The Manna Center
History, Functions and Organization
Imagine an organization, staffed primarily by senior citizen volunteers, who feed on an annual basis nearly half the population of Siloam Springs. That statement is not the stuff of fiction but instead is a short description of the Manna Center, a faith-based non-profit organization.
The Manna Center was founded by a group of concerned individuals from seven local churches who recognized that there was a growing need for food and clothing assistance for needy families in Siloam Springs. Traditionally those needs were met through the efforts of individual church pastors and secretaries. However, the Manna Center founders recognized that the volume of people in need was exceeding the capacity of the churches to cope with requests for aid and assistance. Moreover, most churches did not have the resources to coordinate their aid efforts and avoid duplication of effort. The consensus was that a centralized facility could relieve the churches of this burden and provide an increased level of material assistance.
On December 2, 1993, the Manna Center opened its doors at 111 West Ashley Street. It was a small operation; only open two days a week. but business was brisk, and the Center soon outgrew the building. In 1995 the Manna Center moved downtown to the southeast corner of Broadway and University and expanded business hours. The volume of client assistance continued to grow and by 1998 the center relocated to its location on Kenwood Street behind the Highland Park Center. Space grew tight on Kenwood Street and the Manna Center once again moved to larger quarters. This time moving to their new building in 2006 to sustain its ministry for the future.
In 1998 the Manna Center opened a clothing thrift store to further support the benevolent ministry into our community. The store has become a vital part of the Manna Center success. Clothes are washed and ironed before placing on the rack for sale or to give away to the needy. We currently operate 3 washers and dryers continuously 9-5 daily.
The mission of the Manna Center has remained unchanged – to share with all persons in need as evidenced in Matthew’s Gospel (25:35-46). It is a simple, enduring, yet vital mission. The Center focuses on basic needs and offers other assistance as funded when needed. The emphasis is on emergency aid and assistance in order to help clients work through the crisis that brought them to the Center’s doors. Each client seeking assistance is interviewed in order to assess his or her specific needs. for food assistance, clients receive enough groceries to last for a 7-day period. Quantity of foodstuffs depends on family size. Select personal hygiene items are also provided. Clients may also receive a voucher for $20 in clothing per family member. Clients may receive food and clothing aid at the Manna Center up to three times within a six-month calendar period (six) times annually or more if warranted) if there is a demonstrated need. The Manna Center refers clients to agencies and organizations who can best meet needs other than food and clothing. In light of numerous chronic and acute health issues observed during the client interview process, the manna Center began limited prescription drug assistance in April 2003 and limited rent assistance through grant monies and Office of Human Concern in Rogers. Rental assistance has been deferred to the Genesis House. The Manna Center also provides clients with limited seasonal assistance with school supplies and Christmas Toys.
A confederation of local churches, the United Way of Benton County and United Way of Gentry, local businesses and organizations, and generous private benefactors currently support the Manna Center. Since the Center is community based, an in order to avoid duplication of effort with other community organizations in Northwest Arkansas, a geographical boundary defines the area of support. The Manna Center supports and area comprising roughly a 15-mile radius form the Center’s current location. Key town within this support area include Siloam Springs, West Siloam Springs, Watts, Colcord and Gentry. Clent assistance levels have risen over the years commensurate with the growth of Siloam Springs, Western Benton County, and the two eastern Oklahoma counties adjacent to the Arkansas state line. In 2008 a partnership was established with Decatur Schools and in 2020 plans for another location in Colcord.
Volunteer agencies rise and fall based on the character of its volunteer force and level of community support. The Mann Center is no exception to this general rule and any success attributed to the Manna Center is based squarely on these two factors. The Manna Center has approximately 65 volunteers on its rolls. Most are well over 65. Age has not dimmed their religious faith, strength of character, and commitment to selfless public service. Many are “legacy volunteers”, actively engaged since the day the Manna Center firs opened. Collectively they accrue over 10,000 volunteer hours annually.
In terms of community support, the manna Center has benefited from an exceptionally deep reservoir of compassion and concern reflection well of the Greater Siloam Springs community. Community Churches and United Way support is exceptional, and the Center is further aided by generous corporate assistance. Civic organization food drives organized by the Postal service, Girl Scouts, community schools, and Kiwanis and Lions Clubs are of immense importance. John Bron University students occasionally aid the Center with special seasonal projects and various other heavy lifting tasks. The BU basketball TP Game also donates TP when their sponsor selects us as the recipient.
The Siloam Springs community will undoubtedly grow over the forthcoming decade,
and God willing, the Manna Center will continue serving those in need.