February 24, 2014 8:59:00 AM
A disabled woman sat in the dark of her Southside home last week.
Cold, alone and with only threadbare clothing to protect her from the cold, she had nowhere to turn. Her lights, water and gas had been turned off when she unable to pay the bill.
With no family to aid her she made a desperate phone call. And luckily for that woman, Glenda Buckhalter was on the other end of the line.
Buckhalter is the coordinator for Community Outreach Center, a Columbus organization that helps those in need. She was working late in her office last Monday night when the phone rang.
"She explained she lived in a house on Seventh Avenue with no lights or gas," Buckhalter said. "We put her in a motel on Monday night, where she stayed until Friday...she had no food, transportation, and very few clothes."
Community Outreach is funded by The City of Columbus. However, it hasn't received any financial support from the city this year. For that to happen Buckhalter first has to make a presentation to the city council.
Even so, Buckhalter isn't waiting.
To ensure the woman had a safe and warm place to stay, Buckhalter used her own money on the hotel room, as well as to buy the woman food and clothes.
"Our office is not funded and therefore, we are always looking for ways to help the citizens in our community," Buckhalter said. "When we received her call on Monday, all of the local agencies were closed, so we had to find the money to put her in a motel. Because of her lack of transportation, a call was made to the Columbus Police Department to take her to the motel. Upon arriving at the motel, she still did not have food and was cold. We had to buy her a blanket, socks and food to carry her throughout the week. Tuesday, due to inclement weather of sleet, snow and rain, the agencies were still not open for business."
On Wednesday, Buckhalter said she began soliciting various businesses and organizations to help pay the woman's light bill. On Friday, a local church donated the money necessary to turn her power back on. While Buckhalter is thankful for the donation, she said more money is still needed.
"She is living with less than the bare minimal," Buckhalter said. "To paint a picture, she was trying to heat water in a cake pan, the only kitchen utensil she has. We are still trying to find funding to purchase...household items for her."
Without proper funding, Buckhalter is concerned that the woman's story will be repeated over and over again.
"Unfortunately, the needs of the community do not stop at 5 o'clock in the evening Monday through Friday," she said. "This story was one of many we deal with seven days a week. Homelessness and hunger affects everyone in our community. Where there is more homelessness and hunger, there is an increased crime rate. It is essential we, as a community, bind together to help fix the community we live in. Without funding in the Community Outreach office, it is virtually impossible to solve this problem."
Since its inception in September 2013, the Community Outreach Center has been able to provide permanent homes for more than 20 families in the Columbus area, Buckhalter said. Community Outreach receives 15 to 20 calls a day.
"People are looking for light bills to be paid, gas, rent, motels, food, furniture and sometimes travel," Buckhalter said.
The money to help those in need comes from donations and a partnership between the city and Recovery House. Still, there is always a need for more.
"Let's come together as a united community in the City of Columbus to take back our city from poverty and despair," she said. "In the month of March, let's 'March against Hunger' by donating non-perishables to the homeless, the working poor, and elderly on fixed incomes."
All donations can be dropped at 1621 Main St. next to the Columbus Police Department. For more information or pick-ups contact Crystal Cunningham or Glenda Buckhalter at 662-244-3525 or email [email protected]
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Cannizaro out as MSU baseball coach STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
2. Petition calls for Baptist to reinstate privileges for longtime OBGYN COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Aldermen shoot down Pride parade request STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
4. Defendant sentenced to 40 years for second-degree murder COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Police make attempted kidnapping arrest STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY