In 1977, the Greater Jackson Fund for Emergency Relief was chartered by area churches as a non-profit organization. While pooling resources, no one church would be overburdened by the need of this community. The fund was handled by local ministers on a rotating basis. In 1980, it was deactivated.
The recession in the early 1980’s impressed upon the churches the need for cooperation in response to the increasing number of emergency assistance cases in the area. In 1982, representatives from several churches met and discussed the urgent need to reactivate the fund with a salaried staff person to coordinate the activities. This was made possible by a gift from the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson.
Since persons from the church community would assume responsibility for supervising the fund’s administration as well as contribute to its support, the name changed to “The Greater Jackson Churches Fund for Emergency Relief.” Over 40 churches were involved in some way with the fund’s operation.
Over the years, the organization has changed and grew with the needs of Jackson. At times, we operated Medishare – a group of doctors and dentists, a loan program for women to start home-based businesses, and were active in welfare reform.
In 1983, the fund was made a member agency of the United Way of West Tennessee. This funding provided the financial stability which permitted the Fund to provide both staff and resources to address the emergency needs of individuals and families in the Jackson area. A food pantry was established and a rented church building was turned into an overnight shelter for winter nights that year. It was called the Crossroad Shelter.
In 1991, the Board of Directors and the Executive Director created a mission statement which focused on providing emergency aid and helping people in need become self-sufficient. We recognized the need to help people break out of the poverty cycle. The name was changed to “Area Relief Ministries” to make it more recognizable to the public.
In 2006, ARM’s founder and Executive Director, Mrs. Mary Tyler retired and after much prayer, the board hired Lisa Peoples as the Executive Director. ARM then began the Room in the Inn program, in which we partner with local churches to house the community’s homeless population during the cold winter months, in 2007. Without a permanent shelter in our city, this program gave ARM another avenue to provide emergency aid to people in need.
In 2009, ARM moved to our new location on Church Street. Due to the generosity of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the organization obtained the space necessary to begin the Open ARM Day Center, a centralized hospitality center to interact with the homeless population in order to provide the services they need.
We also assisted with utilities through a federal grant program, bought homes as a part of our Move Home program to provide affordable standard housing to low-income families, and operated the HUB Club, an after school and summer tutoring and mentoring program.
In 2017, the board hired the current Executive Director, Mike Roby, bringing years of experience with marketing and fundraising to the organization. After over 40 years since the The Greater Jackson Fund was created, Area Relief Ministries looks a little different. Nevertheless, no matter what form ARM takes, we will continue to strive to fulfill our mission of serving the Lord by providing aid for those in our community who are in need.
ARM is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors with day to day missions carried out by a staff.