Giving guide Urban Ministries

Tiny staff serves thousands

Wake County charity focuses on food, health care, jobs and women’s shelter

From staff reportsDecember 15, 2012 

  • About this series In this season of giving, we are featuring local charities in conjunction with The News & Observer’s Holiday Giving Guide. The charities submitted information about the need for volunteers and monetary contributions of various amounts. To see the larger list of charities, visit The News & Observer’s online database at

Mission: Urban Ministries of Wake County – which provides food, medical care, job programs and women’s shelters – serves 49,000 people per year with a staff of 20. How does it do it? With thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours.

“We operate very efficiently,” said John Welch, director of development. “We take 94 cents out of every dollar and send it straight towards the mission. That’s possible because of volunteers.”

The organization started in 1981 with 13 houses of worship coming together to fight hunger and homelessness. It has since grown into a multifaceted charity that includes the largest free clinic – the Open Door Clinic – and second largest food pantry in the area.

Aside from giving out food and health care, the charity works to get people back on their feet through its jobs program.

“The people we target are the working poor, people who just lost a job,” Welch said. “We try to stand them back up and give them the tools to be self-sufficient again.”

The women’s shelter allows women to stay in a safe place for as long as 120 days. The shelter offers programs to address specific needs such as job skills or substance-abuse counseling.

The medical clinic also aids the working poor by helping them manage chronic ailments, which enables them to more effectively hold down a job.

While a stable of nurses and doctors volunteer their time, more are always needed. In addition, Welch said, the food pantry is always in need of replenishment, especially around Christmastime.

“If there’s anything I could highlight it’s that the food pantry needs to be filled,” he said.

Donations needed: nonperishable food items and money.

Volunteers needed: doctors, nurses, lab technicians and development volunteers. The time commitment varies depending on position.

$10 would buy: 10 prescriptions for an uninsured clinic patient.

$20 would buy: 23 bus passes for homeless women commuting to work from The Helen Wright Center.

$50 would buy: Three primary-care fees, including lab work and prescription medications, for one patient at the Open Door Clinic.

Contact information: Carol Schwartz, 919-836-1642, ext. 343.

1390 Capital Blvd.

Raleigh, N.C. 27603

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