For 25 years, the volunteers at Fayette Samaritans have honored their pledge to be “good Samaritans,” to show God’s love and offer a helping hand to neighbors in need in Fayette County. Their mission, based on Matthew 25:35, is to provide emergency assistance, including food, clothing, and financial help to residents of Fayette County struggling with a temporary, immediate need.
The need is far greater than most realize. Food insecurity is a growing concern for many in Fayette County, especially those who are most vulnerable: children and seniors. It is estimated that one in four children and one in six seniors are “food insecure,” meaning they’re not sure where their next meal will come from. Many clients who come to Fayette Samaritans’ office for help have jobs but are considered underemployed or work part-time, and have incomes insufficient to meet the basic needs of their families. Many clients are new to Fayette County, unfamiliar with local and state services, and need temporary financial assistance to prevent eviction or utility disconnection.
A friendly group of volunteers works tirelessly Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon in order to meet the needs of those who seek a helping hand. Volunteers organize the clothes closet, an area where clients can find good quality, gently-used clothing for family members of all ages. Other volunteers pick up, sort, package, and distribute groceries. Still others meet with clients to share resources for additional help, such as how to apply for food stamps, find job listings, and locate other services offered by local and state government.
Appointments are not necessary; individuals are seen in the order they arrive. When an individual or family comes to Fayette Samaritans, they first fill out an application and show proof of residency in Fayette County. They are then interviewed to determine the type of emergency they are facing and how Fayette Samaritans can best help. Emergencies can include loss of a job, a medical crisis, a divorce – any number of life-changing situations. Individuals and families can receive groceries and clothing up to six times a year. Limited financial assistance is available once per year to help offset a critical, immediate expense like rent or a utility bill so that clients can stay in their homes.
Fayette Samaritans began its vital work in 1991 with a fledgling group of dedicated volunteers and the support of eleven churches. In 2003, after moving locations twice, the organization found a permanent home behind Fayette Christian Church on Hickory Road in Fayetteville. The church offered Fayette Samaritans a 100-year lease on a parcel of land for just one dollar, donations were raised to cover the construction costs for a small building, and Square Foot Ministry provided labor and expertise to build the facility.
Support for Fayette Samaritans’ work in the county has since expanded to include more than 50 churches, 50 volunteers, and numerous civic organizations, as well as local government, businesses, schools, scout programs, restaurants, and individual donors. Last year, Fayette Samaritans assisted 915 households, representing 2,980 individuals, with 32 percent being new clients. Seventy-eight percent of the clients requested food, 29 percent needed emergency financial assistance and 27 percent needed clothing.
According to Linda Ladd, president of the board of directors, Fayette Samaritans is strictly a volunteer agency.
“We have been fortunate to have very committed and faithful volunteers since 1991,” she says. “The support we get from the community makes it possible for us to be here.”