Marietta-based MUST Ministries on Thursday announced plans for its Cherokee offices to move into an empty building on Brown Industrial Parkway in Canton to serve its ever-growing clientele.
The space, located at 111 Brown Industrial Parkway, is directly across the street from R.T. Jones Memorial Library.
The building is 8,900 square feet and sits on 2.5 acres of land just west of Exit 19 off Interstate 575.
The announcement was made at Canton First United Methodist Church, where more than 100 of the organization’s supporters and community leaders were on hand for the event.
Ike Reighard, president and CEO of MUST, said the organization continues to grow not only because of its need in the community, but because of the community support it garners.
Every week, he added, about 110 volunteers show up to the Canton location to prepare to give back.
“They are doing something unique,” he said, adding MUST “exists to transforms lives” in the community.
Don Hausfeld, a member of the organization’s board of directors and chairman of the capital campaign, said MUST set out to raise $1.7 million, which would cover the cost of purchasing the building, making renovations to suit its needs and sustaining its programs.
Hausfeld was overcome by emotion before he could speak to the audience, and allowed Linda Hasty, co-chairwoman of the capital campaign, to briefly share the story of how he became involved with MUST.
The community came through and donated $1.8 million toward the cause.
Hausfeld challenged the audience, and noted they’d like to push their goal to $2 million, which he said would “sustain our program.”
Hausfeld said he’s “extremely confident” the organization will meet its goal.
“MUST Ministries is the fabric of our community,” he said, noting the organization has become the lifeblood of those suffering in the economic downturn.
MUST serves people in the community with its food pantry, clothing closet, financial assistance, translation assistance, housing and seasonal programming such as the summer lunch program for children and the Christmas toyshop.
MUST Cherokee was born in May 1988 as a food pantry in the basement of Canton United Methodist Church, which at that time was in the brick building that now houses the Cherokee Arts Center.
In 1991, MUST Cherokee moved into a storefront of the Ford building in downtown Canton.
In 1998, the agency moved into its present location on Marietta Road just outside of downtown Canton.
Last year, MUST helped about 11,000 individuals and served 51,362 summer lunches. It also gives away one ton of food to needy families each day.
The charity serves 61 percent of Cherokee County families and individuals living in poverty. Also, out of 11,000 residents served, 42 percent are children younger than 18.
MUST also last year received 14,983 requests for food, 16,330 requests for clothing and 275 requests for job assistance.
The current facility is roughly 5,400 square feet and MUST Cherokee Program Director Kim Loesing said the need for space has been building for years.
Clients often have to stand outside in the elements to wait for services and have minimal parking. She also said some clients walk on foot or park at the old McFarland’s parking lot on Marietta Road and walk to the facility.
Loesing said staff parking is so constricted that the organization has had minor fender-benders.
The new space will allow the organization to effectively reach out and serve more people.
“The location is also excellent,” she said, referring to Hasty Elementary School, the library, Cherokee County Department of Family and Childrens Services and the Department of Driver Services all located along Brown Industrial Parkway.
For one Woodstock couple, they have watched the need for space grow in the last 10 years. Jim and Clem Baker moved from New Jersey in 2000 after retiring.
Clem Baker said she started volunteering on Wednesdays soon after moving back down south and her husband soon joined her.
The Bakers refer to themselves and the roughly 10 or so volunteers as the “A-Team.” The A-Team features volunteers who range from age 34 to 93.
Clem Baker, who interviews clients before they can receive help, said that while her job can be “taxing,” she said there is a reward in what she does “because you feel like you’re helping the clients.”
After 10 years, Jim Baker said “nothing interferes with Wednesdays,” and said he loves seeing the expression of joy appear in the faces and eyes of those MUST Ministries touch on a weekly basis.
“It really touches your heart,” he said.