Last year, helping needy families almost became impossible for the United Methodist Neighborhood Centers of Memphis (UMNC).
For more than 100 years, the nonprofit has been feeding, caring for, and empowering what they call the "overlooked or ignored" of Shelby County. But in October of last year, UMNC was so low on funds that the staff couldn't foresee the organization surviving past December.
After reducing staff, selling property, and increasing donations by about 20 percent since last October, the UMNC survived.
"Donations were down, but God blessed us," said Elvernice Davis, UMNC director. "We could not have made it without our donors and volunteers."
The UMNC staff maintains six food pantries. Along with serving more than 400 hot meals a week, the UMNC also provides produce twice a week and monthly food baskets to needy families.
During the holidays, UMNC offers qualifying families the choice of a food basket at Thanksgiving or a box of toys at Christmas. Donations come from area United Methodist churches and private donors.
This year, UMNC gave Thanksgiving baskets to more than 300 local families and had enough food left over to fill its pantries. Last year, the group distributed 250 Thanksgiving baskets.
"People are ahead of the game when it comes to helping out this year," Davis said. "We had one church commit to 100 boxes but brought us 125 boxes."
While flyers asking for donations were placed in area churches, getting the word out didn't take much effort.
"It became word of mouth," Davis said. "When it comes to people needing assistance, it spreads like wild fire."
While support for the UMNC has grown and it is no longer in danger of closing, the center still needs help as it operates on a month-to-month budget.
In addition to the food pantries, the UMNC offers day care for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years and has a program to help refugee families enter into the Memphis community.
"The UMNC has been offering services to Memphis for years," Davis said. "Gifts are managed by churches, but the whole community participates and benefits."