Saint Saviour’s Center focuses on unmet needs of poor

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, older adults who live in Glenwood Towers and the Carriage House Apartments near downtown Raleigh take a walk together in the neighborhood.

And every month, roughly 1,000 families that cannot afford diapers receive enough to last up to two weeks.

Leading both efforts is Saint Saviour’s Center, a nonprofit that was created by the Christ Church Outreach Ministry and other members of the congregation at Christ Church, and began operating in 2003.

“They wanted it to be an independent nonprofit and expand beyond the church and be a center for the community,” says Sharon Hayes, a former marketing manager for IBM who has served as the Center’s executive director since 2009.

Operating with an annual budget of $250,000, one full-time employee and several hundred volunteers, Saint Saviour’s Center operates two programs of its own, partners with other groups on four other programs, and is part of a network of outreach programs with direct connections to over 20 nonprofits that serve thousands of people a year.

Based in two buildings at 616 Tucker St. built by Christ Church in the 1920s, Saint Saviour’s Center has grown rapidly since 2010, when it launched a new program and partnered with two others.

One of those partners, Community Music School, offers private music lessons once a week after school and Saturdays for $1 a lesson to about 100 children a year from low-income families.

The other, Haitian Evangelical Community Church, holds Sunday services and Tuesday night prayer meetings, plus a Sunday school for children.

The new program the Center launched in late 2010 was The Diaper Train, which donated 60,000 diapers to about 12 agencies in 2011. That total grew to 240,000 diapers in 2012, when it expanded to include donations to individual families referred to it, and to 450,000 in 2013.

In its first four years, Diaper Train donated one million diapers, a total that grew to two million last year.

Saint Saviour’s Center’s other program is Healthy Living for Seniors, a wellness program for older adults who live in public housing at Glenwood Towers and Carriage House Apartments.

Launched in 2006, the program serves about 125 of the 400 residents of the two buildings. In addition to activities such as the morning walking group, which is led by Hayes, it includes classes and spiritual support at the Center.

The Center also partners with Meals on Wheels of Wake County and with Wake Relief.

Every weekday, Meals on Wheels serves lunch to 50 to 60 seniors, many of whom arrive at 9 a.m. to participate in activities at the Center.

And Wake Relief, an emergency food pantry that is a program of Christ Church, provides a week’s worth of groceries to families that may visit every 30 days if referred by Wake County Human Services. The pantry serves 7,000 to 9,000 people a year.

Saint Saviour’s Center generates about half its funds from individual donations, about 20 percent from philanthropic grants, and the remainder from fundraising events and fees for the use of its buildings.

Now, it aims to raise $90,000 to hire two part-time employees to focus on fundraising and program coordination.

“Saint Saviour’s Center needs to be set up so we can begin addressing unmet needs of the working poor,” Hayes says. “There are many services available in Wake County to families in need. But we’ve learned from The Diaper Train that there are also needs that are not being met.”