Area Churches Together Serving (ACTS) is a volunteer-led and volunteer-staffed collaborative effort of 60 churches of different faiths in Aiken County, South Carolina. The member churches represent an ecumenical group that spans the race and class divisions within a Southern county—big and small churches; rural, suburban, and inner-city congregations; white, African-Americans, and Hispanic; mainline denominations and newly formed charismatic groups.
ACTS has served the indigent for emergencies and temporary needs in Aiken for 12 years. Today, more than 380 active volunteers serve burned-out families, abused women, low-income families and the homeless, through a referral system that includes the medical community, social service agencies, and member churches. Marge Glauser manages ACTS and there is also an Administrative Assistant. These are the only two paid positions.
In 12 years of operation, ACTS has provided a week’s worth of food, helped to clothe local residents, given furniture and house wares and vouchers for prescription medication, transportation, and utility bills for an average of 3,000 people per year. Their food distribution program for the elderly and poor alone means sorting and packaging six tons of food each month. ACTS began operations one day a week in a rented “hole-in-the-wall” office. The agency now operates six days per week in its own building, with office and warehouse facilities. In addition, ACTS helps support a free clinic that operates two evenings a week and missionaries in four foreign countries.
Aiken County has always had generous citizens who willingly contribute to meet the needs of the less fortunate. However, such charity was not always well coordinated and, as a result, needs went unmet and resources were wasted. ACTS volunteers have coordinated the charitable outreach efforts of their member churches and of the business community to provide services with efficiency and thrift.
ACTS realized at its inception that serious societal needs cannot be met piecemeal, that indigent families have multiple and interlocking needs. ACTS volunteers work to help needy neighbors get on their feet and on the way to better economic circumstances. The agency also ministers to spiritual needs and help to reconnect individuals with the larger community.
ACTS is a friendly, efficient place. Since volunteers dress to work in a warehouse environment, the casual observer cannot always separate the clients from the volunteer staff. ACTS is one place in Aiken County where people of all economic backgrounds, races, and ages work together harmoniously toward well-articulated goals. ACTS has grown from a small outreach involving a few churches to a large and effective volunteer organization that serves a geographical area the size of Rhode Island.
Volunteers serve on the boards that govern ACTS activities and staff specific functions on a monthly or weekly basis. Many of the ACTS volunteers have been there for the full 12 years.