We are hoping it grows.Elise Zielicke, executive director of United Way of the Coastal Empire, Effingham
RINCON — United Way of the Coastal Empire, Effingham and a large contingent of local churches have joined forces to enhance their ability to help those in need.
The powerful initiative, which features 49 churches, has been dubbed Churches United. It was born from a discussion between United Way Executive Director Elise Zielicke and the Rev. Chance Ward, a United Way board member.
“He and I were getting together to see how we could pull together the faith community to share our appreciation and let them know what we do and that we are here to support them,” Zielicke said. “We know that a lot of people in need tend to look at the churches first when they don’t know where to go so we just want to touch base and kind of share what United Way is, why we are here and how we can support them.
“It actually turned into something even bigger and better than I had imagined — the Churches United group.”
The participating churches share their philanthropic goals with each other.
“A lot of them have specific causes or missions but some of them were trying to assess people in the community that would come directly to their church in need,” Zielicke said. “We kind of took that and said, ‘Hey, that’s kind of what United Way does. We vet clients and have that capacity to do so where that’s not the churches’ strength or they don’t have the time.
“Really, we came together to collaborate and figure out how to leverage the resources of United Way with each other and the resources of the community in general.”
United Way has programs to help those facing extreme emergencies with their rent and mortgage.
“This is kind of a gap we saw in the community, which is why we implemented it,” Zielicke said. “Sometimes we can cover part of the need but we need additional support. In the past, we’ve tried to see if a church could help.
“Now, with this group, we are able to leverage all the churches’ philanthropic missions and pair them to families’ needs and clients.”
Still in its infancy, Churches United has already multiple success stories, including a family that lost its home in a fire. Eight churches stepped forward to assist.
Those facing difficult times aren’t the only ones who benefit from Churches United. The churches do, too.
“It’s eliminated people from church hopping or getting duplicated services,” Zielicke said. “People in need who are desperate might be going to multiple churches asking for the same thing.”
To learn more about Churches United, call (912) 826- 5300.
“We are hoping it grows,” Zielicke said.