Sharing God's Love celebrates 25 years of helping those in crisis

On Sunday, the Irmo crisis ministry that bills itself simply as Sharing God's Love will celebrate a milestone.

Sharing God's Love turns 25 and the occasion will be celebrated with a 3 p.m. service at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, with a reception following.

It will be a service of thanksgiving - for those who volunteer and donate as well as those who find their way to the ministry's doorstep.

"We really think we are so important for this area," director Marcia Adkinssaid.

Sharing God's Love was founded by a handful of congregations in 1984 as a central nonprofit agency to help those in the Irmo, Ballentine and St. Andrews areas who are experiencing a temporary crisis.

Now, the number of supporting congregations has reached 40 and counting.

The number of families in need also has escalated through the 25 years, even more so during the current recession. To be eligible for assistance, one must reside in ZIP codes 29063, 29210, 29212, or 29002.

"We are seeing a lot of people who have never been here before. And many are coming for power help," Adkins said.

Fortunately, through some significant donations, the agency has some funds available to help with electric bills, and she said clients can be helped almost immediately if they qualify.

"It sounds as if we are the only agency where you can walk in and get help," she said.

In 2007, the organization served 1,564 families, 388 of those new requests. That jumped in 2008 to 2,078 families, 598 of those new clients. "Of the 1,409 families served during the first nine months of 2009, 431 were new families."

Adkins said she sees the greater need each day in the crowded waiting room of the building on Friarsgate Blvd. In the past, the ministry would conduct about six to eight interviews with potential clients each day. Over the past two weeks, that has risen to about 12 a day.

"It puts a real strain on the food," she said. Volunteers daily process donations of canned goods and fresh produce from grocery stores and congregations to replenish their shelves.

Sunday's service will be a time to remember God's grace and the generosity of congregations, individuals and civic clubs that have been so generous through the years, Adkins said. There will be musical selections by the Mount Olive choir and hand bell choir as well as the youth choir at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.

Officials at the nonprofit mailed out 2,000 invitations and she hopes many who are touched by the work of the ministry will attend.

Mt. Olive Lutheran Church is located at 1541 Lake Murray Blvd.