The Cooperative Ministry is made up dozens of charities and churches across Richland County South Carolina. The goal is to provide assistance to those in need, and they do it in their own way. The benefits of having so many organizations partnering together is that it eliminates any duplication of services and it better allows them to coordinate financial aid, referrals, and basic needs.
The church network is made up of congregations of all faiths and religions, as well as countless civic and social organizations, charities, foundations, businesses, volunteers and individuals. They believe there is honor of all types of work, and the Cooperative Ministry will show all individuals from Columbia and nearby towns the respect they deserve.
The charity provides crisis assistance and support to low-income Richland County residents who are working, receiving retirement or disability income, or that are drawing unemployment benefits from the state. Through the provision of a range of services, the Crisis Assistance Program focuses on providing immediate and short-term assistance toward developing long-term stability. This may include funds, including loans, for paying for food, work supplies, or even back rent expenses. Dial 803-799-3853.
Solid Ground is the name of another resource. It supports and furthers the fight against poverty by providing purpose and pathways for families on public assistance that enable them to them gain a footing. The goal is to help them improve quality of life for themselves and their families.
To accomplish this goal, the ministry will supply each adult with the tools necessary for gaining skills that make success an attainable goal, completing an education, increasing earning potential, and reducing or eliminating their dependence on welfare. Clients need to work on setting and achieving goals, and that is an integral part of the program offered by the church.
Additionally, certain requirements must be met, including participating in financial and life skills counseling, maintaining at minimum a 2.5 grade point average; volunteering, and performing community service.
For those Columbia residents that qualify, TCM is able to provide clients with low cost childcare, transportation, and money to pay for tuition, with help from community members or local businesses. This investment in education provides an opportunity for participants to live independently off of public assistance, earn a higher income, and ultimately escape the cycle of poverty.
Formerly known as the Tax Preparation Program, what was renamed at Financing Your Future (FYF) offers a monthly series of financial literacy classes and other workshops that enable clients to gain knowledge and skills in relation to building assets and accumulating wealth. The service is very diverse, and course topics include couponing, credit, budgeting, financial markets, home purchase and ownership, starting a small business, and saving for college.
Staff that are part of FYF also act as coordinator of the local coalition of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, which prepares returns for the low income an elderly. With VITA, the Cooperative Ministry is able to offer state and federal government tax return preparation services at no charge to households meeting IRS income criteria. VITA emphasizes the importance of ensuring that working poor taxpayers are aware of and receive any special tax credits for which they qualify, such as Education Tax Credits, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Advance Premium Tax Credits, which are used to pay for health insurance costs.
The Cooperative Ministry Community Auto Repository, or CARs, a unique program that creates a win/win scenario for both donors and recipients. TCM is the only non-profit organization in South Carolina that is able to offer up to fair market value tax deductions for donated automobiles. In addition to that, they run a special program that provides donated vehicles to help hardworking (but lower income or working poor) people in need of transportation keep their jobs. Last, but not least, CAR also provides low cost or even free vehicles for full-time students who have aged out of foster care.
Each year they may provide dozens of vehicles to working adults and foster children who lacked the down-payment funds or sufficient credit history to secure affordable vehicles that are needed to get them to work and/or school.
Local churches and volunteers in Columbia also operate an automotive repair shop to provide any routine maintenance needs for program participants. CAR applications are available at the TCM offices, as noted below.
For information, or to apply for short term emergency aid or long term support, The Cooperative Ministry is at 3821 W. Beltline Blvd., Columbia, South Carolina 29204. Call the charity at 803-799-3853.
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