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Connellsville Area Community Ministries celebrates milestone

| Sunday, May 11, 2014, 7:36 p.m.

In 1974, parishioners at Central Methodist Church in Connellsville took a big gamble when they decided not to rebuild their church, which had been destroyed by fire. Instead, they took the insurance money and tried a different approach to ministry in the area.

Through their dedication and drive, Connellsville Area Community Ministries was born. The ministry not only survived, but thrived to grow into one of the foremost facilities in the offering of kindness, compassion and services to those in need.

CACM marked its 40 anniversary on Saturday. The event was one of celebration and rededication.

“The mission of the Connellsville Area Community Ministries is to be an extension of the church to all hurting people needing support in their lives and the struggle to obtain justice and healthful life grounded in God's love,” said CACM board President Barry Craig. “It is wonderful how God has enabled the Connellsville Area Community Ministries to be a light in the community for 40 years.”

Executive Director Chip Rowan said the ministries moved into its location on West Crawford Avenue after being in the Connellsville Community Center for many years. Renovations are still taking place at the new facility.

Volunteers at the facility, who number about 100, are the true backbone and driving force of the group and its missions, he said.

“I thank God for our volunteers,” Rowan said, pointing out the many hours spent by volunteers at the facility and the hard work being done to renovate the former retail store.

“Everything that you see here is volunteer labor,” he said. “We have 21,000 square feet here, and that is a lot of space to work with. One of our goals was to finish the trim, and we did that.”

About 20 volunteers are at the facility every day it is open. Many have been offering their time for several years.

One volunteer, Jack Love, who runs the food pantry, has volunteered for 20 years.

“We would be foolish to think that we could open our doors on any given day without our staff of faithful, hardworking, dedicated individuals that show up every day,” CACM Assistant Executive Director Shelly Auer said.

Love has served the longest of all the volunteers, Auer said. In fact, he has logged more than 17,500 hours.

“I admire his dedication and sense of service,” she said.

Love was presented with a special pin from Auer and was given citations for his service from state Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Somerset, and state Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Mt. Pleasant.

Kasunic and Kula presented the community ministries with citations.

Connellsville Mayor Greg Lincoln thanked CACM for its efforts to help those in need.

“At no time do individuals and groups in our community allow our food bank to be empty,” Lincoln said. “We are very fortunate to have this food bank here in Connellsville. Forty years is a long time, and hopefully they will be here for another 40 years.”

Lincoln complimented the community ministries director on his visions and his hard work.

“Chip is a godsend,” Lincoln said. “With his leadership this will go on, and I feel that it can only get better.”

Rowan announced CACM will partner with The Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul to offer a new program, “Circles.”

The community ministries will also open a Career Corner to offer help to local residents with resumés and interview skills.

As with any ministry of its type, funding is paramount. The community stepped up and came through last year when more than $100,00 was raised for the Sharing the Harvest Campaign, Rowan said.

“We wanted to raise $100,000, and we actually raised $102,000,” he said. “I think that is really impressive for a small town and a small area.”

A new campaign called “40 for 40” has begun with the goal of collecting donations of $40 in a one-time donation or an ongoing contribution in efforts to raise $10,000.

“This ministry has been a powerful one,” Craig said. “We have joined together in serving the people of our area, and we hope to continue to do so for many years to come.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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