Community participation key to success of Western Tidewater Community Services Board

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about the Western Tidewater Community Services Board n examining who they are, what they do, who they help and what’s in store in the coming months.

New Community Christian Center Church, 5112 Godwin Blvd., is one of the smallest in the area, with only 40 active members.

But the group is what Anita Morris, resource development coordinator with the Western Tidewater Community Services Board, likes to call, “the small church with the big heart.”


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New Community members knew they wanted to collect food for the holidays. Pastor Anthony M. VanDyke had the number 1,000 flashing in his head, so he said, “Let’s go with it.”

He challenged his parishioners to gather half a ton of non-perishable foods and common household items. Three weeks later, they have more than 800 pounds of goods piled in a pantry in the church, a mere 200 pounds away from their goal. VanDyke is confident they’ll reach 1,000 this Sunday, when the official week’s weigh-in is announced. Most likely they will collect as much as 1,200 pounds, he said, because his congregation doesn’t like to do just the bare minimum.

They decided their hefty contribution would go to the WTCSB’s soon-to-open food/household items closet. VanDyke said they chose that organization for a few reasons.

“We know it’s a good cause. We know that those resources will go exactly to those who need help, and also, they’re our neighbors, too. Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Morris said the timing could not be better. WTCSB just purchased two large storage units, to be located at the S. Saratoga St. office, to begin stockpiling goods for the food closet. The goods will go toward enabling people to have Thanksgiving dinners, and likely will be a supplement for those in need on an ongoing basis, she said.

“When I got the phone call from the church, I thought, ‘this is truly divine intervention,’” she said.

The closet will include basic household items, such as detergent and tooth paste. WTCSB officials hope the closet can help offset some of their clients expenses. When someone is living on $600 a month, they sometimes must decide between one need or another. This new endeavor will “help us serve the people in a holistic manner,” Morris said, meaning they can provide for their clients’ basic needs as well as their mental and behavioral ones.

WTCSB is one of 40 community services boards across the state that work with those with mental retardation and those suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse. They partner with a variety of local government departments and community organizations to help the people of Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, Franklin and Southampton County.

Morris said by helping cover their clients’ basic needs, it helps them fret less about bills and other responsibilities, allowing them to more effectively participate in their treatment and/or counseling.

Collaborations with area organizations, such as the one with New Community, are vital for the ongoing operation of WTCSB because people who don’t seek out help from them often turn to churches, Morris said. While many religious institutions offer some form of counseling and support, they might not have all the necessary resources. That’s where a partnership with WTCSB can prove beneficial, she said.

Also during this holiday season, WTCSB will maintain an Angel Tree in the Northgate site at 1000 Commercial Lane, with names of clients, mostly adults, who could use some holiday cheer. Employees take individual names, and area churches often take several. Most often people give gift cards, so that WTCSB clients can gain a sense of empowerment to be able to purchase whatever they want or need. Ultimately, when they receive the gifts, it gives them a sense of validation and that they are being heard, Morris said.

It all goes back to WTCSB’s motto, which is “The purpose of life is a life with purpose,” she said.

They will feature a tree outside the Godwin Boulevard office with lights people can buy for $20 each in memory or honor of someone. Morris said they hope to have the tree completely lit by Christmas. Money raised from the tree donations go toward the Consumer Fund, which helps provide WTCSB clients with heat in the winter, emergency dental care (Medicaid does not cover people over 21), and more, she said.

Ultimately, VanDyke can see why WTCSB plays such an important role in the community, and why churches like his should get involved.

“We should be a part of the heartbeat of the community,” VanDyke said. “If we don’t help, who else is going to help?”

Those interested in participating in the Angel Tree or purchasing a light for the Tree Lighting should contact Sandra Brinkley at 255-7134.

New Community Christian Center Church can be reached at 255-4437.