MATTHEWS – Last week, former Mayor Jim Taylor was a little worried the campaign to support the Matthews HELP Center wouldn’t reach its $100,000 goal by Labor Day. But a final bump in donations – $18,906 to be exact – was just enough to push the effort over the top.
As of Sept. 8, the “Matthews HELPing Matthews” GoFundMe raised $103,433. The amount is a combination of direct contributions to the HELP Center, donations made on the GoFundMe page and the value of in-kind donations from local corporations and businesses such as food, child care products, women’s apparel and restaurant gift cards.
“When we ask the Matthews community for support and help, they come through in many, many ways,” Taylor said. “This is truly a great community and I’m very proud to be involved here.”
“Matthews HELPing Matthews” first launched in April when community leaders asked the public to help the nonprofit meet an increased need due to COVID-19. The idea came from Mumukshu Brahmbhatt, owner of the UPS store in the Sycamore Commons Shopping Center.
Brahmbhatt helped organize a steering committee that included Taylor, Matthews Mayor John Higdon, video producer and photographer Steve Huff and other town leaders and business owners.
The HELP Center, located at 119 N. Ames St., has been in Matthews for over 40 years and helps to ease poverty in zip codes 28104, 28105, 28226, 28270 and 28079. In addition to its food pantry, the nonprofit also offers crisis assistance and runs back to school, backpack, Thanksgiving feast and holiday support programs.
Part of what makes it possible to help so many in need is Matthews HELP Center’s Backporch Treasures boutique and thrift shop. Sales make up 65% of the organization’s budget. The rest comes from donations from the community.
While the nonprofit is well-positioned to provide for the “normal” level of need throughout the year, volunteers gave groceries to more people in the early months of the COVID-19 crisis than under normal circumstances. It is estimated more than a third of the people served were first-timers.
The food pantry has since stabilized, but the need for housing assistance has exploded.
Executive Director Sandra Conway said from April to August, the HELP Center gave $268,500 to help 227 families pay utility bills and housing costs. That’s roughly $113,000 more than what the nonprofit typically gives for housing. August alone totaled $92,000 – the most the organization has ever given out in a single month, Conway said.
The need continues to grow as the economic impact of COVID-19 spreads, which is why contributions from the community are so important. All of the money raised from the Matthews HELPing Matthews campaign goes directly to meeting this need, Conway said.
“We are just overwhelmed by the gratitude and kindness of our community,” Conway said. “It’s really special and Matthews is really special and everybody who has contributed their time and money are part of our family now. Everything we’re able to do is because of them.”
Despite the uncertainty last week, Conway wasn’t surprised the campaign met its $100,000 Labor Day goal.
“I had great confidence in the community that they were going to rally together and even if they didn’t meet the goal, anything we could get is just huge,” she said.
Want to donate?
Visit www.gofundme.com/matthews-helping-matthews to learn more about the Matthews HELPing Matthews campaign. Information about the Matthews Help Center can be found at www.matthewshelpcenter.org.