Hendersonville’s Samaritan Center Supports Locals in Financial Distress.

by | Feb 2024

THE HENDERSONVILLE Samaritan Center, part of the Samaritan Association, is a multi-pronged assistance center serving the community for six decades. The center offers crucial services to those in need.

According to Executive Director Steve Brown, employed individuals facing immediate financial issues compose the center’s primary demographic.

“An employee who is bringing a wage home to pay for rent, pay for a mortgage, buy gasoline, a car payment — whatever — can suddenly be faced with unexpected financial strains, like immediate car or home repairs, or a sudden job loss or family crisis. And [if] you don’t have savings, you don’t have a company that understands, you don’t have sick leave, you don’t have whatever that is — you’re hurting pretty quickly. 

“That’s where we can step in. We can replace that money that pays your rent or electric bill or buy you some medication. We’re kind of a stopgap for folks who just have a need. And with inflation the way it’s been, [the price of] gasoline is up, and folks making $15-$16 an hour are living paycheck to paycheck to begin with. They need someone to fill the hole. And that’s what we do. We fill that hole.”

The coronavirus only added to the strain.

“We spent a lot of money during COVID just trying to fill the holes when people had to stay home.”

Brown said the immediate issue now is rent increases. This national crisis hits closer to home than one might expect.

“It costs a little more to live in Hendersonville than some places. The wages and salaries are still about the same. We fill some holes there, too.”

Even essential workers are not exempt from falling victim to financial scarcity.

“We still want servers, [and] we still want folks to change our tires. We still want those folks to help us. And we have to have them, but their salaries don’t add up for rentals. In the past year or two, we have found ourselves subsidizing rents. [That] is fine; we can do that, but that in itself is a crisis.”

The center’s large thrift store brings in about 60% of its revenue. Those in need may also be directed to a food bank or a soup kitchen.

“Through a church, two or three times a month, people in need can get a hot meal. We’re not really hard on who you are or how much you make to get that. If you say you’re hungry, then you’re hungry.”

The Samaritan Center’s reach extends even further; it also prepares care packages for elementary and middle school children. Teachers and counselors indicate which children may be experiencing food insecurity or scarcity during the weekends, and the center drops off around 200 packages every Friday. 

The Samaritan Center makes asking for help easy, aware that it takes courage to set pride aside and ignore the stigma often attached to seeking public assistance. 

“We’ve been here for over 60 years in some form. We own the building we’re in. It’s the old Hendersonville Library, which sits in the middle of town. Most of our clients come from recommendations, or they know to call the Samaritan Center. Or they hear about it through a church. They come through various sources throughout the community.” 

The Samaritan Center works exclusively within Hendersonville and is the only agency in the community providing such services, making it paramount to assist without discrimination. 

“I have helped some people you would have thought were doing very well — and [they] were. But they lost their business, they lost a spouse, went into a depression — things happened in their lives that broke them down to where they needed some financial help.” 

While economic fragility is sobering, Hendersonville is fortunate to have this caring resource combatting financial crises in times of instability. GN 

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