OCIM serves hungry, sees increase in need

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 10:25 AM

There is always going to be a need to feed someone. In our communities, there will always be those who have and those who need.
In the burrows of Hillsborough, the Orange Congregations In Mission (OCIM) has been a custodian between the desire to help and the desire for help, since 1981. The product of faith-based vision, from many faiths, OCIM established itself as a supportive springboard to helping those who need help locally. There are many services offered under the umbrella of OCIM, from its delivery of Meals on Wheels, to the Thrift Shop, to Samaritan Relief Ministry, to the food pantry, all for the service of those in need.
At the helm of this offering is a board of directors and dedicated volunteers. By providing time, guidance, and the delivery of relief to others, OCIM survives to help those who need help to survive.
“We don’t just hand-out; our goal is to help people become self-sufficient,” said Sharon Freeland. As the director of OCIM, Freeland serves in her role, perhaps even her calling, with an energy that radiates through those who volunteer and those who come here for food.
Born in Hillsborough and a graduate of Orange High, N.C. Central University and Duke Divinity, Freeland is personally aware of the need to help and serve, something she did at home as a youngster with her five siblings.
At one point in her life, Freeland was, as she describes, “The best obituary writer the Durham Morning Herald ever had,” still, she is confident that this is where she was always meant to be, serving others.
In 1991, Freeland came on board and though there have been tough times and strains felt throughout the community, she believes the need in and around Hillsborough and Northern Orange County is at its greatest right now.
“We just cannot keep up with the need to feed families,” Freeland says. Standing beside empty shelves, in the pantry of OCIM, Freeland talks with a volunteer about the pantry being out of milk again. This is a daily reality for OCIM.
Freeland, along with her volunteers and support personnel open their hands and hearts and offer assistance to those in need. “It is just how we should be as people; regardless of your position of faith and politics,” Freeland said.
OCIM and its food pantry offer groceries to households in need that qualify, six times a year. “We basically offset the need for food, for six-weeks out of the year for a household,” says Freeland. According to Kay Stagner, manager of the food pantry, 4,365 people in Orange County have been fed so far this year from groceries packaged in the pantry at OCIM. “We served 45 households in March and last week we served 76 households, alone,” Stagner said.
“This is the worst I have seen it,” Freeland said. The food pantry relies on donations from churches and faith groups in Orange County, as well as from local farmers and businesses, when available.
“There are some items that we have to purchase,” Freeland said.
In the food pantry this day, four volunteers and filling sacks of groceries and they are having trouble completing the order, even though the food is rationed based on the size of the household. “Summers are very tough for us, but this summer there appears to be a need and that need is growing by the week,” says Freeland. “Our people that we are feeding come from all walks of life; from those that have been laid off and have never had to rely on someone else to provide groceries to those who are struggling to make ends meet with other needs demanding already limited resources,” Freeland said. “Basically, we are in need of assistance from the community. Neighbors and strangers and people that comprise our society as a whole, are hungry, and we are reaching out to the community for help; anything from contributions to donations of food and other resources,” Freeland said. “It is not our goal to have people rely on us for a long period of time. We see ourselves as a gap between bad times and good times.”
Alongside the empty shelves and the obvious need to help those who are hungry, Freeland rejoices in the assistance OCIM receives from grants, Orange County government, volunteers, donations and corporate assistance. “We try to be good stewards to our community and to people, without judgment. We know the needs are real and we understand that times are growing increasingly strained on those families that were already in need. We need food and we need dollars,” Freeland said.

HOW TO HELP

On Wednesday, the OCIM is holding a barbecue fundraiser from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Yadkin Valley Bank Parking lot in Hillsborough. For information on the barbecue, contact 919-732-6194.

To contribute or volunteer 732-6194 or www.ocimnc.org.