Churches gave assistance, but it was in a very unorganized manor.
“United Christian Ministries grew out of the need of chuches who had repeated calls for assistance,” said the Rev. Tom Jones, who was the Director of Missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association at the time. “We needed to do something cooperatively.”
Often several churches would assist the same family, providing much more than just that family’s needs. Other times, families would be ashamed to approach a church, and go without any aid whatsoever.
A group of more than 40 Baptist churches joined together to discuss plans for a cooperative effort.
Easley First Baptist had a clothes closet program, so initial efforts were simply to expand that program.
When the effort became more of an inter-denominational project, United Christian Ministries was born.
The first meeting about the possibilities included the Rev. George Strait, pastor at Easley United Methodist Church; Nancy Mowdy, a staff member for the Piedmont Baptist Associatoin; Lawrence Bullard of Easley First Baptist Church; and the Rev. Chalres Fritz of St. Matthias Lutheran Church.
From that humble beginning, grew today’s United Christian Ministries. The organization depend on the support of more than 80 churches countywide. In addition, individuals, businesses and corporations lend financial support. United Christian Ministries is a United Way -supported organization.
The group’s first location was an abandoned Southern Bell building on Second Street in Easley.
Mowdy, who in addition to working with the Piedmont Baptist Association also worked with the Pickens-Twelve Mile Baptist Association, was the first director of the organization.
Eventually, United Christian Ministries was one of the first tenants in Easley’s West End Hall.
During long-range planning sessons, the UCM board had often mentioned the eventual need for a free medical clinic. Through the efforts of the Rev. Fritz and Dr. William Goudelock, that wish became a reality with the Pickens County Free Medical Clinic.
A few years ago, United Christian Ministries and the Pickens County Free Medical Medical Clinic joined together to purchase their current location on S.C. 135.
The former location of Jervey Eye Group, the building had been vacant for a couple of years.
The two organizations created Samaritan’s Health Clinic, which is a separate entity that provides facilities for both groups.
Jones is on the board for Samaritan’s Health Clinic. He credits the city of Easley for helping the organization get a federal block grant that helped pay for the new facility.
“All in all, the people here have been wonderful, from the mayor, to city council, the police department and the fire department,” Jones said. “They have all been very supportive.”
The organization depends heavily on its volunteers.
“Quite frankly, we could not survive without them,” Jone said.
Since moving to the S.C. 135 location, UCM no longer had the room to store and sort clothing. That problem has been solved by an agreement with Miracle Hill Ministries.
UCM has a drop box for Miracle Hill. Miracle Hill provides vouchers to UCM for the amount of clothing donated. UCM, in turn, gives those voucher to clients in need of clothing, so they can use them at a Miracle Hill Thrift Shop.
While UCM continues to recieve donations, there is a concern that supplies will be low due to the increasing demand, caused by the tough economic times.
“I had one lady who had never asked help from anyone, anywhere come in just the other week,” said Jones, who also volunteers as a counselor one day a week. “The need is always going to fluctuate, but right now there are a lot of people who have always worked hard and supported themselves who need help because they have lost their jobs.”
After Mowdy, Ginger Evans, Rhonda Link-Cummings, Brenda Riddle and Pat Case have all served as the UCM director. The current director is Terea Nash. Case has returned to the staff as assistant director.
Last year UCM filled food orders for 2,679 clients and provided utility assistance for 1,094 families.
More than 4,500 individuals were served last year, representing 1,720 familis.
The value of the food donated to UCM last year was approximately $100,000. The organization spends another $18,000-$20,000 to provide protein-dense items and perishables such as eggs, meats and margarine.