Urban Ministry Center (UMC) opened its doors in 1994 as a result of uptown congregations and businesses partnering to address the needs of the city’s poor and homeless with compassion. From the soup kitchen, counseling and support groups, to Room In the Inn (RITI) and enrichment programs like Artworks945, UMC’s services are specifically designed to be available with minimal or no barriers to the community they serve. Dick Darlington serves as the MPPC Ministry Team Leader for the UMC and has led this ministry acting as the liaison between MPPC and UMC. He has volunteered with RITI since its beginning nearly 25 years ago and coordinated MPPC’s RITI ministry for seven years. One of his main responsibilities is volunteering every Sunday night on a team that helps homeless neighbors register with the RITI database and assigns them to the host churches, a position he has held for nearly a decade. Other MPPC members serve on the Monday night RITI intake team at the UMC.
One of the reasons Dick is so invested in the homeless community is from his personal experience with a woman named Gayle. Gayle was very well known by all of the Myers Park area churches. “Many years ago, Gayle moved to Charlotte to live with her brother, and when he tragically died, she was left homeless. For many years she would make a ‘camp’ behind Park Road Shopping Center, Myers Park Shopping Center and Cotswold Shopping Center,” Dick says. Gayle struggled with mental illness and she did not want to seek help through organizations like UMC. She often slept in the shrubbery around MPPC and our neighboring churches. However, during the RITI season Gayle would show up to the various churches that hosted, and she would be taken in on those nights.
One day while at Starbucks at Cotswold Shopping Center, Dick ran into Gayle. “For the first time she broke down and cried saying ‘I cannot camp any longer.’” Dick arranged for a case worker from UMC to meet with Gayle at Starbucks and she began a lengthy process of qualifying for disability income and finding housing. While he doesn’t have much contact with Gayle anymore, she is still living in the apartment she received through UMC’s Scattered Site housing program and is doing well.
“Affordable housing for our homeless and working poor is a huge problem in Charlotte and all across the US,” Dick says. “There are a number of organizations and ways to help address this issue, and I believe that MPPC’s support of the UMC is just one way we can have an impact in this community.” One important way disciples can volunteer with UMC is through Room in the Inn. MPPC hosts homeless neighbors every Thursday night from December to March in the Outreach Center, and there is an urgent need for volunteers to serve as drivers, breakfast makers, overnight hosts and devotional leaders.
Want to get involved with UMC? Contact Dick Darlington at 704-534-0223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.