The Ark United Ministry Outreach Center has provided more than $900,000 in financial services to date, and its success stands where it does today because of Executive Director Lucy Hudgens.
The Ark is an outreach center that provides financial assistance to the low-income population of Athens. According to the United States Census Bureau, about 34% of the Athens-Clarke County lives in poverty. Spearheaded by Hudgens, The Ark works hard every day to better this statistic.
“Twenty-five years is a long time for a nonprofit to continue doing what we are doing,” said Hudgens.
The foundation receives 60 percent of its funding through partnerships with about 20 to 30 local congregations. The rest comes from individual grants and fundraising. Hudgens is crucial to The Ark in establishing and maintaining these relationships, and the money raised through these relationships can be attributed to her, according to Tom Cochran, Board President.
“I was an early proponent of hiring Lucy due to her overall fit with The Ark’s philosophy,” said The Ark employee and volunteer, Donna Wade. “Lucy has a calm, respectful demeanor which transfers to our clients and volunteers. I think one of her best attributes is her ability to exhibit empathy with our clients yet remain consistent with the policies of The Ark.”
Hudgens joined The Ark as soon as her family moved from Charleston to Athens and has been a part of the organization for four years now. Hudgens interviews up to eight people each day to see if they qualify for The Ark’s financial assistance. She also plans fundraisers and keeps up with The Ark’s local supporters.
“It may be a family who is not able to pay for a child's medicine or rotten tooth extraction; or a family who has the power cut off and a child is not able to do homework; or to a family who does not have money for school uniforms,” said volunteer Dawn Meyers. “Whenever I have contacted the Ark, Lucy is so wonderful about listening to a family's story, no matter what it may be.”
The Ark’s assistance comes in the form of rent and utilities, food bank referrals, transportation assistance and prescription medication.
“The hardest part of my job is having to say no because people don’t meet the requirements,” said Hudgens. “Understanding the situation that people are in is something that is hard to get, and asking for help isn’t easy.”
In order for a family to qualify for financial assistance, there must have been a recent loss of income beyond one’s control. Hudgens speaks with the neighbors of those asking for help to verify this loss and get a better grasp on whom she is working with and how serious their predicament is.
“Lucy’s leadership and insight have enabled expanded and improved assistance programs and services that benefit not only those who come to The Ark seeking assistance but also those with whom we partner,” said Cochran. Hudgens has enabled The Ark’s assistance to reach up to $7,000 a month, which helps around 50 to 70 families. She has also played a monumental role in preventing roughly 20 evictions and 40 disconnects each month.
“Lucy has the full faith and confidence of the Board and the support of the staff and volunteers,” said Cochran. “She has earned the respect of her peers. We are fortunate to have Lucy as the Executive Director.”