Jacksonville Area Churches Partner To Meet Unmet Needs Through Special Partnership

By Benjamin Cox on August 2, 2023 at 11:52am

Several Jacksonville-area churches are coming together to fulfill community needs that might go unfulfilled otherwise.

Members of the Jacksonville Area Conference of Churches and Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance have come together to create a partnership to assist those who cannot get help through other established agencies.

The Morgan County Partnership for Unmet Needs launched on June 1st in conjunction with Prairieland United Way and the Jacksonville Salvation Army. Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church Pastor Becky Williams says the partnership will help dollars that area churches set aside for needs to reach farther into the community: “Every church I have ever served has had some kind of helping fund or local mission fund. It’s usually not enormous. There’s a very limited amount of money. The church right next to us might have a similar fund. What often happens is that a person who is struggling to pay their rent that month, for instance, has to go from one church to the next to ask for help. The churches end up getting frustrated because they cannot give enough. The person asking for help feels frustrated because they have to go to so many churches to ask for help. What we are hoping to do with our Unmet Needs Partnership is to create one place where everybody can go to get the help that they need and one place where the churches can donate – transferring the local mission funds from being in each church to taking a big portion of that and placing it in this Unmet Needs fund so that we can all be able to utilize that and help can be given out a lot more efficiently to those who need it.”

The Jacksonville Salvation Army will act as a case manager for people, directing them to local resources to apply to first before bringing the case before the Unmet Needs Partnership, who only meets once a month.

The partnership is meant to act as a safety net to the safety net that’s already in place in the Jacksonville area. Executive Director of the Prairieland United Way Karen Walker says it all starts with a phone call to her office: “The process starts with the Prairieland United Way Helpline. Anyone that is looking for help can call the helpline, which is 217-479-1818. That helpline is monitored daily and will actually go through to me. Then, I will try to connect that person with the existing services that we have. Much like when we first met with the churches and I was involved with that initial conversation back in June 2022, many of the churches were getting a lot of request for needs that could have been met through existing agencies within our community. We said ‘no.’ We really want to make sure that we are using existing resources first and keep the churches as the back end where needs couldn’t be met in other ways and having them filling any gap at the end.”

Walker says some local services in place are often restricted due to the use of federal or state dollars, which have certain requirements that don’t allow them to meet all of the needs in the community. She says the churches will step in through the Unmet Needs Partnership and act as the final safety net if they can.

For more information or to seek help, call the Prairieland United Way at 217-245-4557 or visit the office during business hours at the Jacksonville Municipal Building, located at 200 West Douglas Avenue.

For more information about this group and how to get involved, please contact Pastor Mel Nielsen at Centenary United Methodist Church (217)-245-8417 or Pastor Rebecca Williams at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church (217)-245-7312.