Epitomizing Georgetown for 30 years
The recession of the 1980s hit Georgetown hard. It crippled businesses, slashed jobs, and decimated savings.
It also birthed The Caring Place, a nonprofit organization which this month celebrates 30 years of providing basic human needs to people in financial crisis in the Georgetown and northern Williamson County area.
So many people struggled to make ends meet during that economic downturn that they overwhelmed churches with their need for help with food, clothing, rent, and utilities. Under the auspices of the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance, 11 churches formed The Caring Place (TCP). With far more faith and heart than resources, they opened their doors on June 8, 1985, with three bags of clothing, a handful of volunteers, and $17.
Since then, Georgetown citizens, businesses, organizations, and churches have continued taking care of their own with such generosity that TCP has expanded seven times and has operated in its 29,374-square-foot office space and warehouse and the 6,700-square-foot Annex across the street since 2013. In 2014, TCP provided services valued at almost $1.6 million to 5,407 individuals through the efforts of 19 full-time staff, more than 500 volunteers, and a community of huge hearts.
“There’s not a day that I am not in awe of what happens here in every aspect of the organization and how incredibly it happens,” said Ginna O’Connor, TCP executive director.
Meeting Specific Needs
Services include financial and transportation assistance, vouchers for the food pantry and The Shops at The Caring Place, medical case management, seasonal programs, and space for community classes and seminars. Most clients are experiencing an emergency situation. Some are elderly or disabled individuals on a fixed income. Others attend classes and seminars that promote self-sufficiency.
The intake process starts with a look at the individual’s financial status, to be sure, but it also includes a personalized interview that allows the client to be heard and to provide a holistic view of the situation. The client advocate then helps develop a plan for how TCP can help fill the gaps until the crisis passes.
“We look at each family or individual as a unique situation,” says Pam Robers, client services director. “We don’t try to fit them into our resources—providing them food if they need help with rent, for example—and we look across the breadth of what they may be needing and customize what we can do for them.”
Those who need food or clothing receive vouchers to the food pantry and the store, where they can choose what they want to eat and wear rather than receiving preselected items.
“We don’t try to decide what clothing they want or what food best fits their eating style,” Robers says. “It acknowledges people’s independence of choice, and it respects their dignity.”
It also increases the likelihood that the food and clothing will be used. Stewardship is a guiding philosophy at TCP. From the moment donated items arrive, they are treated with the same care as the clients, which is one reason TCP has been voted Best Place to Volunteer/Give in Georgetown for four consecutive years.
“Those donations are just as valuable as financial donations, so we handle them with respect and display them in the store very well,” says David Earl, donations and facilities director.
“I’ve seen donations in antiques and collectibles go through the roof,” says store director Ann Lind, “because people know that we will care for them, we can market them, and we will realize the revenue from them.”
TCP even repurposes clothing that doesn’t pass inspection, selling it to a Dallas company that then sells it primarily to third-world thrift stores.
But not every donated item can be sold, such as torn or damaged clothes, broken electronics or furniture, scratched or chipped kitchenware, and mattresses and box springs. Though TCP recycles as much as possible, the cost disposing of such items is a considerable expense.
Relying on Volunteers
Volunteers are the literal hands and feet of the organization every day. Six to eight meet with clients. A dozen or more stock and staff the food pantry, and more than 70 inspect and price merchandise. “We cannot perform our daily operations without volunteers,” O’Connor says. “It simply would be impossible.”
O’Connor grasps why the community volunteered 56,765 hours last year and donated new and gently used items that brought in more than $1.4 million: the mission. “When I ask volunteers why they are here, they reply, ‘Because we’re helping people.’ Our staff also does a wonderful job empowering them to do what they do, to do it well, and to have fun in a welcoming environment.”
The best three words to describe Georgetown just might be The Caring Place.
Emergency financial assistance
Clothing and basic household items vouchers
Seasonal programs (coats, fans, holiday meals)
Minor home repair and upgrades
The Shops at The Caring Place
Fabulous Finds: general merchandise
Re-Finds Antiques: antiques and collectibles
The Boutique: finer clothing and accessories
Outdoors and More: lawn, garden, and sporting equipment; major appliances
Hours and Contact Information
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
2000 Railroad Street