LAURINBURG — Nearly 20 percent of Scotland County lives in poverty. The county also has the highest unemployment rate in the state. Two staggering problems putting a strain on nearly every present situation and making most futures dim.
But there is one church trying to help those in need — starting with the kids.
Cross Pointe Church Pastor Michael Edds has begun a “Kids’ Fun Night Out” on Tuesday evenings. While the event started with around 20 children, the most recent event brought out a whopping 98.
The church, which is located at 200 S. Wilkinson Drive near Scotland High School, was build to not only be a house of worship but as a multi-use building since Laurinburg doesn’t have a community center, according to Edds.
“We’re finally getting to use it for what it was meant to be used for,” Edds said. “We’re working on bringing at-risk youth in the area to the event — but all kids are welcome.”
Edds said there are five gangs in the area that are targeting the youth and he’s hoping to turn the youth into “gangs for God” instead.
“A lot of these kids are from single-parent homes where the parents are working several jobs,” Edds said. “The gangs come in and say you’re family, you belong, and they’re taking our youth away from us.”
The Tuesday events is free to the kids and not only feeds them but also lets them play games and have a Bible lesson to learn about God. Edds also is working with the Laurinburg Police Department and Scotland County Sheriff’s Office to have officers and deputies come to the event to teach the children that the police aren’t scary or the bad guys.
“We want the kids to understand that the police are here to help,” Edds said. “We want them to come out and play with the kids and show them that the police aren’t scary.”
Recently a bus was donated to the church to use to transport children from the different low-income housing properties across the city.
Some of the areas include those monitored by the Laurinburg Housing Authority, who have about 1,120 units scattered throughout more than 10 different properties across the county.
The goal of the Housing Authority is to provide affordable housing to those who need it, as well as offering housing to those who use Section 8. The Housing Authority also helps tenants with classes to prepare for job interviews and offering to counsel them in order to help get them on their feet.
“A lot of these neighborhoods have labels on them,” Edds said. “People think that those who are in these areas can’t amount to anything, but you just have to show them love because they’re people.”
Edds explained that many of the kids who come from impoverished households don’t get the food they need.
“We had one little boy who said the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was the best thing he’d had and asked if he could take some home,” Edds said. “These kids don’t get the nutritious meals that they were getting when school was in.”
Even when school does start back up, Edds said that they won’t be stopping the event. The event will continue and Edds hopes it will grow even bigger. Not only that, but he is working on turning the second floor of the church into a kids-only zone for not only younger children but teens as well.
“They’ll have their only little church up there,” Edds said. “And we’re working on an after-school program called ‘Third Base,’ where the kids will come to the church before going home. We’re planning on not only having activities for the kids but hopefully having some tutoring for those who need help in school.”
Providing a bridge
Edds said that when school is out so are the meals, a fact verified by the Restoring Hope Center, which offers an annual summer meals program for nutritious meals to anyone under 18 during the week. There are around 27 sites that offer the meals and will continue until Aug. 17.
The feeding sites have signs outside the location giving times of when breakfast or lunch will be served at the location.
For Edds, doing this isn’t something he’s just doing it as a preacher but someone as part of the community.
“Laurinburg needs a change of heart,” Edds said. “I love this city and I want it to happen. It’s time for all of us in the community to come together and make Laurinburg great. I’m tired of hearing how great it used to be, because we have the potential to change it now with the kids.”
Poverty in N.C.
The issue of poverty is not only a problem in Laurinburg and Scotland County. North Carolina itself also has many households living in poverty. So Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has decided to invest $2 million in the North Carolina Community Action Association.
The NCCAA is a statewide organization that serves disadvantaged communities in the state. The money will be used by the NCCAA to mobilize their member agencies across the state to assess homes, conduct repairs and evaluate results in targeted communities across the state, helping nearly 700 households.
Around Scotland County, the Eastern North Carolina NCCAA agency, Action Pathways, Inc. will be receiving $468,000 to help improve the living environment of 175 households by lowering utility bills and affordable housing alternatives.
In Eastern North Carolina, NCCAA agency Action Pathways Inc. will receive an estimated $468,000, helping improve the living environment of 175 households by lowering utility bills and offering affordable housing alternatives to those in need.
Katelin Gandee can be reached at 910-506-3171 or [email protected]