Organization: The Center is funded by the Pleasure Island Ministerial Association and its churches, community organizations, businesses, and concerned individuals. These contributions maintain the Center and provide funds for emergency aid. Churches and agency representatives determine the policies and set guidelines. The Center is staffed entirely by volunteers.
Hand Up: The Center is a “Hand Up” rather than a “Hand Out” agency. Clients are given immediate help with their financial emergency. This acts as a Band-Aid, while case workers try to show clients the way to develop a more permanent solution to their problem. Counseling for clients who have continual needs and referrals are made to other agencies.
In 1988, a lunch conversation between three ministers sparked the origin of the Pleasure Island Ministerial Association (PIMA). PIMA started with two goals in mind. One goal was to unite churches to recognize important dates for the Christian community, and the other goal was to form a united group of congregations and individuals to help with the social need of residents in this area.
The PIMA congregations recognized the value of combining their resources to serve the continuous requests for aid. Catholic Social Services, located in Robertsdale, was also aware of the area needs and was working to open a small center in Orange Beach. The two groups worked together, and the Christian Service Center was opened on June 17, 1991, to serve the Fort Morgan-Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area.
Volunteers were recruited from the Pleasure Island area and trained by Catholic Social Services. The Center was located in a loaned store-front in the Pleasure Isle Shopping Center and staffed by volunteers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Immediate emergency aid and food were offered to those in need. The food pantry was stocked by donations and funds for aid came through Catholic Social Services, the area PIMA congregations, and individual contributions.
Today, the CSC is guided by a Board of Directors with representatives from each of the PIMA churches and other interested individuals. While funding is still received from PIMA, the contribution base has grown to include the United Way, grants from various companies, foundations and civic clubs, as well as gifts from independent community fundraisers, and interested individuals.
Through the generosity of local foundations and contributions, the Center now operates out of a permanent home on Dolphin Avenue, Gulf Shores, instead of a loaned store-front. In 1991, the Center served approximately 420 clients.
There were jumps in client requests during Hurricanes Ivan & Katrina, and the oil spill years. In 2012, the CSC served approximately 5,469 clients.
Through 2017, the CSC has served a total of approximately 55,800 clients, all with 100% volunteers and donations!
Behind each of these numbers is a face and a heart and there are many, many success stories. One client, with children, had moved here for a job; unfortunately, Hurricane Ivan destroyed that opportunity, and the client came to us for assistance. A year or so later, they were back on their feet and sponsored a family for Christmas. Because of the oil spill, the client was again unemployed. The CSC again provided emergency aid and referred the client to a manager at a store needing employees. On last contact, the client reported that she was now the assistant manager.
A person working in a restaurant gift shop approached a CSC volunteer and said, “You work at the CSC. You helped me after Hurricane Katrina when I had lost everything in New Orleans. You gave me hope. Now I’m doing fine.”
The children can be absolutely heartbreaking. While helping a client load groceries into her car, a child was overheard saying, “Look Mommy, we have cereal for breakfast now!”
Now, after more than 25 years, the Christian Service Center is still a “Hand Up” rather than a “Hand Out” agency. Clients are given immediate emergency aid as well as guidance on finding solutions to problems. The CSC is still a 100% volunteer agency and is open Monday through Friday from 9-12. Emergency services during off hours are available.
For more information, please call the CSC at 251-968-5256.