CARES Celebrates 35 years of service to Central Virginia

By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: May 5, 2018 | 2:00 p.m.

VIRGINIA – Last week, The Crisis Assistance Response Emergency Shelter (CARES), held a 35th Anniversary Celebration honoring the community partnerships that have enabled them to provide their services for Central and Southside Virginia. The celebration was held at Petersburg’s beautiful and historic Union Station,103 River Street, and was open to all. The board members and staff of CARES were surrounded by community, faith-based, business, and civic partners that have helped and enabled them in providing their critical services over the years.

“Without the help and support of our generous and wonderful partners, there is no doubt in my mind that we would be unable to continue to provide these critical services to those that are the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Cheryl Riggins, Executive Director, CARES. “We thank all of them from the bottom of our hearts and look forward to these continued partnerships going forward. That is what today is about–thanking all of them for what they do.”

CARES Board of Directors (l to r) Leionard Muse, Board Secretary; Dena Patrick, Board Member; Sam Clay, Vice Chair; Dr. Cheryl Riggins, Executive Director; Abby Lynch, Chair, Programs; Ken Pritchett, Board Member; and Chequila Fields

CARES has provided transitional and temporary shelter for the homeless of Central and Southside Virginia for 35-years. They assist families from Prince George, Dinwiddie, Chesterfield, Sussex, Surry, Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Hopewell. Unbelievably, CARES is the only emergency shelter in all of the entire tri-cities and surrounding counties. “It is a sobering statistic, but by the beginning of March 2018, we had already assisted almost as many families, as we had assisted in all of last year,” said Riggins. “Some of this can be attributed to the closing of the Petersburg Salvation Army Shelter, and that is why our community partnerships are so critically important.”

It is beyond desperate or frightening, and perhaps almost unimaginable, to ponder not having a place to sleep, a place to keep your things, a place to feel safe, and a place that is your own. As frightening as this sounds, add children to the predicament, and this situation becomes overwhelming and terrifying. It is commonly reported that most Americans have not adequately prepared for the future and that they have woefully-inadequate or no savings at all. If this is the case, most all of us may only be several paychecks away from homelessness. Perhaps this is something we should consider when we think about our perceptions, attitudes, and treatment of those that are homeless.

In 2017, CARES provided a total of 4,507 shelter nights. This equates to 270 people—89 were women, and the rest were children. Dinwiddie County residents used 84 shelter nights, and Prince George County residents used 346 shelter nights. CARES predominantly assists women and children for two reasons. Men are taken in only if they are part of a family and they do not separate families. In some ways, men are also less likely to acknowledge that they are homeless. When examining the populations served, women are typically the heads-of-household.

“While today’s celebration is to rejoice and thank all of our partners that help us in accomplishing our mission,” we are always looking for others to come on-board. The need is great, said Riggins. Without their help, there is no way we could have achieved this level of success.”

“In addition to the shelter, the Food Pantry, and the Clothes Closet, CARES partners with others in the community for additional services,” said Riggins. It is these partnerships that help keep us going and we strongly encourage employees of workplaces, sororities and fraternities, church groups, civic and social organizations, clubs, and others to consider partnering with us and help us in continuing to provide these critical services to the most vulnerable among us.”

Faith partners of CARES from Western Heights Baptist Church join Dr. Cheryl Riggins.

CARES is in great need of your help. Monetary donations can be mailed to CARES Incorporated, P.O. Box 1167, Petersburg, Virginia, 23804. Items that are always needed, and greatly appreciated, are canned goods, non-perishables, baby formula, toiletries, school supplies, blankets and linens, gently-used clothing and shoes, and household items of all types. Organizations are encouraged to conduct drives for monetary and tangible donations.

“Volunteers are also needed,” said Dr. Riggins. “We have one-time volunteer opportunities such as painting the kitchen or other rooms, trimming the shrubs, running a canned food drive, and more,” she added. CARES also frequently need volunteers with trucks. “When people show up to the shelter, they usually have all of their belongings in a trash bag or two. When more permanent housing is obtained, families visit our Service Centers for more clothing and household items, and a truck is often needed to deliver all the new items to their new homes.”

For more information on CARES or to set up a time for delivery of donations, call (804) 861-0865. Email them at criggins@cares-va.org. Check them out online at www.cares-va.org.

The need is real—and the need is great. 

“Could anything be more gratifying than helping the least of these; but for the grace of God, any of us could be homeless,” said Dr. Riggins.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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