Community Crisis Ministries (CCM) is a ministry of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, of South Portland, Maine. Its purpose is to help neighbors in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth who have nowhere else to turn. All requests for assistance come by referral through local General Assistance programs or through community school departments.
When referred individuals have explored and exhausted all existing community resources, Community Crisis Ministries funds are used to meet basic needs of people of all ages. There are no forms to fill out, no further criteria to meet and no religious requirements.
How Did Community Crisis Ministries Start?
It all started with a gift to give away. In November 1999, the Church was offered an anonymous one million dollar gift to be used to help the people of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. The only conditions were that the money had to be given away and couldn’t he given to existing charities.
In the UCC tradition of discussion and careful consideration, the members of the congregation arrived at a common vision for the use of this challenging gift. It would he spent in three years and would serve their most vulnerable neighbors in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth: children, the elderly, and the poor and disadvantaged.
A Crisis Ministries Fund managed by the Crisis Ministries Committee was organized to oversee the distribution of $750,000 in direct assistance, with the remaining $250,000 dedicated to other related community services. A full-time Outreach Ministries Coordinator was hired to receive requests for financial assistance and allocate funds with the help of the CCM Committee.
What has Community Crisis Ministries Become?
This generous gift extraordinarily heightened church members’ awareness of the difficulties families face in two southern Maine communities that are demographically among the wealthiest in Maine. As a result, church members have responded generously (and continue to do so) when asked to contribute to the program. It presently has a part-time Outreach Ministries Coordinator who continues to work with volunteers on the Community Crisis Ministries Committee to distribute funds.
During the past year, church members and friends have given $64,500, in addition to regular church pledges. In 2015, Community Crisis Ministries gave away $59,480. For at least the last five years, more than one-half of our distributions went for housing and heating for local families.
During the past 15 years CCM has supported more than 1300 local families with:
- housing, furnishings, home repairs
- utilities (heat, electricity, water)
- medical/ dental/ mental health
- grocery/ non food assistance
- education/ camp
- car repair/ gasoline/ other transportation
The Church supports within its annual budget the operating costs of the program. Because of this, 100% of every gift provides direct assistance to those in greatest need.
While church members are asked on an annual basis to replenish the Community Crisis Ministries Fund, we must also look to the future. Church members can help to build an endowed fund by adding CCM as a beneficiary in their wills.
We’re daily reminded of the critical resource this program provides. In many cases it has literally reversed what appeared to be an inevitable outcome for a neighbor in need.
Delcia Hutchinson, Social Worker and former Outreach Ministries Coordinator:
“There is no safety net. It’s an illusion. No one wants to ask others to help support their families, but when help is needed, it should be available and adequate.”
A neighbor whose family was helped by the Fund:
“Thank you for what you have done for me and my children.
When I think about it, which is often, I think I must have dreamed it….
to be able to budget and have something left for extras,
like paper towels, to be able to go to sleep at night without worrying…
Please express my deepest gratitude.
I can’t adequately express how wonderful it feels to have this weight off my shoulders.
I will pay this kindness forward whenever and wherever I can to help some else.”
Looking for more information?
For more information on how you can give to Community Crisis Ministries or how the program is administered, please contact Kathy Sahrbeck, Outreach Ministries Coordinator, at email@example.com or by phone at 799-3361, extension 112.