KNIGHTDALE — Every Wednesday and Thursday starting around 6 a.m., Knightdale residents start gathering outside a small building on North First Avenue. Around 8 a.m., a small staff of volunteers arrives and starts unloading a truck filled with food. The people who have been waiting pick up their laundry baskets, hampers and makeshift grocery carts form a line.
There are seniors with walkers and canes, younger residents with children, and a number of residents who don’t speak English. They all came to receive food from Community Helpers Service Center, a local nonprofit providing help to individuals and families who need it.
With a government shutdown and a recovering economy, President Billy Neal knows it’s important for his organization to continue working in the Knightdale community.
It’s an expensive job, especially during the colder months of the year.
Neal sent a letter to the Knightdale Town Council at the beginning of October asking for help. He asked the council whether it could grant him $2,500 to keep operations going, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
“Our backs are literally against the wall,” Neal wrote to the council. “Would you help us to help our local citizens?”
Town Council members tentatively agreed to grant Neal the $2,500 at their last meeting on Oct. 7. Finance Committee Chairman Mike Chalk, however, didn’t think it was enough and told Neal he would donate $500 of his own personal money.
Neal said the money the town granted will help the organization through the colder months of the year, which are usually busier than other times.
More activity around holidays
Community Helpers distributes coats and other winter accessories to children during cold months and also provides Thanksgiving and “Christmas Cheer” baskets to seniors. It does all this on top of its normal activities.
“We’re already in a financial crunch. … This (money) is going to take us on through the winter,” Neal said. “I’ve got seniors calling me right now about Thanksgiving and some that are calling me about Christmas, and they need stuff and we can’t afford (it) right now.”
Neal estimated Community Helpers gives out between 1,200 and 1,500 Christmas Cheer baskets and provides cold-weather outerwear for more than 1,400 families.
In addition to the programs that operate during the cold months, Community Helpers carries on its normal activities. One of the more well-known ones is its emergency food pantry, which distributes food to families every Wednesday and Thursday.
The nonprofit works with other organizations to make sure the pantry is stocked. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina recognized Community Helpers for giving out more than 1 million pounds of food between June 2012 and July 2013. They calculated that was equal to more than 800,000 meals.
The organization also has a program that gives children pajamas and books.
“I think all kids need a pair of warm pajamas to curl up in and read,” Neal said. The pajamas program requires the children to write and return a short book report to Neal.
Community Helpers doesn’t receive aid from the state or county, which means most of the burden falls to the organization’s staff.
“No one on my staff gets paid. I don’t get paid,” Neal said. In addition to the staff putting its own money into the organization, Neal said donations and proceeds from small fundraising yard and food sales help maintain the organization.
Community Helpers should receive its special aid from the town of Knightdale once a budget amendment is presented and passed.
At last week’s meeting, Chalk said it should be prepared and ready by the next council meeting on Oct. 16.
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews