Wednesday, 03 April 2019 13:33

Richardson updates commissioners on Place of Grace activities, improvements

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Pastor Gary Richardson of Place of Grace Campus updates commissioners on the center's activities since last summer's land swap. Pastor Gary Richardson of Place of Grace Campus updates commissioners on the center's activities since last summer's land swap. Chuck Thames - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Things “are going well” at the Place of Grace Campus, the Rev. Gary Richardson told the Richmond County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Richardson, executive director of the homeless shelter/church, gave commissioners a rundown of the activities at the center since the July 2018 land-swap deal when the county traded the former Rohanen Middle School for the Place of Grace/New Life Church property on Airport Road.

Place of Grace is in the middle of the unincorporated East Rockingham which, according to Richardson has a population of 3,885 with nearly half (42.8 percent) living at or below the poverty level of $10,000 annually.

“That’s 1,665 people that need a hand up in that area,” Richardson said.

Shortly after taking ownership last August, Richardson and his band of volunteers faced their first challenge: opening up a shelter for area residents as they sought refuge from Hurricane Florence. Richardson said the facility housed 52 local residents during the worst hurricane to hit Richmond County since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  

“In September, we started our after-school program, averaging 15 kids every day to help with school and ensure them a meal before they go home,” said Richardson. 

The program has a certified chef, Steve Dibble, who runs the culinary arts program at Scotland High School. Dibble cooks a meal each evening for the residents of the rescue mission and the children of the after-school program. 

Place Of Grace Campus has been able to utilize the N.C. Works program to assist residents of the Richmond County Rescue Mission (housed at Place of Grace Campus) in preparing resumes and in job searches. As part of the discipleship program, the residents are also now participating in the Ready, Set, Go Work Keys program. 

“We recently had 12 guys go through that and nine of the 12 are now working, with two more interviewing tomorrow,” Richardson said, thanking Plastek for being willing to hire several program participants with felony convictions to give them a chance at future success. 

As some of these residents get back on their feet and move on to personal housing, Richardson has another wave of residents right behind them going through the program.  

Richardson noted that several grants have been requested through the Cole Foundation, The Foundation of the Carolinas, and The Community Foundation of Richmond County. These grants are needed for facility upgrades so the operation can take advantage of the entire campus. 

“We’re looking forward to the upgrades coming in the near future so we can take what we’re doing and make it to the next level and help even more people,” he said.  

Richardson ended by thanking the commissioners for their support and said, “I’m glad to come and report to you today that everything we said we’d do, we’re doing, and it’s making a tremendous difference in the community.”