The Cooperative Ministry has served the working poor and those in acute crisis since 1982. Our facility on West Beltline Boulevard in Columbia is open Monday-Friday, and each day we are contacted by more than 60 families looking for what we call a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.” Our mission is to help people work their way out of poverty.
The Cooperative Ministry was started by five Columbia churches — First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Main Street Methodist Church, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and Washington Street United Methodist Church — in a spirit of cooperation to serve others. Today, more than 50 churches support us, along with 120 partnering services and countless civic and social organizations, foundations, businesses and individuals. For 35 years, our goal has been to honor people by showing them the respect they deserve.
It’s easy to think of the Cooperative Ministry as a food bank or clothing closet. And we do have a clothing closet, and donations come in every day, and clients never pay a dime for the clothes they receive. We provide vouchers to food banks, and we maintain a very small pantry for those who find themselves in crisis and need something to eat.
But we do so much more.
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In the past year, we provided more than 20 free automobiles to families needing transportation to get a job or keep a job. Our Autos for Opportunities program accepts cars in any condition; cars needing a minimal investment to be reliable are donated to those needing transportation. We always have a waiting list. Donations to this program make an immediate impact in someone’s life.
Additionally, we provide free tax preparation each year for thousands of people unsure of how to claim tax credits, helping them receive refunds that boost their household income. We also provide crisis financial assistance and ongoing financial education that helps people get ahead of problems.
When open enrollment began this month for the Affordable Care Act, qualified volunteers began helping a steady stream of clients to choose and enroll in a plan for their family.
Those of us who serve and volunteer at the Cooperative Ministry love what we do, are impacted by what we see and blessed by the relationships we enjoy with clients and donors. Our doors are always open to volunteers: individuals, families, friends, churches, businesses and organizations. We also encourage groups to schedule a one-hour tour at our facility. If this interests you or you would like to donate a vehicle to our Autos for Opportunities program, please call (803) 799-3853, ext. 119, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Ms. Irick is executive director of the Cooperative Ministry; contact her at email@example.com.