Lending an ARM to those in need

Published 7:52 am Thursday, October 18, 2018

Non-profits work to provide products and services to community members who need them most at the lowest possible cost. Many of these groups struggle to keep themselves afloat, but one local food pantry may no longer have an arm for people to lean on.

Assistance and Resources Ministries (ARM) has been serving Carter County and the tri-city area since 1991, but though the passion for serving others has been burning strong, Executive Director Robbie Fritts said the funds necessary to operate have been increasing for a while, without any clear increase in available funds.

“We have been in decline for the past decade or so,” he said.

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ARM, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing baskets of food and clothing to those in need, has been struggling to maintain all their services as operating costs continue to rise.

“ARM runs on a shoe-string budget, as many non-profits do,” Fritts said.

ARM’s pantry provides a variety of items beyond just food and clothing, including dishes and silverware to victims of house floods or fires.

During their low periods, like during the summer, Fritts said ARM typically serves around 625 families a month. During their busier times, like during the winter, that number often rises to almost 950.

According to Fritts, in Sept. 2018, roughly 47 percent of people who utilized ARM’s services were between 50 and 69 years old, and almost a third of people using ARM had some form of disability, relying on pantries like ARM to cover lost income.

Despite the tightening budget, Fritts said ARM’s volunteers serve as proudly as ever.

“We have fantastic volunteers,” Fritts said. “We are a small group, but we are very dedicated.”

Fritts said school-age children also frequent ARM, needing clothing like coats, as the colder months set in.

Fritts said originally local pastors and their churches were in charge of coming together and deciding how to dispense aid to their communities. He said these pastors formed ARM in order to facilitate this aid better than they would alone. The branch Fritts currently works at formed in 2008.

“I am passionate about helping others,” he said.

Fritts said ARM could use any donations people can send, and if they need convincing, they should stop by and visit.

“You need to spend just a day here,” Fritts said. “You can see these peoples’ faces when they come in here.”

If ARM can continue to stay afloat, Fritts said ARM wants to invest in a mobile food bank, to better serve those who have difficulty reaching the brick and mortar locations.

“We have many clients who cannot even get down here to our locations,” he said. “We want to be able to serve many different locations.”

For those interested in supporting ARM, Applebee’s is hosting an All You Can Eat Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 8 to 10 a.m. Participants can purchase tickets from ARM.

Ultimately, Fritts said he wants ARM to educate the community about the services they provide and the good they do for the county.

“ARM is a vital part of this community,” he said. “We are the biggest server of the needy in Carter County.”