Limited funding, unlimited hopePublished 9:45pm Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Bishop Samuel Jones Jr. is a movie buff. For decades, he’s collected Hollywood greats — the classics, from “Spartacus” to “Cleopatra,” from the original production of “The Fly” to “The Incredible Shrinking Man.”
Jones said he put two and two together this summer: his love for movies and the children he works with in the Purpose of God Annex summer program. Now, his camp participants get a peak each day at movies from his 8,000-strong collection. In the process, the money spent in past years on outings to the movies is saved — another cost-cutting measure in a long list made since Purpose of God Annex lost three-quarters of its funding over the past year, said Jones.
“Just like everyone else, we have suffered financially,” Jones said. “The reason we’re still moving is because we have the passion — we may not have the money.”
The passion is for the youth of Beaufort County, especially at-risk youth, and creating a structured environment where they are taught everything from social skills to schoolwork ahead in the fall to how to play ping-pong at the recreational center in the fellowship hall at Jones’s church on River Road. Even the movies he picks for his 35 summer-program students, 17 of which were referred by the court system, teach lessons about values, according to Jones.
The program began in 1999 and is the product of Jones’ — and his wife, Mother Regina Jones’ — concern over what they view as an increasing lack of respect for life by today’s youth, especially in the wake of the 13 murders by two students at a high school in Columbine, Colo.
“We kept hearing the news,” said Jones. “That these children don’t understand the value of life. … We knew there was a problem and started looking for ways to help out. … We wanted to make a facility where they could channel their frustrations.
“God gave me a vision of Purpose of God Annex — and helping youth in our community.”
The two built Purpose of God Annex from scratch, and for the first two and half years, the Joneses supported the afterschool program with their savings, Jones said. Over the next 13 years, the program expanded, and a 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. summer camp was added. Funding came available from a variety of sources, but when the current recession hit, money they had counted to pay several full-time staff began to dry up, said Jones.
“We have been fortunate and blessed that people have given to us and for what purpose it was given,” Jones said. “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride for awhile. … Life — it’s like tides: they come in and come out.”
To help keep the nonprofit afloat in the short term, the City of Washington allotted Purpose of God Annex $24,000 in the current fiscal year’s budget. The summer camp runs on limited funding from Beaufort County United Way, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, grants from the Jonathan Havens Charitable Trust and a First Presbyterian Church foundation. The Joneses have pared down where they could and are currently seeking new and untapped resources, Jones said.
“We’ve been very successful at what we do. We’re not going to compromise it. We’re not going to dilute it,” he added.
“Money is a big issue. … We need people in the community to help us find new foundations and volunteers. We’re hanging by a lint ball — we don’t even have a thread,” Jones laughed.