The economy had gone bust. Many people in Georgetown were laid off and were having trouble paying their rent and utility bills. Many were hungry and were unable to afford to put food on the table for their families, or buy clothing for the children. So it’s today? No, it’s 1985 in Georgetown, Texas. Back then, families were going from church to church and to the County seeking financial assistance, clothing and food. Today, people from all over rural Williamson County can go to one place – The Caring Place – for true emergency assistance.
Although many leaders and volunteers helped make The Caring Place a reality, it was actually two women from the community who started it all. Yolanda (Yoli) Branson, a volunteer at St. Vincent De Paul Society, and Marty Maxwell, an outreach worker at the Madella Hillard Neighborhood Center with Williamson Burnet Counties Opportunities, had a vision. They approached the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance (comprised of the pastors of eleven Georgetown churches at the time) and asked them to create a single place where people needing emergency assistance could go for help.
Doris Krohmer, an original Board member, for whom The Caring Place’s Volunteer of the Year Award is named, provides a perspective on the origins of The Caring Place. “My pastor at First Presbyterian invited me to that first organizational meeting. You had all these ministers at the end of their ropes. They were broke. The economy in Georgetown had just gone bust. Many people had lost their jobs, especially people in construction, and they were really suffering. There was no coordinated effort to help. Welfare was weeks behind. The ministers were desperate because there were no resources available. They realized that if they pulled together they would be able to do far more than they could individually.”
Rev. Tim Antwerp from Christ Lutheran and Rev. David Duncan of First Presbyterian took the lead in helping to organize the churches to create such a community center. They also formed the first Board of Directors, made up of a lay volunteer from each of the member churches and additional community leaders like Charles Steger (the first Board President), Norm Peters (the first Board Vice-President), Howard Burt, William Hoeflein (the first Treasurer), Sue Meadows and Doris Krohmer.
Former Georgetown Mayor Carl Doering donated the first building, an old slaughter house on 8th Street. It had no heat and no air conditioning, and presented a real challenge to clean up. Even so, the original founding team was very excited to get into the building. The first day of business was June 8, 1985. The inventory was a few bags of donated clothes and the cash box contained $17 in donations. With a great deal of faith, the first few volunteers set about recruiting volunteers from the various churches and civic organizations.
In 1986, Jeanne Mosier generously donated a space in the Industrial Park North for The Caring Place, which had already outgrown the slaughter house. The organization grew and prospered, though not without enduring and surviving some tough economic times. In 1990, The Caring Place opened a new, larger facility at 2001 Railroad Avenue, which allowed the thrift store to become a significant source of income. Soon outgrowing that facility, the current building at 2000 Railroad was built in 2004, and enlarged the very next year. Six years later, that building was bursting at the seams. The 2011 expansion provided a larger food pantry, food warehouse, an expanded Client Services Department and space for additional specialty shops within The Shops at The Caring Place.
The Caring Place continues to fulfill the mission for which it was created back in 1985. It remains a local ministry of the community which serves the community. The Caring Place exists because of the generosity of the Georgetown community and because of the confidence the community has in the ability of The Caring Place to step up, and not step over, our neighbors in need.