through Tough Times

Because of you, lives are being changed every day at Rowan Helping Ministries.  Thank you for helping our clients find their paths home through your donations and support.

Barbara Williams is a survivor, even when the odds are stacked against her.

When she enrolled in a program through the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute to become a certified production technician, she was the oldest in the class.  The 59-year-old walks with a limp, a cane and needs hip replacement surgery.

With no car of her own, Barbara relied on public transit and friends to get to her certification classes. The only student in the class without a laptop, she had to find other computers she could use to complete her homework.

Barbara’s greatest challenge, however, was that she was homeless.  She is living at the Rowan Helping Ministries shelter, dependent on services there for all her essential needs.

At the graduation in December for the eight-week certification program, Barbara marched past all those obstacles to receive not just a diploma but the top award as class valedictorian.

“I have a deep, abiding faith,” Barbara says of the grit she has mustered in recent years. “My encouragement comes from heaven.”

What she receives, she pays forward through optimism and encouragement to others.

“My teacher called me the life of the party,” Barbara admits.  “I kept everything livened up in our classes.  I felt after the second test, which a lot of the people in my class scored low on, that I needed to issue a good-natured challenge.  I told them I intended to do very well on the next test and I wanted to see if they could beat me.   It worked – they worked hard and we all did well.”

Barbara had a long history of working and living independently in her own home prior to coming to the shelter.  She worked in the textile manufacturing industry – at Cannon, Pillowtex, and Fieldcrest – for 12 years.  Then she joined her husband on the road as a truck driver for 10 years.

When her husband passed away in 1999, Barbara returned to manufacturing jobs. And then she took another blow last May when the Tuscarora plant where she worked shut down. A week into her job search, her van broke down.  She didn’t have the $2,000 to fix it, so she lost her ability to get to job interviews.

“In August, my unemployment ran out and I ended up here,” she said, referring to the homeless shelter.  “I was grateful it was here.  It was the first time I had ever been homeless in my life because I had always worked.  The programs here are good and there is a lot of encouragement from the staff and volunteers.”

She credits a lot of people with helping her succeed in the certification program and get back on her feet -  the Rowan Helping Ministries staff and her case manager Jean LeMaster, her instructors in Rowan Cabarrus Community College’s employability lab at the shelter, her instructor for the certification classes, and folks at the East Spencer Town Hall where the classes met.

Before finding a job, Barbara needs to undergo hip replacement surgery so that she can work without pain. Several months ago, Barbara’s shelter case manager helped her apply for disability income and she was approved.  She is now working through the disability and Medicaid systems to get her surgery approved and she has been saving her income so that she can move to an apartment soon.  

“I want to be able to afford a vacation, to have what I want and need and be able to put some money in the bank,” says Barbara of her future. “I want to get my own place. I want to have a job and work at something I am interested in.  I would like to go back to school.  There are a lot of things I want to accomplish.”


Firewood Minsitry Helps Neighbors In Need

Pictured: Dennis Peeler and Randy Elium.

What is surely one of the largest woodpiles in Rowan County sits on land owned by Randy Elium near Granite Quarry. Elium and a group of friends have been building the woodpile for several years, preparing it for its noble purpose – keeping their neighbors in need warm in the winter.

Elium’s group and Rowan Helping Ministries have now teamed up to provide firewood to citizens who can’t afford to heat their homes.  Rowan Helping Ministries will identify clients who are struggling to pay heating bills and have wood burning stoves that can provide alternate sources of heat.

Members of Elium’s fire ministry group will then contact approved clients to provide them with firewood.

“We felt like Rowan Helping Ministries would be the ideal tool for reaching the people who truly need firewood to stay warm,” Elium said.  “We needed help finding the people who need it the most.”

They are looking for people like Michelle Kerns, a mother of two teenagers who has been looking for a job since May. Kerns began volunteering at Rowan Helping Ministries several months ago to stay busy while job searching. She applied for assistance with bills that were stacking up and was identified as a candidate for firewood because she has a wood burning stove in her home.

“Randy arranged for firewood to be delivered to me since I do not have a truck and they brought me enough firewood to last for months,” said Kerns, who has just been offered a job.  “They are just awesome people.”

The firewood ministry is descended from the devastation created by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  Elium allowed people to dump their uprooted trees and broken limbs at his farm and then began cutting the trees into firewood to give away. More people heard about what he was doing and added to his supply.  Over time, he began stoking an idea to give wood to those in financial need.

“We give Jesus the credit for blessing us with this wood,” Elium said. “You can’t out give God.  The more we give, the more He returns.”

One of the first people served through the firewood ministry was Dennis Peeler, a neighbor who was badly injured in a truck wreck and could not work. Elium began taking wood to his injured neighbor that winter to help him through his tough time.

“Our friendship started over the wood,” Elium remembered.  “Over time, as Dennis healed, he wanted to help me with cutting and splitting the wood and taking it to people we found who needed it.  We bonded over the wood and helping each other and others.”

Over the last few years, they have found about 10 families that they provide with firewood on a regular basis.  About 90% of the wood they donate is hardwood, with the rest being pine.

Along the way, Elium has picked up other people who are wood burning enthusiasts or have ties to firewood and want to help with the ministry.  Patrick Miller of Mid-Carolina Construction brings him wood from trees he clears for his construction projects.  Jason Sheehan of A-1 Tree Service also donates wood from trees he cuts down. Rather than dispose of the wood, Miller and Sheehan prefer to put it to good use, Elium said.  

Chris Nagy goes to the farm often to help operate the wood splitting machine and stack wood.  Elium’s brother Darrell donates wood and Buddy Stirewalt uses his truck to deliver firewood to recipients who can unload it.  Johnny Moore of Moore Farms has hauled wood to western Rowan County to distribute to clients served at Rowan Helping Ministries’ satellite office in Mt. Ulla.  

“There are a lot of good-hearted people out there who want to help others,” Elium said.  “I have met so many great people who enjoy a nice wood fire or who love to work around wood and want to help us provide firewood as a way to minister to others.”

To qualify to receive firewood, you must be a Rowan County resident who is experiencing a financial crisis or a heating emergency and must have income at 150% or less of poverty.  To schedule an interview for firewood assistance, call Rowan Helping ministries at 704-637-6838, ext. 106. This number is for both the Salisbury and Mt. Ulla locations.