The tradition of charitable giving to the Sussex County Community lives on as the Annual Rehoboth Christmas Shop, presented by the Episcopal Church Women of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Rehoboth Beach and St. George's Chapel in Harbeson, turns 51 this year. All proceeds from the shop go to various charities chosen by the ECW. Of those assisted, a fairly new ministry came to the attention of the Community Resource Center, an organization providing services for those in need in the Cape Henlopen School District.
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Volunteer Sandy Dodson has just completed an interview with a homeless man who has come to the Community Resource Center in Rehoboth for help. Now she confers with Susan Morrison, one of eight day managers who will try to help him while he is ushered to the dining area and offered a sandwich and a bowl of homemade soup. “It is overwhelming sometimes. People live in their cars,” says Diane Shearon, who volunteers one half-day every week. “But people in the community are so generous. I was shopping for bedding for a 3-year-old recently, and when the manager of the linen store heard this he gave me the bedding for free as well as comforters for her parents.”
Morrison, a retired bishop, volunteers a few days at the center each week. “I have never experienced such integrity in any organization. Our center honors the dignity of those people living on the margins by responding to their human needs in such a thorough way,” she says. Since its opening in April 2011, the CRC has served 4,367 individuals and their families and has provided more than $450,000 in financial assistance.
The type of assistance varies among individuals and families. One woman recently got tuition assistance just in time to begin fall classes at Delaware Tech. Another man received help obtaining Social Security insurance, and it changed his life. Most people need a meal, clothing, housing assistance, counseling and medical care. All the clients need help navigating the system. What makes the Community Resource Center so successful is the coordination of volunteer, county and state services. Currently the Adams State Service Center is on site one day a week, and soon that will be expanded to two.
“The staff at CRC sees the whole person and works to solve each case holistically,” says Pat Post, a 15-year veteran with the Division of Social Services who understands what the government rules allow and how important the center’s role is in offering specific assistance case. “No one of us could do it alone.”
Tim Rennick was hired in 2011 as a case manager whose role is to network with other services and make appropriate referrals. He has written a manual to help Sussex County coordinate its efforts. “I don’t think homelessness is everyone’s fault. Many people own or rent vacation homes here, so a lot of people work in the service industry to support that. That industry only operates six to seven months a year. Where do they work then?” he asks. Rennick thinks what contributes to homelessness is lack of transportation. “A woman just got a job as a second shift worker in one of the chicken plants, but her shift ends at one o’clock in the morning. We have no infrastructure to help her and so many like her.”
CRC has a full kitchen, dining area, and a washer and dryer. A day center room operates a computer to assist in job searches and a bulletin board to post job listings. Another room has been transformed into a meditation center with armchairs, an altar and a library. Some 30-40 monthly volunteers assist wherever they are needed. Freddy Doughty is considered a caretaker and the center’s right-hand man. “I enjoy it,” Doughty says. One of his coworkers quickly adds, “And he is really good at it.”
“We are amazed at the generosity of the community. Cape Pharmacy has supported so many of our clients. Also the power companies have been willing to work with us as well,” says Wally Johnson, who wrote the proposal in July 2012 which awarded the CRC $19,500 from the Speer Trust Fund for the Housing First grant. This grant helped pay for security deposits, startup and matching housing costs for the homeless. Because of Johnson’s efforts and his coworkers', at least seven homeless families in the Cape Henlopen School District have received financial assistance and mentoring assistance to help them become self-supporting members of the community.
Codirectors of the CRC, Janis Bardi and Larry Beach are responsible for day-to-day operations. The CRC is supported by Lewes-Rehoboth Association of Churches, which is composed of about 20 churches which have banded together to serve coastal Sussex County. The Rev. Jeff Ross is chairman of the board and president of LRAC. Bennett Connelly is vice president of CRC Inc. and serves as liaison to LRAC. Wally Johnson serves as public relations chair and spends time applying for grants to make certain the doors remain open.
The Episcopal Church Women are happy to include the Community Resource Center as one of their many Christmas Shop beneficiaries. The three-day show, featuring a variety of shops all under one roof, is held at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11 and 12, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 13. Admission is $1. Lunch is served daily in the Christmas Café. The gala preview party is 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, and offers a chance to shop while enjoying food and fellowship with happy celebrants. Admission to party is $30 at the door. For more information, call 302-227-7202 or visit www.allsaintsrehoboth.org.