CANTON A ministry dedicated to helping the city’s needy is itself in need of help. A decline in donations has forced Canton Calvary Mission at 1345 Gibbs Ave. NE to furlough its staff of four part-time employees.
“We’ll be serving the community a little differently. We will be using our volunteers,” said Executive Director Chanetta Yancey, who took the job in September.
Housed in the former Calvary United Methodist Church, the mission offers a variety of social services, including free meals, children’s nutrition and summer programs, and a weekly food pantry.
Yancey said the board made the decision to issue the furloughs when it was determined the nonprofit didn’t have enough in operating costs to sustain its employees beyond December.
Those costs average about $10,000 a month, including salaries.
“Currently we have a crew of six volunteers. More are still needed,” she said. “I and the board members will step in. It’s still about the people. It was either furloughs or we were going to have to shut the mission down at the beginning of the year.”
Most of the mission’s funding comes from churches and individual donors.
“We are an incredibly small operation,” said retired Stark County Family Court Judge Julie Edwards, a board member who’s serving her second term. “This is a mission that operates day-to-day. It’s not unusual for us to look at the bottomline to see $12,000 and $10,000 in expenses. Our only full-time employee (is) Chanetta. Her salary is well behind what she could command on the market, and she gets no benefits.”
Edwards said the pandemic has “hobbled” the mission’s annual fundraising efforts, noting that the money normally raised didn’t happen because of canceled events. A direct-mail appeal is underway.
Board member Jill Miller, a retired social worker, said the plan is to bring furloughed employees back in January. Fellow board member Cathy Wendell said the mission is still waiting to hear about its application for federal Paycheck Protection Program funds.
“We said that if we got a decent amount, we’d have them back sooner,” she said. “Nobody on the board feels good about what happened.”
Wendell said that she knows how much people need help.
“For me, it’s the story of ‘The One,'” she said.
Edwards agreed, saying that some of the youth she saw in her courtroom would have benefited from assistance.
“For me, it’s the passion I have to see kids in a neighborhood that is poverty-stricken, to give those kids an equal playing field, somehow,” she said. “It’s not just food and clothing. It’s also giving them a competitive chance in the world. It’s why we have summer programs. It’s important to keep kids engaged in the summer; to give them something constructive to do.”
Miller agreed, saying it’s important to have a place in the community where children feel safe. She said she’s also impressed with the relationship the staff and volunteers have with those in need.
“They serve as a great support system for people in the neighborhood,” she said, “And I wanted to be part of it.”
In addition to decreased donations, the mission has taken other hits. Last year, a water main broke, costing $17,000 in repairs. A van the mission purchased had to undergo repairs this summer.
“It was vandalized,” Yancey said. “Our catalytic converters are being stolen.”
A boiler underwent extensive repair, and the office had to replace its computer system after the previous one became obsolete.
“It’s just one thing after another,” Wendell said.
Miller said assumptions are made that the mission has plenty of money but it doesn’t, noting that nonprofits are all competing for the same money.
“I think folks don’t understand how little money we have,” Wendell said.
New mission statement
Earlier this month, the mission halted clothing giveaways. Complaints were made about clothing being discarded, but Yancey said the clothes had been in storage for eight months and were discarded as a precaution over concerns about bedbugs.
Miller, who operated a clothing room for her former charity, agreed with the decision.
“To run a high-quality clothing room, you have to know what you’re doing,” she said. “You have to ‘vet’ the clothes.”
Wendell said the clothing had gotten “out of control” as people dropped off bags at the front door, even though the mission halted its giveaways in March because of the pandemic.
“Nothing was going out,” she said.
Edwards said the nonprofit has retooled its mission statement and is narrowing the mission to three essential areas: Nutritional support, summer youth programming with an emphasis on enrichment, and family strengthening.
“It felt like cake batter spreading all over the table. We were not baking the cake anymore,” she said. “Everybody’s committed to doing good. It’s a matter of finding out the best way to do that.”
Wendell said Calvary Mission will do more collaborating with churches and agencies. For example, they are referring people in need of clothing to Crossroads United Methodist Church in downtown Canton, which operates a clothing room.
Miller said the mission was fortunate to land Yancey.
“I’m excited about the leadership she’s going to offer this organization,” she said. “She has a heart for this neighborhood.”
The board members say Yancey has a deep understanding of the community’s needs.
“We support her as a board,” Edwards said. “We don’t intend to micromanage.”
Yancey said that despite the setbacks, the mission is unchanged.
“We’ve had one hit after the next, but we’re still trying to hold on to help the community,” she said.
Canton Calvary Mission services
Pantry: 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays.
Hot meals: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 6 to 730 p.m. Saturdays (carryout only).
Backpack food program: 3 to 4:30 p.m. Fridays.
To learn more, visit https://www.cantoncalvarymission.net/ or call 330-454-8610.