On any given Tuesday or Wednesday, a line begins forming at 8 a.m. at Connections of Cumberland County. Single women, with or without children, are lining up to request financial assistance with any number of housing-related requests, ranging from eviction prevention and utility disconnect prevention to utility reconnect and housing deposits.
“It’s been like this since early March,” said Monique Bryant, the agency’s service operations manager. “Even with four case management interns and two staff case managers, we often have to ask new clients to return the following day for an assessment because we are at our capacity for the day.”
Since January 2023, Connections of Cumberland County has seen a 98% increase in new clients seeking services, and the costs for these services add up. Between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, the agency distributed $250,567 in client assistance. This funding helped 711 clients and their children.
Connections of Cumberland County doesn’t foot the whole bill, though; clients are required to pay a portion. Clients also agree to participate in a year of case management wherein they set goals for themselves and create a stabilization plan with their case manager so they do the hard work of improving their situation. “We are trying to do more, but we can only stretch a dollar so far,” said Executive Director Crystal DePietro. “We depend heavily on grants, charitable donations, and fundraisers to support clients as they make ends meet.”
Charitable donations and fundraisers, like the agency’s sixth annual Home Is Where the HeART Is Art Auction, account for over 57% of the agency’s revenue. Without these funds, the agency cannot financially assist clients. Over the past two years, 83 artists have donated 147 pieces of artwork in support of Connections of Cumberland County and its mission. Artists often have a special connection to the agency, whether it be their fondness for the agency’s work or having previously struggled with homelessness as a single woman. One anonymous art donor shared that she gave a piece of her work because she “experienced this devastating time years ago,” noting it caused significant anxiety to “not know where you will sleep at night.” The anonymous donor stated that it took a toll on her self-esteem and that “without places like (Connections of Cumberland County), it is hard to climb out of the hole.” She donated because she wants to pay it forward.
The sixth annual Home Is Where the HeART Is Art Auction will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Studio 215 and will feature both silent and live auctions. Local DJ and radio host Gilbert Baez Jr. will be DJing the evening, while his counterpart, Deshawn Byron, will be the MC. We are excited to announce that Bill McMillan will return as the evening auctioneer. The event has already received donations from esteemed North Carolina-based artists such as Kevin Collie of Wilmington and Rose Kennedy of Fayetteville. “We hope to raise at least $35,000,” said Crystal DePietro, “That amount would support between 50 and 70 households.”
To meet its goal, the agency needs the help of the Fayetteville community.“The Home Is Where the HeART Is Art Auction is a fun event for the Fayetteville community to show their love for ART and their HeART for the women and children who struggle every day to have a safe place to call home,” said Crystal DePietro. Art ranges from pottery and photography to drawings and paintings. The event will have great live music and food provided by Dorothy’s Catering as well.
For more information on attending the event, visit the agency’s Art Auction website: www.connectionsofcc.org/annual-art-auction. Tickets are $40 per person in advance and $50 at the door. All proceeds from the event support the services and programs provided by Connections of Cumberland County. You can learn more about the nonprofit in general by visiting its website: www.connectionsofcc.org.