Faithful men with vision…. Rev. Bruce Green of Grace Episcopal Church spearheaded a group of faithful Carthage men with a vision and a commitment to help homeless people in the Carthage area. The effort moved forward and Rev. Green called for a commitment on their part to put together a nonprofit and a shelter for the homeless. Representatives from nine churches including Carl Bowers of Fairview Christian, Beryl Kingsbury of First United Methodist, and Herman Holz of First Church of the Nazarene responded. A nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation—Carthage Crisis Center, Inc. was put together in March 1996. A 2,200 square foot building was secured at the corner of 5th and Lyon St. in Carthage for $15,000.
A bunch of volunteers with various skills stepped up. The building was completely remodeled. Hundreds of hours of volunteer labor were poured into the project. A 900 square foot addition was added and the Center opened up in April 1997. In the early days the Center was overseen by Board members. It was closed during the day. Board members would come down every afternoon and count the number of people staying that night. They then went to the grocery store, took out their personal checkbooks and bought food for dinner.
In 2000 the first Executive Director was hired. In 2002 the budget for the Crisis Center was $32,000 and $35,000 was raised. In early 2003 the Executive Director resigned. On April 14, 2003 Brian Bisbee was hired to be Executive Director. There were two people residing in the Center. The facility had sixteen beds. The Bisbees shared the same stack-able washer and dryer with the residents as a family.
The food supply was very limited. We started praying for the food to feed everyone. It started coming in along with freezers to put it in. It wasn’t too long before we had more food than we could use or store. We gave away a little bit at a time. Pretty soon we were taking a borrowed pickup and distributing food to churches and day cares. More food came in and we developed our Food Network of 70 organizations stretching from Springfield to Southeast Kansas and south to the Arkansas border. Today we give out about 500,000 pounds of food annually.
The Center was operating on a Rescue Mission schedule when the Bisbees came to the Crisis Center. It was only open in the late afternoon and evening. The hours were expanded so that people could work all three shifts. More homeless people came including growing numbers of homeless women and families. By 2005 people were stacked up in every nook and cranny of our building and we were turning away 25 plus people a month because of a lack of space. We started exploring various options for expanding our facilities.
During the next year we scoured the City of Carthage looking at various buildings that could potentially meet our needs. In 2006 we put in an Offer to purchase a 18,000 square foot building in the downtown area for $190,000. We met with a local foundation and asked for help with the remodeling and equipping costs. We were offered our present building in that meeting for free. We switched directions, secured the 43,000 square foot building and in April 2007 started the remodeling process. Hundreds of volunteers were prompted by God to help us. Some sheet rocked, some painting and some hung doors. The original fundraising goal of $1,500,000 was exceeded by $800,000 and in Oct. 2009 we were able to move into our new facility. It contains space for five families, fifteen men and eight women. On the average we keep between 30-35 people a night.
In the ensuing years we have been reminded of two basic things. One: When God gives the vision, he will give the provision. In a similar vein we have discovered that God wants to supply our needs, but he wants us to keep our hands open continually so that we can help supply the needs of others. If we do that, the provision keeps flowing through. He has used hundreds of people to supply us with food, clothing, furniture, appliances, household goods, supplies, financial support, and tons of recycling we have been able to sell to help keep our lights on.
We now have a staff of six and a budget in excess of $300,000 that is supplied completely by contributions. We established an endowment in 2007 and have been able to build that gradually. To God be the glory.The Carthage Crisis Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation permitting contributions to be tax deductible in their entirety as no goods or services are provided in exchange for donations. The Crisis Center is entirely dependent on contributions as it does not receive any government funds.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
© Carthage Crisis Center 2014.