For three decades, Onslow Community Outreach has served the community by providing basic needs for those in need of a helping hand.
According to a press release from OCO, they were founded on Feb. 8, 1990 as a soup kitchen and over the years have added a homeless shelter (1994) as well as medical (1999) and dental clinics (2017) thanks to volunteers and donations of local churches, businesses, and families.
OCO is also involved with Christmas Cheer, which began in the early 1970s. Christmas Cheer offers aid during the holiday season in the form of holiday food and gifts for kids.
Theo McClammy, executive director of OCO, said it was the original collaboration of a few people in the community who wanted to address the hunger issue in Onslow County.
“Several people understood and observed that there were families struggling for food security in our community and they collaborated to address that,” said McClammy. “The first day it was operating almost no one came. However over the years it has grown by pulling resources together through 20 different churches and now we feed lunch meals along with a mobile soup kitchen and a monthly food bank.”
Denice Fuhrmann has volunteered at the outreach for nine years and has been a member on the OCO Board of Directors for two years. Fuhrmann also shed light on the beginning stages of the soup kitchen.
“In the beginning, the volunteers would drive around town handing out PB&J sandwiches to people who were homeless and living outside. Now it has grown by using two mobile soup kitchen trucks to deliver meals to the far edges of the county for people that can’t get to the soup kitchen,” said Fuhrmann.
The mobile soup kitchens help address the need for food security in the area, McClammy explained. The trucks are equipped with 300 meals at a time. The outreach also provides a once-a-month food bank and with the help of 150 volunteers, was able to feed 170,000 meals in 2019.
Shawn and Chris, whose last names are not included to protect their identity, said they take advantage of the soup kitchen services on a regular basis.
“It is great for the outreach to assist people who are short on getting help in terms of feeding and clothing them,” said Chris.
“I eat here all the time but if there is anything that I don’t use as far as clothes or toys, I donate back to the outreach,” Shawn added.
McClammy said since dental services began in 2017, OCO has helped a total of 9,000 residents through the medical, dental, homeless, and soup kitchen services.
On Feb. 20, OCO will host their 30th Anniversary Gala, a reception, silent auction fundraiser, and fellowship dinner, to recognize the collaborative partners and their three decades of service. The gala will be held at the Sturgeon City Environmental Education Center, located at 50 Court St. in Jacksonville, starting at 5 p.m.
A main staple during the gala will be honoring 30 contributors who are involved through donations, volunteers, and fellowship, which ties in to the 30th anniversary of the outreaches services in the area.
“Part of the gala will be recognizing something that we are calling the 30 for 30 contributors,” said McClammy. “This is not to point out one particular person but to illustrate the communities needs over the last 30 years and the help that they have provided.”
There will also be some major announcements about OCO’s plans for the future, including discussion of their plans to move into their new building, located at 1210 Hargett St. in Jacksonville, as well as fundraising opportunities to assist them in their relocation.
“There will be three major announcements during the gala dealing with areas of interest for future facilities as well as a major new program that will regionalize our services to veterans,” said McClammy.
Furhmann said there have been more than 200 tickets sold for the gala. Silent auction items include a signed Carolina Panthers football, a romance package, and several college and professional sporting event ticket bundles.
The OCO asks that for planning purposes, residents interested in attending the gala should purchase their tickets by Friday Feb. 14. Tickets are $30 and table sponsorships are $330. Tickets can be purchased online at onslowco.org or by calling 910-455-5733.
Furhmann said she would love to see the place packed to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of OCO, and McClammy hopes for another 30 years moving forward.
“We are hoping that the 30th anniversary prompts people to say that it was a great 30 years, but what can I do to add 30 more years to the community of Onslow?” said McClammy. “There are a lot of different needs that we have right now and a lot of equipment that is old. We are hoping to save resources but also hoping that people will continue to step up and donate or volunteer for their neighbors.”
Visit onslowco.org for more information on donating to or volunteering with the organization.