CIA on a mission|Group receives reports on massive charity work

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Staff Writer

An informal but consequential meeting of 17 souls took place Monday night, away from public eyes in the basement chapel of First Christian Church on Washington’s Second Street.
Here, a group called Christians in Action, informally known as the CIA, met to consider the needs of area residents — some of whom are down on their luck in the wake of the Great Recession, others of whom are struggling to break a cycle of generational poverty.
Despite its tucked-away setting and identifying acronym, there is nothing clandestine about this CIA.
“The footprint of this organization is out in the community,” said Cynthia Barrett, CIA co-chairwoman.
This group is highly visible, and vigorously active in the community, members indicated.
“We’re advancing the kingdom,” said volunteer Sam Fulmer. “We’re not wasting anything.”
As the group worked through its agenda, members ticked off a long list of works the membership accomplished directly or through other charitable organizations.
A dinner-plate benefit, organized in part by Ray Kennedy, raised $11,337.50 for a 6- to 7-year-old girl who suffers from seizures, it was said.
The money will be placed in a trust to pay the girl’s medical expenses, Kennedy said.
“That was donations and a little bit of hard work by a whole lot of people,” he said.
Brushing off applause from the committee, he added, “All of us did a great job.”
As the business session got under way, members passed around a card and a letter of thanks for the CIA’s contributions to the community.
The card was from people who wanted to thank the CIA for gifts of shirts and ties to an area high-school basketball team.
“It is so nice of all of you to support these sweet boys that just don’t have the means (or support) to acquire their needs,” it reads.
The letter, from officials with the Beaufort County Department of Social Services, passed along thanks for a “generous donation” to a holiday project for dependent adult clients.
“Your donations will help enable us to acknowledge these 28 adults during the holiday and will help us meet their ongoing needs throughout the coming year,” the letter reads.
Harlan MacKendrick, a volunteer with Zion Shelter and Kitchen in Washington, noted that the kitchen recently received donations of hundreds of pounds of food from a local grocery store.
Later, the members revealed that, through fundraising yard sales, the CIA raised $2,500 for the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center, and gave $1,500 to Beaufort County Schools to help needy students.
Linda Hough, co-chairwoman of the CIA, said that recently she had two requests from teachers seeking help for their students.
“It was nice to be able to refer them back to the county office where we had already given money,” she said.
“Like Sam said,” Barrett commented, “we’ve been blessed and we’re able to give something back.”
According to Hough, the CIA raised enough money from its yard sales to return its $1,100 church-budget allocation for use in other ministries.
“Thank you for being so willing to give up what was budgeted for us,” she told the committee.
Jennifer Small reported on a proposal to “adopt” a family for Christmas.
The CIA voted unanimously to set aside $600 to buy Christmas gifts for a mother and her six children.
The mother, who lives in Belhaven, is a former home-health worker who is looking for work.
She needs transportation to get to and from a hoped-for job, and she is suffering under a $400-a-month utility bill, Small related.
The mother’s phone service was turned off recently, Small said.
“And I went and paid her phone bill,” she said. “I couldn’t stand that she has six kids and no way to get up with anybody.”
The mother’s situation became so desperate that she feared she would have to surrender her children, Small said.
“She is determined she is not going to give up those kids,” she said.
At the last, Hough said, the CIA is looking for donations of furniture for its furniture ministry. The group is looking mostly for beds, tables, chairs and dressers, she said.
The CIA keeps most of the furniture in a storage warehouse near the Blind Center in Washington.
Much of the furniture is distributed to people who need it and can’t afford to buy it, while some of the pieces are sold to raise funds for other charities.
The meeting broke up around 8 p.m., with the members going their separate ways having, as Fulmer indicated, put a face on the poverty numbers that loom over the region — and having done something about it.