2018-04-13 / Community

Residents get by with a little help from ministry

The memory is etched into my mind along with my baby’s milestones, but it is of a very different nature. I was driving along and skidded on a wet road as I approached a traffic light. It wasn’t ice or snow, just rain, but my tires were getting worn. They had passed the last inspection, but just barely, and as I regained control of the car and stopped for the red light, I glanced into my rearview mirror to check on my daughter, sleeping peacefully in her car seat. I tried to figure out just how much farther I could go on those old tires before jeopardizing her safety, and what bills I would have to put off so I could buy new ones.

It’s a dilemma far too many people face. The exact decision might be different – maybe it’s a home repair or medicine, or an injury that causes you to miss a day of work. But far too many people, people right here in our communities, struggle every day to stay financially above water. For some, it’s a month-to-month struggle, juggling bills that are too high for meager wages. For others, it’s an unexpected expense that throws the carefully balanced budget out of whack.

But here, in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, there is help. Community Crisis Ministries, a relief fund run through First Congregational Church of South Portland, helps scores of people each year, covering expenses that other agencies can’t, offering a lifeline to neighbors in need.

Community Crisis Ministries was created in 1999, when an anonymous church member donated the original $1 million grant specifically to be used for individuals and not donated to other charities. Since then, the group has raised an additional $1.4 million, or roughly $78,000 annually. That has been distributed to more than 1,600 local families and individuals to help with housing, utilities, furnishings, food, transportation, medical expenses, education and child care.

Sometimes the requests are big – a security deposit on a new apartment, car repairs to keep getting to work, an extra high heating bill after that harsh cold spell. Sometimes they are smaller – books for a college class, sneakers so a student can play basketball, or the money to send a child to summer camp for a week. Requests for aid must come through the general assistance programs or the school systems of South Portland or Cape Elizabeth, but most requests are at least partially funded.

So if you find yourself skidding to a stop and wondering how to juggle some unanticipated expenses, know that we are here. And if you are looking for a way to help your neighbors right here in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, please consider a donation to Community Crisis Ministries, so that all of our children may continue to sleep peacefully.

Elinor Redmond, member First Congregational Church of South Portland

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