Churches Joint Council on Human Needs in Benton
November 18-24, 2019
By Cody Berry
Saline County has many local charities, the most unique of which is the Churches Joint Council on Human Needs (CJCOHN), sometimes called “CJOHN.” CJCOHN was created to provide temporary assistance to needy families in Saline County in times of need or emergency assistance. CJCOHN provides its clients with food, clothing, and other household items when needed. CJCOHN is not a government agency. It is a private non-profit funded in part by organizations like the United Way, private donations, annual fund raisers, food drives, and through additional help from local churches.
There are currently 15 churches with members on the joint council that meets each month to coordinate CJCOHN’s efforts in Saline County. By 1976, it became apparent to church leaders at the time that a central location was needed where they could send those requesting help as some requests were too large for any one church to accommodate. So, they decided to pool their resources and CJCOHN was born. In 1994, after moving around for many years, CJCOHN purchased a small piece of property at 103 East Elm St. in Benton, where the current CJCOHN facility stands today.
Pam Ray, CJCOHN’s Food Director, said “We help about 700 families a month with food and we also have a clothes closet upstairs so people can get clothing for their family.” In addition, Ray added, “We also have a senior program where we deliver food to low income seniors once a month.” Ray began working for CJCOHN after her retirement in 1991. Once a week, Ray and a crew of volunteers unload truckloads of food from local stores and food banks to stock the shelves at CJCOHN. CJCOHN’s staff and workers are all volunteers from member churches who rotate from day to day. Each church has a set workday.
CJCOHN’s facility currently has about 3,000 active files each representing an individual or family that has asked for help. Clients come during business hours every Tuesday and Friday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Each client’s requests are taken by volunteers in the facility’s waiting room. After the request is processed, a small army of volunteers goes to work packing bags of food, toilet paper, detergent, diapers, and other items for each order. Clients can also go upstairs to pick out clean clothing for themselves and their children. Families can receive food once a month and clothing up to four times a year.
Christmas Baskets are given out the Saturday before Christmas in cooperation with the Kiwanis and Benton Schools Elf Club. Each family receives food and ingredients for a Christmas dinner, candy, and gifts for any children under 16. Diapers are available once every three months. CJCOHN’s biggest fund raiser of the year is its annual Hunger Hike on the second Sunday in October. Hikers pay a registration fee of $25 and take part in a 2.5k hike around historic downtown Benton. There are cash prizes for those who raise the most money in four different age groups and door prizes as well. Tee shirt sponsorships are $100.
Items needed by CJCOHN include clean, gently used clothing, food, 16z coffee cans, toiletry items, new diapers, towels, wash cloths and bed linens among others. Monetary donations are also accepted. CJCOHN’s clients must live in Saline County and meet the income guidelines set by the USDA. For more information contact CJCOHN at (501) 776-2912 or on Facebook at facebook.com/cjcohn.cares.
Sources: Pam Ray, Facebook. com/cjcohn.cares and CJCOHN.
PHOTO CAPTION: (Photos provided)
1. CJCOHN staff includes case workers who interview and screen persons who apply for assistance. In a given month, several hundred volunteers will contribute to various CJCOHN activities.