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Chesy Mission reaches out to community

CHESAPEAKE - Around the holidays, many people think of those in need of a helping hand - but volunteers with the Chesapeake Community Mission Outreach know people need help throughout the year.

The organization celebrated its 20th anniversary of helping citizens in February. The group was started in 1985 when a few individuals saw a need in the community to help the poor.

"We are here to help," Cline McNeely of the CMO said.

In the beginning, five churches became a part of the group: Big Branch United Methodist Church, Chesapeake Church of the Nazarene, Chesapeake Christian Church, Defender United Methodist Church and St. Ann Catholic Church.

The CMO used the Chesapeake Village Hall to house the food pantry and clothing closet - of which the community was very supportive with its donations.

McNeely said the food bank tries to help people after their welfare or food stamps run out. The group also offers food and clothing.

It is open after the 15th of the month from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday and from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. Monday.

The food pantry moved into its current facility inside the Chesapeake Community Center in 1989. Two more churches joined the CMO, Pomaria Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church of Burlington, making a total of nine sponsoring churches, with other churches helping, especially at Christmas.

The number of families coming to the CMO has steadily increased through the years.

In 2004, more than 750 families received help from the CMO. At Christmas, more than 500 families received baskets of clothes and toys. Easter baskets are also distributed.

McNeely said the mission assisted 186 families last month and 45 families this past Saturday. The organization also takes referrals from the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, Human Services and other churches.

The aid is for residents from Chesapeake and Burlington, but they also assist other areas in times of emergency.

"This is part of my life," McNeely said. "I've been a volunteer since 1991."

The entire group is comprised of volunteers, some who have been with the group since its inception. McNeely said everybody works for free and they have 75 plus volunteers each month.

"Every volunteer we have is mostly from the churches and no one gets paid," he said. "We have some great volunteers."

Most of all,

the group just enjoys helping other people, McNeely said.

One Christmas will always hold a special place in his memory, he said. A family that he had helped at previously drove all the way to his house with a Christmas present just to say, "thanks."

Though they didn't need to bring him a gift, McNeely said he was just happy to see they were doing well.

McNeely said that right now the group is low on funding and that they need some younger people to help in the organization.

Anyone who would like to volunteer or make a donation, can contact the CMO at (740) 867-6628.