Since 2006, The Shalom Project has been working and serving in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This local non-profit organization is assisting the local community to help solve the issue of poverty. They have programs such as a medical clinic and pharmacy, a food pantry, a clothing closet, and a welcome table.
Forsyth County, NC is the 3rd worst county for economic mobility. “The benefits cliff is what happens when public benefit programs taper off or phase out quickly when household earnings increase.” (Charlotte Family Housing, 2018) This is impacting the community making it extremely difficult for residents to increase their economic status and live with stability.
The Type of Person Coming to the Shalom Project for help:
This shows us the demographic of people in need of help from poverty can be so diverse. The Shalom Project is a place where the key elements are inclusion, compassion, and justice. “Our goal is to support our neighbors in need with services that will make your life a little easier. We consider it a privilege to serve you and your family and strive to make our programs a positive experience for you with minimum hassle.” (The Shalom Project, theshalomprojectnc.org).
The Shalom Project is made up of different types of programs to help the community. The Medical Clinic & Pharmacy is a program that provides primary care needs. For those in need of pharmacy prescriptions fills, The Shalom Project fills those prescriptions from their doctors at no cost. The Food Pantry is a program that provides groceries to families throughout the community in need of food. The Shalom Project is one of the oldest and most reputable food pantries in Winston-Salem. The Clothing Closet is a program that provides clothing, shoes, household goods, toiletries, cleaning products, bedding, toys, etc. Many free donated items that are open to those in need. In 2019, there were 3,656 people who visited the Food Pantry and Clothing Closet.
There are also other projects that the Shalom Project runs to help address poverty in Winston-Salem. The Peters Creek Community Initiative is looking at affordable housing in the area. There is a huge problem of people not being able to afford rent. On top of that people are already income insufficient and struggling economically. The Flourish project is a whole person wellness program looking at helping women who are the head of household and who are economically insufficient. The Shalom Project works with them and helps them get to a place of stability.
Changemaking doesn’t just involve one individual, typically there are many people involved working together to make an important change. Since 2018, Maggie Walker has been working with The Shalom Project. Currently, she is the Community Outreach Coordinator. She began working with the Shalom Project right after completing her undergraduate studies. Her first two years were spent as an AmeriCorps Vista. Those years involved a lot of time spent doing hands-on work, learning about the programs, the history of Shalom, and much more. Now she is more involved with the volunteers and community partners both on an individual level and agency level. Maggie oversees the volunteers and is in charge of teaching them about their duties and how to do their work.
Going back to her high school years, Maggie Walker went on a mission trip with her church. She recalled all the other kids hating it and thinking it was the worst thing ever. Maggie, on the other hand, loved it. That was the moment when she started thinking about how she could make a career out of helping people. It remained in the back of her mind because she really enjoyed helping others. By the time college came around her parents wanted her to become a nurse since they knew she liked helping people. This led her to do a semester of nursing school which didn’t go as intended. She ended up not liking it, so she switched her major during her second semester to social work. Making the switch got Maggie more involved and working with non-profit organizations.
Since November of 2020, Katie Hilderbrand has been working with The Shalom Project. She is an AmeriCorps Vista who was placed at The Shalom Project with a focus on economic mobility within the community. Another aspect of her work is running the social media accounts for both The Shalom Project and one of its umbrella programs, known as Flourish. “The Flourish program is a high-impact poverty reduction model aimed to support women and their families who are on their journey out of poverty.” (The Shalom Project, Flourish Project). Her work with Flourish includes helping write the curriculum and assessments for the participants and evaluating the infrastructure. On top of the many tasks Katie has she also assists with fundraising and raising awareness, attending community events, gathering research.
After graduating from Salem College, Katie lived in Winston-Salem for a year and Katie’s roommate graduated the same year. That same year, her roommate started Wake Forest Divinity and she had an internship at the Shalom project. One summer when they lived together her roommate told her she had to get the Big Chill ready and wanted Katie to come with her to volunteer. The Big Chill is a huge fundraiser for The Shalom Project that takes place at Bailey Park. There is ice cream, music, and food trucks. “Over 500 donations were made, giving over $50,000 to support our programs!” (The Shalom Project, The Big Chill). Katie started volunteering at that event and got to meet all the people and see the work, mission, and vision of the organization. It ended up resonating with her and spoke to her. This was important and powerful work being done. She even pointed out how, “as you grow into your experiences and your life, you just let yourself figure it out and that’s ok too.” (Hilderbrand, 2021)
Although the pandemic has affected some areas of this organization, they are still hard at work making sure to safely serve the community. As far as Katie knows there are no plans for any major changes to our current programming in the near future. The Peters Creek Community Initiative is hopeful to have funding secured in 2022 to start construction on 72 affordable housing units at the site of the old Budget Inn on the corner of Academy St and Peters Creek Parkway. Otherwise, the Shalom Project will continue programming as it is currently running and working to help solve the issue of poverty in the community.
Profile written by Sasha Silverman (she/her)
Impact of the "Benefits Cliff". Charlotte Family Housing. (2018, July 10). https://charlottefamilyhousing.org/impact-of-the-benefits-cliff/#:~:text=A%20benefits%20cliff%20is%20what,increased%20enough%20for%20self%2Dsufficiency.
The Shalom Project, https://theshalomprojectnc.org/.
May 17, 2021