The Ghent Area Ministry opened its doors August 1, 2000 as a charitable outreach ministry of fifteen (15) churches in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk. This was the result of monthly pastoral meeting discussions with respect to meeting the needs of the poor, distressed, underprivileged, and homeless people who approached the churches with frequency during the week. The desire to offer assistance was strong and the financial resources were available through the churches. There were issues, however, that needed to be addressed such as frequency of requests, amounts of assistance, and verification of legitimacy of requests. In addition, social services knowledge skills were deemed necessary to best manage the requests received on a daily basis. This entire process also involved a great deal of time, thus putting a greater burden on existing church staff. It was decided to combine the financial resources of the churches, set up an office within the immediate neighborhood of the churches, and to hire someone with the appropriate skills and experience to manage the entire program.
Central Baptist Church, located centrally in Ghent and convenient to local transportation, offered to provide the office space with secured access. A member of the church also had the experience desired to manage the operation of the outreach ministry. The other 14 churches offered their financial support through pledges and donations. With an initial church donation of $4000.00, the Ghent Area Ministry came into existence. The organization continues to operate with one paid employee, the Director, and several weekday volunteers and interns.
The Ghent Area Ministry offers its services to clients who can show valid photo identification and are residents of the city of Norfolk. A face-to-face interview is conducted in the GAM office where the client submits a written application for assistance. Financial background information is also obtained at this appointment. The director assesses the information provided, makes verification phone calls to providers of services (i.e., utility company, pharmacy) and, at times, cross references with other agencies in the local Norfolk area. Once it is determined assistance will be given, the client receives a check made payable to the provider of the service. At no time are cash payments made to a client to meet needs. Assistance ranges from $50-75, with a few exceptions, and does not exceed $75 per person. Utility accounts must be in the name of the person requesting assistance. Assists for food vouchers at local grocery stores prohibit the purchase of alcohol and tobacco. Requests for transportation, such as bus tickets/passes, are met after phone verification of medical appointments, interview appointments and/or job placement. Assistance is also available in the form of lunch bags (provided by a local church), toiletry kits (soap, shampoo, razors, etc.) and emergency food such as canned and boxed goods. In addition, the GAM operates The Clothes Closet to distribute donated clothing to men and women at no cost to the client.
It is the policy of the GAM that a client will receive only one major financial assistance per calendar year (utilities, medications/prescriptions) in order to make the financial resources available to more clients, prevent the overuse and abuse of assistance, and promote client ‘ownership’ of their financial situation for the future.
Financial funding for the ministry primarily comes from annual pledges from the supporting local churches (19 total at this time). Additional funds are received from special offering collections in the churches, Sunday school class donations, and donations from individuals in the churches and community, and various fund raisers organized by GAM. Clothing, food, and toiletries are solicited from the supporting churches through flyers and brochures, especially for specific events: Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets, winter coat drive and food pantry re-stock.
Ghent Area Ministry (GAM) is a collaboration of faith communities serving the marginalized residents of Norfolk. We do this out of our common commitment to justice
- Bring Faith Communities Together
- Provide a Resource Center
- Empower People in Need
- Collaboration- we partner with diverse faith communites and other service providers
- Responsibility- we work wisely to help others help themselves
- Dignitiy- every person is worthy of respect