Dr. Newton selected to lead Area Christian Care Ministry
By By Connie Nowlin
When Kelly Brown left the First Baptist Church, it left a vacancy in the Atmore Area Christian Care Ministry, where Brown had served as chairman.
Dr. Doug Newton, at the First United Methodist Church, has been selected to fill the void.
Newton feels that the help the interdenominational outreach offers is mandated by the members' Christianity.
"We try to serve those with emergency or crisis needs with the care and response of Jesus Christ," Newton said.
Local congregations, businesses and individuals support the program by either giving food, volunteer hours or accepting the vouchers the ministry gives in lieu of cash. All donations are tax-deductible.
Newton estimates there are 26 churches and about 30 volunteers who help with the programs.
"They interview the clients, listen to them," he said. "Then food is given to them on the spot."
Help is also available to have electricity or water service restored to the client's household.
Need criteria must be met, and help is limited to once every three months.
But volunteers are also trained to refer clients to other sources of help, such as the Community Action or Project Share.
One of those volunteers is Grace Ikner, a member of the First Baptist Church.
"I like to volunteer, and I saw there was a need."
"The need in our community is growing," Newton said, pointing to requests for help that are running ahead of the same time last year. Closure of the Vanity Fair plant and Atmore's Kmart are part of the problem.
But the higher requests are being met with a higher level of giving.
"I'm positive we'll help more people than we did last year," Newton said.
He said that there is a need to remind people that there are very real needs right here in the community and it would not be good to assist in other places when the needs here were not being met.
"To see people give their time and energy to this ministry is inspiring," Newton said. "It opens a great door for all Christians in this community."
Ikner eagerly accepts that opening.
"I get more than I give. I receive a blessing and it makes me appreciate how the Lord has blessed me. I need to give back to the community," she said.
The program was originally run out of each church, with no central food bank or resource center.
Brown floated the idea to consolidate the effort into a single ministry and other congregations embraced the idea.
F.H. Farrar was a founding member of the feeding program at the Methodist church, along with John Henderson.
That program had been in place since 1989 or so, but the members agreed that a consolidated program would be better able to serve more people in more ways. Farrar is still a volunteer.
"We were trying to do something," he said, speaking of the men's Bible class. Members had delivered Meals on Wheels and opened a food bank at the church itself. For a time the consolidated program was run out of the Methodist building itself.
It moved to its present location on North Pensacola Street in 2000.