“Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
— Matthew 25:40
It was 22 years ago that a group of local church congregations came together to activate a common goal — to do something for those less fortunate than themselves. David Crocker, then-pastor of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, organized the group and Fayetteville’s Operation Inasmuch was born. They partnered with Fayetteville Urban Ministry initially to reach out to the community. The objective was to help families in need make basic repairs to their homes. Volunteers would provide the labor, corporate partners would, in some instances, provide the materials. Others would sell supplies at reduced prices.
Operation Inasmuch worked closely with the Fayetteville Redevelopment Department to qualify for small Community Development Block Grants. “We found we could work on 20 homes for the same money that the government would do two,” said Executive Director Sue Byrd. Volunteers from as many as two dozen churches scoured older neighborhoods looking for single-family owner-occupied homes that needed minor repairs. “It was quite an undertaking,” Byrd said. Over the years, hundreds of homes have been worked on, from minor roof and siding repairs to hand railings and steps. The so-called “blitz days” were held twice a year at first, but have been scaled back to one annual undertaking in the spring.
Since 2009, Operation Inasmuch has expanded its outreach to become a beacon of hope for the homeless. “We are not enablers,” said Byrd. She said the organization provides opportunities to the homeless. “They’ve got every chance in the world if they want it.” Inasmuch is headquartered on donated property on Hillsboro Street at the corner of Chance Street.
The charity serves breakfast to the needy weekday mornings, and serves as a clearing house for information needed by street people. Byrd is quick to confirm what other officials have said — that area panhandlers are not homeless. They are professional beggars who take advantage of “our community’s abundance of compassionate people.” Operation Inasmuch encourages people not to “street feed” the homeless but to support local agencies which provide meals. “When people share a meal together, their lives are nourished; they’re not just fed,” Byrd said.
The organization’s most recent undertaking was the grand opening of The Lodge, a shelter for men. It’s diagonally across the street from the ministry’s office on Chance Street, and provides overnight stays for up to 40 men. The facility has a kitchen, restrooms and showers plus a day room for various activities. Two dormitories are lined with Spartan-like single beds. It’s much more than a place to sleep, said Byrd. An individual, once screened, can stay free for one week so long as he does his chores and spends his days looking for work. Phase two requires that the tenant pay $5 a night and be registered with NC Works at the state employment office nearby.
During the third phase of residency, once men have gotten jobs, they are rewarded with semi-private rooms, again for $5 a night. Ultimately, successful residents can move into one of the half dozen homes Operation Inasmuch owns on nearby Frink Street. They are issued keys to their homes and pay $225 a month for rent. Up to five men have separate bedrooms in each house. Fayetteville Operation Inasmuch’s stated purpose is “to go outside the church walls to a world in need, offering the talents and gifts with which we have been blessed.”