Despite some major personnel changes that took place late last year, local nonprofit organization The Caring Place is still running strong.
Interim Executive Director Corinne Freeman said there has been confusion over the future of the organization, with some even calling to ask about speculation it is closing. She said this is far from the truth.
"The Caring Place is a stable foundational resource in our community," Freeman said. "The Caring Place remains a steady source of hope and support for those individuals facing poverty, because that is what we are called to do."
Dr. Randy Howard, then the executive director, and Toni Miles, then the director of organization advancement, voluntarily resigned from their positions in December.
Howard said 2017 had been "a challenging year financially," and they "recognized we needed some downsizing and restructuring.” The hope was that this would "take away the risk that we were susceptible to," he added.
In light of these changes, Freeman was named the organization’s interim executive director. The plan was — and is — to continue the organization’s goal of "meeting needs with love."
The Caring Place is well-known in Cleveland and Bradley County for providing food and clothing to those in need, and continues to do so. The organization began as Lift and Redemption, and will continue to help others with these items.
However, now many of the services provided by The Caring Place are more than just immediate assistance.
Freeman said while the organization provides help to an average of 1,000 and 1,200 clients a month, it has begun to concentrate on working with programs that address needs more long-term.
One of these projects through The Caring Place is called "Getting Ahead," which is part of the Stepping Stones initiative at the organization.
"'Getting Ahead' targets a group of those who come through The Caring Place to investigate poverty, not only in their own lives but also within our community," Freeman said. “Then, from the investigation, they start to develop a plan in order to address lacking resources."
"And not just lacking resources, and not just resources of physical or financial needs, but also in support systems and spiritual needs,” she continued. "We want every individual to have access to the opportunities they need to thrive."
Freeman and board chairman Rev. Steve Smartt said they realize there are needs from individuals and families for food and clothing, and The Caring Place seeks to meet those needs.
"We recognize the need for food and clothing that helps them survive, but it is not helping them to thrive," she added. "'Getting Ahead' is a complement to our services, not a replacement."
Freeman said she is working with the The Caring Place's board on a strategic planning process which will address its organizational structure. She explained this is likely to take months.
"I'm willing to serve in this role for as long as need be to complete this process," Freeman said. "I am thrilled to walk with our agency through this process; I really have a heart for what we do."
Though the future of who will lead the organization in the long-term is still unknown, staff and volunteers are continuing to help people in need. Freeman added that Director of Operations Dennis Conover is doing a "phenomenal" job keeping things going behind the scenes.
Freeman said she hopes the community will continue to support The Caring Place and its efforts during a time of transition.
The interim director noted The Caring Place is always in need of financial support, but donations of clothing and food are also welcome. She added volunteers are always important.
The Caring Place is located at the intersection of Inman Street and Wildwood Avenue. For more information, visit www.thecaringplaceonline.org