NORTH AUGUSTA — In the front of Community Ministries of North Augusta’s thrift store, there are books, toys, antiques and clothes for sale at 20 percent off through the end of the month. In another part of the building, the dollars go to work, helping families pay utility bills and providing food.
“We are seeing people with huge electricity bills and water bills because they haven’t been able to pay them in several months, said Nancy Joyce, the organization’s director.
Reductions in hours on the job, personal illness and hospitalization are the common reasons people need assistance with the basics, she said.
CMONA began nearly 30 years ago when six churches – Fairview Presbyterian, Grace United Methodist, Holy Trinity Lutheran, Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal and Second Providence Baptist Church – came together to start a single outreach under one roof.
“One had a food ministry; one had a clothes closet, and they thought ‘Why don’t we pool our resources?’ ” Joyce said.
All six of the founding churches continue to support the agency, and another 16 have joined over the years. CMONA asks for $1 per member per year from the supporting churches, but they all go beyond the call, Joyce said. Churches supply volunteers in addition to donations and lend a hand in many ways.
Immanuel Baptist Church will help CMONA Saturday. Three gospel groups, The Talleys, Back Home and 11 Hours, will be in concert at 7 p.m. at the church in support of the ministry. There will be a collection of nonperishable food items.
CMONA provides aid to those who live in the North Augusta Area II School District, which includes North Augusta and Belvedere.
In 2012, the organization helped 2,125 families for a total of 5,219 individuals. CMONA paid $68,437 in electric bills, $10,109 in water bills and $96,494 in food assistance.
The ministry also helps families with miscellaneous items such as furniture and clothing and coordinates with other agencies such as the VA and Medication Assistance Program to fill in gaps.
CMONA has seen needs increase over the past few years, Joyce said.
“I’ve been here five years, and it has doubled,” she said.
Joyce said the organization has arrangements with utility providers to make a pledge to keep a family’s water or electricity from being cut off. CMONA will pay the bill online or be billed for the amount of the pledge.
Joyce said items in the thrift store are currently marked down because of an influx of donations from people doing their annual spring cleaning and the shop’s lack of space to store and sell the items. Regular sales help move the merchandise through, but as the demand for services increases, the ministry will need more space.
Plans are to add on to the current 8,870-square-foot facility on East Buena Vista Avenue, and a capital campaign could begin as early as the fall.