Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Monica Oakes was busy helping provide hope to area residents in economic distress.
As manager of the Albemarle Area United Way’s Community Care Collaborative, Oakes works with people who have an immediate financial crisis. Her clients range from people needing assistance paying rent or utility bills to those having trouble making an insurance payment.
Oakes, who sees herself as both an educator and advocate, helps CCC clients navigate their immediate situation, advising them about next steps and helping them reach out to other agencies for help. The CCC is set up to assist residents of Pasquotank and Camden counties, and participation is not based on income.
According to the AAUW’s website, www.albemarleareauw.org, “The Community Care Collaborative serves as a local community impact program ... meeting human needs by providing assistance to those facing temporary emergency crisis with the goal of closing gaps among local resources within Pasquotank and Camden counties.”
Oakes said she’s been able to close 268 client cases since the local United Way began the CCC last October. However, that number doesn’t reflect the program’s total impact. Oakes notes that a client case may involve an entire family, not just one person.
While no two client’s situations are alike, Oakes said her main goal is the same: “To help people get out of crisis and move toward sustainability.”
Oakes said “being able to offer people hope” is the best part of her job.
“Things can and will get better,” is the advice she often gives.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakes said she has encountered people who have never had to ask for help before. The public health crisis has caused an economic one as well, as hundreds of thousands of people across the state have lost either their jobs or income because of full or partial business shutdowns.
Oakes said she wants those people who’ve never sought help during a personal financial crisis to know “it is OK to ask for help.”
The CCC also offers volunteer opportunities, and monetary donations are accepted.
“Together we can do more,” said Oakes.
A former teacher for more than a decade, Oakes currently serves as director of family ministries at First United Methodist Church in Elizabeth City where her husband, Benny, is the pastor.
Oakes enjoys spending time with her husband and their four daughters: Hailey, Kaelyn, Abby and Carter.
For more information about the Albemarle Area United Way’s Community Care Collaborative, visit https://www.albemarleareauw.org/community-care-collaborative or call 252-333-1009.