one-stop charitable shop
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Dero Sanford
Imagine a local charitable organization that combines the capabilities of a food pantry and a clothes closet with the financial resources of a church and the knowledge of countless other local agencies. Dr. Emil Williams imagined just such an organization, and shortly thereafter, The Community Services Center Inc. was born.
Williams, a longtime pastor of First Baptist Church who is now the pastor at Magnolia Road Baptist Church, made the decision to address the needs and concerns of local people living in stressful and poverty-stricken situations. Several years later, as a result of the hard work and careful planning of Williams and many others, The Community Services Center (CSC) is up and running; its only goal is to improve the lives of anyone in Jonesboro who needs its help in any way that it can.
One thing is for certain, without a $40,000 donation from Charlotte Pugh Cooper, a generous local activist, CSC would not have been possible. That giving nature is typical of Cooper and her husband, Darrell; their $2 million gift to Arkansas State University in 2003 is what made the Cooper Alumni Center possible, too.
“She’s an old friend who is always helpful with what I have going on and what is going on in Jonesboro,” said Williams. “We had talked about doing this for some time, but we needed that (donation) for a foothold to get going. It brought it into being.”
In order to receive assistance from the center, the only requirement is that an individual has to meet is that they simply have to ask for help. Once they do that, CSC will do everything in its power to assist that person with all the resources at its disposal. Tangible goods such as food and clothing are available at the center’s office, which is located within Magnolia Road Baptist Church, but that’s not all the center does. The center has made a considerable effort to partner with other churches and with local social and economic service providers so that it is able to assist with other vital day-to-day stresses including – but not limited to – rent, utilities and medication.
CSC recently held its grand opening on June 15, and since then, it has been making every possible effort to spread the word of its desire and willingness to help those in need. Spearheading the center’s efforts is a Board of Directors that includes Honorary Co-Chair Williams, Co-Chair Donn Mixon, Co-Chair Martie Shull, Executive Secretary and Business Manager Linda Edwards, Dr. C. L. Moseley, Todd Williams, Leshia Stevens, Pay Huffer and Mike Smith.
Edwards, who sees to most of the day-to-day operations of the center, explains how the center goes about helping whoever comes to it in need: “We have a resource directory that CSC has compiled that has churches and facilities listed with the contact person, address, phone number and description of what the church or facility provides. For example, when a client comes and needs assistance, I call each church or facility on our list and see if they can assist. We try to keep in contact with each other where we will know who has funds at that particular time.”
Williams would like to fulfill all the needs of everyone who walks through the center’s doors, and so that the center is able to do just that, he is encouraging any interested parties to volunteer and get involved.
“Frankly, the goal is a work in progress,” said Williams of his lofty goals for the center. “Our overall goal is to meet all kinds of needs any way we can. In view of that, we know we will never accomplish all we would like to do.”
Already helping out at CSC, under the direction of Dr. Susan Hanrahan, the Dean of Nursing and Health Professions at ASU, are several students and faculty members in the Department of Social Work.
“ASU’s Donna Parker has been sending me students from ASU to assist me in the food pantry and closet each Friday morning,” said Williams. “They have brought food and donated clothes for the clients. When we get together to talk, they come up with ideas to help organize the food pantry and closet. They assist the clients with their food to their vehicles. Also, I am hoping to get an intern that will be helping this fall with intake of the clients and (who) can counsel the clients.”
As CSC continues to grow, Edwards would like to see the services that the center provides grow, too. Eventually, she would like for there to be readily-available GED, nutritional and job assistance classes in association with the center.
“The best part of my job is the challenge of trying to meet the client’s needs as much as I can,” said Edwards. “When I can meet the client’s needs, this is the most gratification that I can imagine.”
For more information about CSC or to volunteer, call 275-7911 or visit cscincsite.org.