Young: “Carter Compassion Center needs more volunteers and funding”

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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By Heather Richardson
Star Correspondent
Shortly after opening, the Carter Compassion Center, a non-profit organization serving Carter County residents in need, received a call from a man whose starter went out on his car. The starter cost $97, which at the time, he just didn’t have. Because his car was his only way to and from work, the man was worried he would lose his job. Not knowing what else to do, he called the Compassion Center. With donated funds, the center was able to purchase the starter for the man.
“We met that need,” said Compassion Center president Brandon Young. “We were able to get the starter for the car. He was able to put it on, and that in turn kept him employed because that was the only transportation he had to get back and forth to work. He was very concerned he was going to lose his job and his boss wouldn’t understand…He said had it not been for [the Compassion Center] I would have lost my job and I don’t know what my family would have done.”
Around the same time, the center heard from a woman whose husband had abandoned her and her children, draining their banking account and leaving them with nothing. After calling her landlord to explain the problem she was told she would be evicted if she wasn’t able to pay her rent. In tears, the woman called the Compassion Center explaining the situation.
“She said, ‘Me and my girls will be living in a car come Saturday,’” Young said.
The Compassion Center was able to help her pay her rent, keeping her and her kids in their home, and then help her find a second job to make up for her husband’s income.
“She just fell on hard times and had no one to turn to,” Young explained. “She said she had no family here and said ‘you guys have become my family by just sitting down with me trying to help me.’”
Needs like this and so many more have inundated the Compassion Center since its opening in 2020, and now staff are looking for volunteers, mentors, and donations to keep up with the growing need. In 2021 more than 19 percent of Carter County residents, or roughly 10,400 people, were living below the poverty line. The national average at the time was only 12.8 percent.  Much of the population the Compassion Center serves are considered the working poor.
“They work, but they are one paycheck away from a disaster,” Young explains. “There’s no money in savings, so if something bad happens, they immediately turn to a payday loan place. So, the hole they are in just got deeper.”
Soon after beginning their work, folks at the Compassion Center realized that for many families this is a recurring and often multi-generational problem that has the potential to, and has for many, led to much more dire circumstances.
A 2021 study showed that 14.6 percent of the Carter County population was living with “severe housing problems” – an indicator that had grown nearly three percent since 2014. Young estimates there are between 60 and 80 unhoused people living in Carter County. The wait time to receive low-income housing in Elizabethton is currently two years, Young said.
The goal of the Compassion Center is to not only meet the immediate needs of folks, but to also provide education, mentorship, and advocacy in order to help people improve their situation going forward. People who contact the Compassion Center have the opportunity to sit down with a mentor, identify current and recurring needs in their lives, and get help with creating a budget and filling out applications for assistance that is applicable to their situation. The center also offers classes in literacy, parenting, stress management, and more.
“We try to help them with that initial trauma, and then we coordinate resources and we mentor them and educate them to try to get them out of poverty,” Young said. “That’s the key. It’s not just a handout, it’s a hand up.”
In order to better meet that goal, Young said the center needs more volunteers and more funding. The center encourages churches and aid organizations to learn more about the work they do and consider setting up recurring donations or encouraging their members to become mentors or volunteers at the center. Anyone interested in volunteering for or donating to the center can find more information at or by calling 423-930-3777.
“We could do more together,” Young said. “Poverty is a problem in Carter County, but if we tackle this problem together we can do more and we can see this problem get better. We can.”

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