SVCM director speaks on Deck the Trees, plans for rest of year

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Deck the Trees raised more than $60,000 for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund in 2022.

Each year, the Deck the Trees fundraiser raises money for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund to help the organization heat the homes of those in need.

This year, Deck the Trees raised $63,178.61 for the Fuel Fund, a more than $20,000 increase from the year before.

More:Deck the Trees raises more then $60,000 for fuel fund

Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Executive Director Kevin Bates said the money goes a long way for the organization.

“We’re celebrating how amazing that is and how that’s such an increase,” Bates said. “We’re able to use that money directly to go back into energy heating and fuel assistance to the community.”

This season, Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry ended up spending $105,000 in assistance. By mid-December, that meant that 272 households and 581 individuals in those households received assistance.

Bates said the need is always growing, though, and the rest of the funds not made up from the fundraiser come from individual directed donations and from the organizations general budget.

He said two years ago, 100 gallons of fuel cost around $300. At the beginning of this winter season, the price was $616. This week, the same amount of fuel cost $565.

Moving into the new year, Bates said he is looking to not only continue helping those who need heating assistance, but also helping those who need housing, specifically with the Hope for Tomorrow program.

More:Kevin Bates to lead SVCM following Cheryl Wilson's departure

“A big part of our focus is we have these big questions around housing and security,” Bates said. “But also just simply around how to meet the growing need of our neighbors that is rapidly increasing.”

Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry executive director Kevin Bates said he is looking forward to helping with housing insecurity.

The Hope for Tomorrow program houses nine families with single mothers and their children for 18 months at a time.

Bates said there has been a lot of support for the program, but the need for the program is greater than the support Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry can provide.

“There’s been a lot of support in the community for it when we constructed the buildings and when we first got started,” Bates said. “Now that we’re a couple years into it, we’re realizing that the need is, of course, even greater than we can meet.”

During the months the families are housed there, mothers have access to a case manager who helps them work toward goals, whether that be educational, vocational or personal goals.

Bates said many of the families are working through trauma, including some fleeing from domestic violence situations, and Hope for Tomorrow gives them a chance to for a better future.

“Having that stability gives them a chance to sit down and maybe deal with some of that trauma and then be able to work towards these vocational goals and work towards stability,” Bates said. “At the end of the program, the point is to get them into stable housing.”

Bates said Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry works with other local organizations to bring as much help to the area as they can. He said his organization and others are also looking to help with a cold-weather shelter in the area.

He said he appreciates the support of the community through all of Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry’s endeavors and hopes the support continues.

“Even as we are challenging our community to continue to meet these massive needs that are out there and in recognition that our neighbors who are facing poverty and facing these really tough situations, we often think that it’s just that they need us,” Bates said. “In reality we need each other.”