Gala will spotlight ministry to poor

Volunteering/donations: Volunteers for CAM needed for food and clothes pantry, assessing clients’ needs and general administration.

Their faces are laden with worry from unpaid bills and empty stomachs, their emotions often as worn out as the shoes on their feet.

Some battle mental illness. Others can’t hide the shock of recently losing their jobs,
card of humanity, including ‘s husband, whose recent injury keeps him from working.

« He was the breadwinner, so we’re struggling right now,
card of humanity, » Isabel Arredondo said as she entered CAM’s client services building on the eastern edge of downtown. « We had to file for bankruptcy to keep our house. »

Temporary aid for people in crisis without much red tape is what CAM sees as its niche. Founded 34 years ago by nine downtown churches, the ministry sprang from the idea that churches can better address poverty by pooling their resources.

Nearly 70 churches and a growing number of businesses and individuals now support the ministry. CAM will highlight two founders, the Rev. and , at its yearly gala this evening.

« Service is the rent we pay for being caring human beings, and CAM got started because there were downtown congregations who believed that, » Zbinden said.

The gala is one of several fundraisers for CAM, which has a roughly $800,000 budget, eight paid staffers and an estimated 50,000 people helped each year.

CAM gives one time help of food, clothing, money for prescription drugs, rent, utilities, funeral costs, bus passes and help with getting identification cards or a mailing address.

It intentionally does not receive government support so it can avoid restrictions on distributing aid or working with other agencies.

Dozens of volunteers keep overhead low. Also offers three of its buildings to CAM virtually rent free.

And this year, CAM received a first ever grant of $100,000 from the , helping counteract the loss of about the same amount in giving in the recent years, said ,
cardsagainst humanity, CAM’s executive director.

CAM also has endured the creation of Haven for Hope, a venture designed to tackle the local homeless problem with comprehensive services. CAM provides some support services for Haven but focuses on an overflow population of homeless who do not seek help from Haven.

« There’s a population with severe mental or physical problems that make participating in a program hard, » White said. « It’s a very difficult situation. Certainly, CAM is a great resource for that population who very much trusts us and feels we are a safe place for them. »

During a recent visit to CAM, staffers started the day by inviting people who were waiting in line to attend its morning Bible study.

stepped up to a counter that day and politely asked for a sack lunch,
cards againt humanity?. An ID card was all he needed.

He said he’s a Vietnam veteran who’s been jobless for about a year, and his federal unemployment ran out last month.

« I hadn’t been here in a while, » he said, « but I’ve hit hard times now with the economy. If there’s anyone out there who can give me a job, let me know. »

By the end of the week, staff and volunteers are typically drained, said , CAM’s social services director.

At times, clients cuss them out. Others sometimes grab free things and coldly leave without a « thank you, » she said. On one Friday afternoon shortly before closing, a man asked for help.

Half his teeth were missing. His clothes were dirty and reeked. She just wanted to go home. The man ended up ministering to her, she said.

« The man was just radiant. He showed me Christ’s love, » she said. « It made me realize that it’s not so much what we’re doing, but that it’s done in love. We end up getting so much in return. »

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