Pickens County’s CARES
As an independent charitable 501(c) 3 organization, CARES serves Pickens County residents who are down on their luck. Illness, accident, family abandonment, home fires, job loss, hunger, a down economy, or any unexpected misfortune can happen to anyone. And the volunteers at CARES are at the ready to extend a big hand to help.
CARES’ roots reach back to 1997, when members of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Family wanted to help the less fortunate in Pickens County. That ministry to others, which initially provided pantry items only, expanded to helping with financial aid and soon engaged community-wide support that now includes other denominations, local businesses and civic organizations in helping the unfortunate.
In 2004, under the umbrella of the Community Assistance Resources and Emergency Services for Pickens County, it took on the acronym of CARES. CARES became incorporated by the state of Georgia as an independent entity separate from the church and hired its first Executive Director. CARES is now overseen by a Board of Directors with 17 current members, reflecting a broad professional spectrum within the Pickens County community.
The helping-hand service that started originally with assisting 12-15 families weekly, now serves about 200 families a week. If a person or family needs food assistance, new clients are asked to bring proof of residency (see examples below) and a photo ID on their first visit to CARES. A visitation goes like this; clients meet with a trained volunteer counselor, either on a Monday or a Friday. Then, based on their circumstance, they may be referred to another community agency or service, as appropriate. At the initial meeting the client will receive approximately one week’s worth of basic food supplies for the family’s size. Products vary from week to week, and when available, non-food items such as toiletries and diapers are also provided. Currently 75% of food items come from the Atlanta Food Bank, with 25% coming from local businesses and food drives. Last year the food bank contributed about 423 thousand pounds of food goods to CARES!
Financial assistance is considered on a case-by-case basis. Because CARES relies almost entirely upon donations and grants, the amount on hand is a determining factor whether aid can be provided. Clients that receive financial assistance are asked to volunteer at the Thrift Store next door in return for the assistance they receive. The financial counselor is authorized to grant assistance when they meet with the client and once the Thrift Store hours have been fulfilled, the client receives the check for the funds requested.
Clients seeking financial assistance are required to produce the following:
1. Personal identification in form a of a photo ID.
2. Proof of Pickens County address such as a utility bill, property tax statement, automobile registration, etc.
3. Identification for dependents living in the household: Social Security card, recent school report card, documentation of disability with adults, etc.
4. Names of creditors, medical or prescription charges, etc.
Other services offered by CARES include a Transportation and Childcare Program for clients desiring to obtain a GED or continue with post-secondary education to earn a degree and the Back to School Program which will provide packages of school supplies and gift cards to 147 children this year. CARES is also involved in the Weekend Snack Program whereby needy elementary school kids get weekend snacks during the school year.
While all help provided to those who apply is free– there is never a charge for services– recipients must live in Pickens County and must demonstrate a true need for help.
Organizations such as CARES can’t exist without an army of volunteers. Currently, it takes at least 100 volunteers weekly to make CARES “go!” With a minimum of 200 families who need assistance every week, the need for more volunteers is evident. And needs will grow rather than diminish, due to population growth. Pickens County residential base is currently 30,000, with an expected upshot to 75,000 in the next seven years. Volunteers are as valuable as gold to CARES and are always needed to continue this outstanding community resource.
Peige Payne, Administrative Assistant notes, “About 15 percent of CARES clients return to serve as volunteers and some long-term volunteers are also clients. Many of the grateful clients tell us that because of CARES assistance by food, finances, or education, they were able to get back on their feet and get to a much better place in life.” Payne also notes one volunteer has been with the program since 1997, “Kay Cook. She is our one charter member from June 1997. She still fills orders on Fridays.”
Might you, the reader, consider volunteering? Executive Director, Larry Starr would love to interview you. Here are some volunteer positions to consider: delivery truck drivers, greeters, shoppers, stockers, counselors, data entry, etc. And donated items such as diapers, personal care items like shampoo, toilet paper, cleaning items such as laundry and dish detergent, plus cooking oil, peanut butter, commercially canned goods, as well as money donations are always needed. No donation of time, food, or money is too small! We are a charitable organization so donations are fully tax deductible!AC
CARES continues to grow in the service and support that it provides, and will continue to be a vital resource for residents of Pickens County. To volunteer, make a donation or for further information please contact:
Community Assistance Resources and Emergency Services
89 Cares Drive / PO Box 1342
Jasper, GA 30143
706. 253. 4777
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
10:00 AM – NOON
8:30 AM – NOON