If you want to support the people of Graham County, start with Robbinsville United Methodist Church (RUMC). Built on faith and a tradition of service, RUMC has become the go-to partner for organizations looking to improve lives. “We do a lot of the heavy social lifting in the community,” says Pastor Eric Reece. “We help because our faith calls us to.”
That calling includes addressing food insecurity. RUMC works with the county school system, health department, and department of social services to create food boxes and fill food pantries. The church collaborates with MANNA Food Bank and two local Baptist churches to coordinate monthly food distribution and has worked with Resourceful Communities to purchase fresh beef for 50 families from a local farmer.
Rev. Reece and RUMC skillfully recognize and take advantage of opportunities. Since COVID-19, the church has taken the lead in Dogwood’s Census initiative, exploring ways to turn its buildings into an economic development hub.
The Census initiative represents RUMC’s first funding from Dogwood. RUMC serves as an umbrella organization for some 35 other regional nonprofits, encouraging efforts and coordinating counting reports and incentive payments. Rev. Reece partnered with Census Specialist Debbie Reese and Sophia Paulos, Graham County’s economic development director. Because of their efforts, Graham County surpassed its 2010 self-response rate in mid-August.
“I knew Census helped the community, but not to what extent,” he says. “When I found that out, I knew there was a lot at stake. Graham County is last in the Census, we have no manufacturing, and COVID-19 dampened summer tourism. We’re very dependent on grants and government funding.”
RUMC is also building on its reputation as a community hub to attract up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Many nonprofit organizations, such as Guardian ad Litem and Strengthening Families, work in Graham County but have no physical presence there. RUMC has become their “local office.” Reece builds on that practice by working with Imagine HUB to make the church’s extra space, Internet, and office equipment available to emerging small businesses. He looks forward to working with partners like NC Works, Tri-County Community College, and Seeds of Change to get new businesses started.
All this from a church? It’s a natural progression for Rev. Reece who says, “Faith is the main thing, but when people are in need, you help them.”
“I knew the Census helped the community, but not to what extent. When I found that out, I knew there was a lot at stake. Graham County is last in the Census, we have no manufacturing, and COVID-19 dampened summer tourism. We’re very dependent on grants and government funding.”
Graham County, with expanded reach through 35 nonprofits working on Census outreach.
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Dogwood 2020 Funding: