By Michelle T. Bernard - Senior Staff Writer/ Lincoln Times-News
Back when the Asbury Resource Center opened in 2016 on Salem Church Road adjacent to Asbury Academy, United Way of Lincoln County executive director Kathy Vinzant really had no idea it was going to be so successful. The “ARC” is now expanding to the western side of the county. A room at West Lincoln Middle School, which was formerly used to offer education to students, has been repurposed to a resource center for students in the county. Like the original resource center, the room was transformed into a store-like environment for counselors and social workers to browse for clothing, shoes, school supplies and even baby clothes and necessities needed by their charges.
“One of the counselors here at West Lincoln Middle came to speak to us about the need they had out here,” Vinzant said. “Because of transportation, it was difficult getting to the ARC in Lincolnton and they’d wanted to see a satellite ARC out here.”
While Vinzant was principal for a day at West Lincoln Middle, she really saw the need that the school had. After obtaining permission and support from the Lincoln County Board of Education and the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, planning began on the satellite ARC.
“People came out of the woodwork to volunteer,” she said. “They saw the need and jumped in to help. Our partners have been incredible”
The room was set up on Wednesday. Clothing was sorted by size and gender by volunteers and hung on racks. The West Lincoln Satellite ARC will be open on the first day of school after the winter intersession. It’ll serve all of the feeder and high schools in the western side of the county, not just West Lincoln Middle. Vinzant hopes that in June a food pantry will be set up which will include fresh produce from local farmers.
When the original ARC opened, Vinzant knew that the need was great for Lincoln County Schools, but she never dreamed that it would serve the entire community as it has.
“It’s served the Department of Social Services, foster children and families, child abuse victims and cancer patients who have lost weight so rapidly they can’t keep up with clothing needs,” she said. “I don’t think at that time we had a vision of what we wanted to do in terms of clothes and things that weren’t suitable for students. Being able to share them with Amy’s House or the poundage that we’re able to get money back to make it self-sustaining was a blessing.”
West Lincoln Middle School principal Kristie Ballard kept busy on Wednesday organizing clothing and fielding questions.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our community,” she said. “The ARC is a great resource but it’s in town and lack of transportation may make it difficult for some families to get there. We have lots of students who, for them to focus their best, need certain items of clothing and food, so if we can help fill that gap, it would be great. We often take ready access to clothing and food for granted. We thank United Way for partnering with us and Leslie Barlowe for her expertise in setting up the store.”
The school is looking for community or church groups to commit to coming in and sorting and hanging clothing as well as helping with financial support for under clothing and hygiene supplies.
The ARC is always in need of volunteers and donations, according to Vinzant. For more information, call the United Way office at (704) 732-8055 or Ballard at (704) 276-1760. Donations for the West Lincoln Satellite ARC can be made at the front office at the school until the donation box is put in place to the rear of the building. Due to security reasons, the ARC is not open to the public. Shopping will be done by school counselors and social workers. At some point, there may be open shopping days, but this has not been set up yet. West Lincoln Middle School is located at 260 Shoal Road in Lincolnton.