Ecumenical Ministries, Inc. of Baldwin County celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, which represents many years of providing assistance to those in need in Baldwin County.
The Ecumenical Council for Migrant Concerns was the parent organization formed by church members who were concerned about the safety of migrant workers' children in the potato fields. The daycare program they started soon became a federally-funded Head Start Program entitled La Casa de Amigos. Between 65 and 95 children enrolled each year and approximately 250 families received some assistance during their spring stay in the county.
The Council soon saw many other needs of the poor in Baldwin County and sought ways to reach out and effectively create change. This desire to reach out with programs that best meet these practical needs continues today, more than 45 years later. As the demographics of the area changed, our Head Start program was seeing fewer children and EMI began developing other programs. La Casa de Amigos separated from EMI in 2005 and become an organization with their own mission regarding migrant workers. At the same time, EMI's mission expanded to include many different programs to help low-income people in the county.
Through partnerships with our community, EMI's gleaning program naturally evolved. Food was going to waste in the fields and people were still going hungry. We asked local farmers allow low income families to harvest and share it with neighbors. This program provided between 300,000 and 600,000 lbs. of food to low income families and individuals every year.
In the early 80's, urgent needs for emergency assistance with food, medicine, utilities and housing were evident in the county. EMI and local churches on the Eastern Shore and South Baldwin Area came together to address meeting these basic emergency needs. At that time there was limited communication between churches, so one knew if those coming to them were also being helped by others. Many pastors were frustrated in their efforts to provide assistance, which they believed to be an essential part of their church’s mission.
EMI offered a bridge to bring services under one roof. Churches would help provide the funding for emergency aid centers, recruit volunteers for staffing, and stock the food pantries. EMI agreed to coordinate all of the services, train volunteers and interview clients in an established space donated by local churches.
This system proved to be extremely effective. As a community effort, duplication or abuse of services decreased, while still meeting the emergency needs of families in a caring, professional manner. The ministry also began referring clients to appropriate community resources to meet long-term, sustainable objectives. This work has been invaluable in promoting greater self-sufficiency in clients, a major objective in all of EMI's programs.
In time EMI, outgrew the donated space and established separate emergency aid centers in Fairhope and Foley.
Also beginning in the late 80's, EMI coordinated a community effort to reach out to those in need during the Christmas season and it became another regular program. The Christmas Sharing Program allows EMI to provide special-requested gifts to children and the elderly every year. It is driven by the community and those that wish to share the true meaning of Christmas. Each Christmas season, we are able to provide Christmas to hundreds of children and elderly individuals.
In 1981, Meals on Wheels was started by an independent group of caring people, many of whom are still involved in the program today. With minimum assistance from EMI, this program continues to dispatch volunteers to deliver hot lunches to more than 50 individuals five days a week.
Our home repair program was introduced in the late 1980's for low income, disabled and elderly individuals that need help repairing their homes. These individuals do not have the resources or ability to keep their home livable and, many times, EMI is the only place they can turn.
EMI's latest, and one programs that most successfully addresses the real root causes of poverty, is a church-based Community Development Program. This program helps low-income communities come together, build relationships, and work together to improve their communities using the church and its values as the foundation. We offer leadership training and guidance, which inspires the individual in their quest to see real positive changes in their lives and in the greater community.
EMI has had a long history of service to the residents of Baldwin County. We have emerged as one of the most respected social service agencies in the area. The connections we have to our churches, individuals, businesses, organizations, and local government is invaluable to this agency and its continued success in reaching the impoverished families in our community. All of our programs are made possible through the funding and volunteer support of the caring people of Baldwin County, for which we are forever grateful.