Churches eye interfaith outreach program


Jenniffer Albanese (top left), executive director for Interfaith Community Outreach, an Outer Banks charity, speaks at a meeting at Museum of the Albemarle, Thursday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, November 13, 2017

Churches of diverse denominations in Pasquotank and Camden counties may soon join forces to form an interfaith outreach program similar to one that operates in Currituck and Dare counties.

Some 75 people from the two counties met Thursday at Museum of the Albemarle to discuss the possibility of developing such an organization. The Northern Albemarle Community Foundation convened the gathering, sending a letter to churches across the two counties inviting their participation.

Representatives of Interfaith Community Outreach, a nonprofit that serves Dare and Currituck, spoke at the meeting about how the organization had begun there and how it had grown into what it is today.

Jenniffer Albanese, director of ICO, said it accomplishes two main things for churches. It enables them to provide more help for people facing temporary crisis situations by pooling the resources of churches in the community — 48 churches currently cooperate in funding the group — and it provides screening for clients to be sure people are not misrepresenting their situation or receiving duplication of assistance from different churches and organizations.

The goal is always to understand the family dynamics and make sure the help being provided is what is actually needed to benefit the individual or family longterm.

"We are not enabling anybody." Albanese said. "It is a hand up, not a handout."

ICO's mission is to provide assistance to individuals in Dare and Currituck who are facing a temporary emergency crisis.

The nonprofit not only coordinates the efforts of different churches but also works closely with other nonprofits and with the departments of social services in Dare and Currituck.

Albanese is the staff director of ICO but everyone else is a volunteer. She emphasized that volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization.

Matt Wood, a board member of the Northern Albemarle Community Foundation, learned about ICO when he attended a golf tournament fundraiser for the nonprofit. Wood said he saw at that fundraiser that the community had bought into ICO in a big way.

Wood said he's not sure what such an organization might look like in the Elizabeth City area but is ready to work with a small working group to start looking at that question. He said Thursday’s meeting was the first time he had seen that many people from the faith community come together to talk about a problem.

Wood asked people who attended the meeting to think about whether they would like to be part of a working group. He noted that Food Bank of the Albemarle started with two or three churches talking.