LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Church and Community Center has a new leader who’s wants to bring new ideas and methods to the nearly 50-year-old ministry.
Andrew Collier, with history at Robeson Community College and First Presbyterian Church in Lumberton, started Monday as the center’s new executive director. He replace Darlene Jacobs, who retired after more than seven years doing the job.
The ministries of the organization that the community knows will continue, but Collier said new leadership will create improved methods of serving the public in Robeson County.
“This center has worked with the most vulnerable. But what brings people here at first? What caused them to need the help? We want to work to address those issues as we are able, to help to change the system, and prevent that need,” Collier said.
The core ministries, supported by a thrift store, grants and donations, will remain to provide food, clothing, and economic assistance to area residents. The center works with retail chains, such as Food Lion and Walmart that have giveaway programs for food that’s about to go out of date. Regular contributors also include Campbell Soup Company and Mountaire Farms, which make large monthly donations of supplies.
Other programs include bill payments to keep the lights on, or emergency home repair or wheelchair ramp building. The center also has a medical closet with a variety of equipment, such as crutches and walkers. Also provided are infant needs, such as diapers and wipes.
“We want to work with other organizations, churches, government to try to address the issues in the community, of unemployment, under-education, and the lack of access to affordable health care,” Collier said. “There’s not enough healthy food. We have food deserts in Robeson County. We want to identify those issues and look for ways to engage in changing the system.”
Part of the system is the high cost of living here in Lumberton.
“I don’t have an answer about how we start changing the prices, and cost of living here, I don’t know,” he said. “I guarantee we can’t solve it on our own. But what are the potential solutions and how can we move towards those solutions?”
Bradley Boberg is chairman of the nonprofit’s board.
“One of the things we are excited about with Drew coming on board here is he has made connections with churches in the area, and the board has connections,” he said “He has connections with individuals who work and live in other parts of areas where we can collaborate, at hospitals, at UNC-Pembroke, at Robeson Community College, other nonprofit organizations. Some we already partner with and others we certainly are open to partnering with.
Boberg said the hiring of Collier gives the center an opportunity for new vision and new focus.
During his interview for the position, Collier used words from “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” an old hymn: “Strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow.”
“That’s why we were excited, because of that vision that he had,” Boberg said.
Collier praised Jacobs’ work as executive director.
“Sshe led us through the challenge of Matthew; that is a huge testament to the organization,” he said.
Jacobs returned the compliment.
”I think drew has impressed us all with ideas for the center,” she said. “We expect great things. The center in Robeson County is to help those in need, and he has wonderful ideas to grow and expand.”
Jacobs, who has joined the center’s board, reflected on Matthew.
“The storm was a journey,” she said. “We’re in a good place now, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Now on the board, Jacobs plans to be loyal to the board and the new executive director.
“My hope is Drew works himself out of a job,” Boberg said. “That’s the ultimate, always the hope. Why do this if you’re not going to change a community for the better?”
David Bradley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.