The Lewes-Rehoboth Association of Churches (LRAC) was established in 1983 as a collaborative effort of local churches to come together to serve those in need in the community. Each church had some form of outreach to the community and decided to combine their efforts to better coordinate their work to assist and support individuals and families in the Cape Henlopen School District. Later they opened the New Life Thrift Store on Coastal Highway to create funds to support their work in the community. LRAC used the funds to support various organizations in the community that were meeting a critical need of serving children, youth and families, as well as individuals.
In 1985, LRAC created the Lend a Hand outreach program to better coordinate efforts among the various churches with the financial support from the New Life Thrift Store. Volunteers from each of the churches were invited to serve as outreach workers to assess the needs of individuals and families seeking help to meet their critical everyday needs. The outreach workers would receive telephone referrals from both the community and LRAC churches. After assessing the client’s needs, the outreach workers would recommend financial assistance to address these needs. The outreach workers would also refer the callers to other resources in the community to address those needs beyond what help Lend a Hand could provide.
In 2010, several members of LRAC began to explore how to expand the Lend a Hand program to more effectively carry out its mission. The Outreach Committee included Rev. Jeff Ross from St. Peter’s, Rev. Max Wolf from All Saints Church and St. Georges Chapel, Rev. Jonathan Baker from Epworth Church, Beth Dody, and Bennett Connelly. Through a series of planning meetings, it was recommended that a facility to house the Lend a Hand program would enhance the work of the outreach efforts. The Faith United Methodist Church on Oyster House Road had an empty building and as an LRAC member, agreed to house the Lend a Hand program. In February 2011, 75 volunteers showed up to help paint, clean, and organize the space for the new program. The Lend a Hand outreach was renamed the Community Resource Center to reflect the new vision and growth of the LRAC program. The building opened April 4, 2011 and was dedicated in May 2011 with many local, state officials, and guests attending.
The Center opened with many of the Lend a Hand volunteers serving to meet face to face with those seeking help, assess their needs, provide financial assistance, and refer them to other resources. The Center was open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Within a short period of time more volunteers began to work at the Center and the number of clients also began to increase.
In 2012, LRAC purchased the current building located at 37510 Oyster House Road as a permanent home for the Community Resource Center and the Food Basket, another LRAC program. After renovations, the new building was dedicated in March 2013. In the spring of 2013, planning began to create the Community Resource Center as a separate non- profit to enhance other funding opportunities. Harold Dukes, a local attorney, provided pro bono work to create the necessary documents to establish the new entity.
From the dedication of the new building in March 2013 the Community Resource Center has grown to meet the needs of the community and now includes: a worker from the State Service Center, Women Infant and Children program, Harry K Baby Pantry, Food Rescue, Job Center, Day Center for the homeless, and other community organizations who provide on- site support as needed.
Volunteers are vital to the support of the many programs of the Community Resource Center. Because of the growth of the Center and the many innovative programs now offered at the Center, the Board approved in May 2017 to create a salaried Director position. We were blessed to select as our first Director Jo Allegro-Smith who joined the organization September 2017.
In summary, in 2010 Lend a Hand served 360 people a year. Today the Center is serving over 13,000 in the various programs!!!