The community’s emergency room for life’s crises

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March 28, 2019 By Inez Kirchner
Ruby's story

If you break your leg falling off a ladder, the next decision is easy: get to the ER. But what if your crisis is emotional, spiritual or complicated?

“When you’ve just had a job loss or your husband has left you, you don’t know which specialist to see. You go to the ER who says ‘yes’ to your health crisis today and then gets you long- term help,” says Dawn White-Fosdick, executive director of the Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM). “CAM does this for life crises.” 

“When you harvest the crops on your land, do not cut all the way to the corners of your field. Don’t pick up the grain that falls on the ground. Leave it for the poor…”  

– Leviticus 23:22

CAM’s mission is to share the love of Christ by providing immediate assistance and encouragement to people in crisis. The people who benefit from CAM’s services may be experiencing a one-time crisis or something more long-term due to poverty, mental or physical illness. Or, maybe they are just in need of mercy, and will need a lifetime of help.

More than 42 years ago, nine churches in downtown San Antonio banded together to leverage their efforts and resources to address the grave social ills in the local community. When a homeless man was found dead on one of the church’s doorsteps, the churches asked how they could make a difference not only abroad, but also in their neighborhoods. How could they do better?

CAM Warehouse
Most mornings, people are lined up before the doors are open at CAM. 

Decades later, the mission of CAM remains the same, and its network has grown to more than 80 churches in the greater San Antonio area. They serve 50,000 people annually. CAM offers food, clothing and basic necessities, as well as resources to pay a bill, fill a prescription or get IDs and other documents. CAM even provides a free mailbox for those who don’t have a physical residence. Christ is always at the center and CAM’s services offer true grace in action.

Mary Ellen, a former client, came to CAM when she was homeless and benefited from clothing, financial assistance, and spiritual guidance. She now has a job and her own apartment. Sonia was a young, single mother in need of diapers and food. She is currently a CAM volunteer and gives back what was given to her. “When I came here it wasn’t just the assistance – it was the love of Christ that made an imprint on my heart,” says Sonia.

Punchdown Telecommunications believes we have a responsibility to bless others in our community. That is why we partner with and are thankful for CAM. They touch lives in powerful ways every single day. They are on the front lines and often the first stop for those that face unimaginable situations. Please join us in supporting their efforts. Together, we can change even more lives!Randy Ramirez

Randy Ramirez, Owner Punchdown Telecommunications

“CAM’s unique in that we don’t have specific criteria or barriers that could prevent getting help,” says Dawn. “You don’t have to be a believer or to prove you’re worthy by showing paystubs or even make an appointment.” Instead, CAM staff and more than 200 volunteers not only meet the immediate need but sit with clients to hear their story and share their concerns. “This conversation is an important part of the process, because we may determine they need more – or something different they’re not aware of because they don’t know how to ask. We listen and help them navigate the process to access ‘specialists,’” says Dawn.

When a homeless man was found dead on one of the church’s doorstep, the churches asked how they could make a difference in their own neighborhoods.

The “specialists” are the countless nonprofits and churches partnering with CAM on a referral basis to help those in need long-term. “A nonprofit worker might help a client gain some professional training, but notice they’re not focused on their job search because they need to feed their children or pay a utility bill, so they’re directed to us,” says Dawn. 

“Almost every nonprofit in town knows that CAM should be the first step of the wrap-around service someone’s receiving.”

A common misconception, says Dawn, is that many of CAM’s clients have abused drugs or made other destructive life decisions. “While we certainly see those clients, 75 percent of our clients are working poor – a single working mom or family. There are many reasons people find themselves in unfortunate situations.”

CAM volunteers
Over 200 volunteers serve in daily shifts
to keep the doors open. They sort clothing,
interview clients, and stock groceries. 

Much like an ER, services at CAM are limited. The goal is that clients will eventually progress and no longer need help. “It’s another misconception that people abuse our services,” said Dawn. “We generally don’t see clients multiple times.” A quarter of CAM’s clients, however, simply need ongoing mercy. CAM offers daily lunches and other services for those whose circumstances are unlikely to improve, like the mentally ill and elderly.

During its 40th anniversary in 2017, CAM unveiled its 10-year vision, which includes partnering with businesses and residents near San Antonio’s revitalized downtown. CAM wants to be a community hub for people to “give where they live.” CAM hopes to serve more by creating a “ministry-in-a-box” model for other nonprofits and churches to duplicate. CAM envisions increasing the number of people served through new donors, volunteers, and satellite locations.

“We trust God brought them in for five minutes, an hour, or a few times a year, and our purpose is to share Christ’s love.”

 – Dawn White-Fosdick, Executive Director

“People want you to have answers about the people you’re serving and the results of your efforts – but we don’t always have the answers,” says Dawn. “We trust God brought them in for five minutes, an hour, or a few times a year, and our purpose is to share Christ’s love. We know He has a plan for every person, and we’re just part of it.”

CAM invites you to be part of the plan too!

 

CAM logo

Christian Assistance Ministry
www.cam-sa.org
110 McCullough Ave., SA, TX 78215
(210) 223-4099

Be A Light.

Give. CAM’s greatest need is monthly, ongoing financial support. Visit the donate tab on the CAM website to give. Volunteer and Participate. CAM offers daily volunteer opportunities as well as various annual events including donation drives and fundraising events. Contact 210-223-4099 to inquire or click the “Volunteer” and “Events” tabs at the CAM website.

Story made possible by John R. Hannah & Co. & Punchdown

John R. Hannah & Co., LLP
Certified Public Accountants
(210) 226-9247

Punchdown telecommunications

Punchdown Telecommunications
www.punchdowncommunications.com
8023 Darkwood  |  San Antonio, TX 78250
(210) 685-4060

 

No matter what type of business you have, communication is extremely important. Large or small, you want to be sure you can communicate with other team members, clients and the rest of the world. That’s where Punchdown Telecommunications comes in! We have the tools and know-how to ensure that your system is functioning properly and that it is optimized to maximum efficiency. 

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Written by

Inez Kirchner

A native of San Antonio, passionate about telling stories and helping others find their voice. She has been writing for corporations and non-profits for more than a decade.


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