Silence speaks a thousand words

Agape Christian Counseling offers community a chance to help clients in need

by Josh Whitener

More families and individuals with limited means are now receiving counseling free of charge thanks to Agape Christian Counseling’s newly launched Silent Samaritans campaign.

The effort, started last year, gives community members an opportunity to contribute to scholarships that help pay for counseling for clients who don’t have the financial means to cover the fees.

When the center, located on Crown Centre Drive off Sardis Road North near Matthews, was started in the mid-1990s, Executive Director Ann Nooman knew there were prospective clients out there who needed counseling but just couldn’t afford it. A scholarship program was set up to cover the counseling fees for those clients.

“We see women, couples, families, just about everybody of all ages,” Nooman said. “Our scholarships are there for people who need it. We believe in helping people.”

With the recent economic downturn, more and more clients are unemployed, underemployed or simply living on a fixed income. To help meet the need for additional scholarship funds, Agape Christian Counseling launched the Silent Samaritans campaign.

The goal of the campaign is to spread awareness about the services Agape Christian Counseling provides and encourage those in the community who want to give back to contribute to the clients in need. “If (donors) know what the money’s going for and if they’re going to contribute to something, they might as well contribute to us,” Nooman said.

All of the money given by the Silent Samaritans – anonymous donors that contribute to Agape Christian Counseling – is set aside for scholarships; none of the funds go to cover administrative costs or other expenses. “The funds are marked as scholarship money,” Nooman said. “When someone contributes to a scholarship, it goes to a scholarship.”

Not only does Agape Christian Counseling offer community members a chance to give back – the nonprofit also allows donors to choose what type of counseling situation the money will be used for.

For example, if a contributor wants the funds to be used specifically for premarital counseling, single parents or families with children, he or she can specify that when the donation is made and the money will be set aside for those situations. All donors who contribute also receive a tax credit.

Agape Christian Counseling maintains a Christian perspective on counseling while also preserving its clinical fundamentals. “Agape is that unconditional acceptance and love that God has for us,” Nooman said. “We are committed to an orthodox Biblical approach to counseling, but we do not see ourselves as pastors, although we do see ourselves as an arm of the evangelical church.”

The center has nine counselors and a satellite location in Huntersville, where three counselors commute to provide their services. All counselors at Agape Christian Counseling are clinically trained professionals or interns working on their certification.

The center offers low-cost counseling with the interns to clients. In addition, the center offers special services to veterans of the armed forces and accepts TRICARE military health insurance.

Nooman said her long-range goal is to open a new location in the Gastonia area. But to do that, she needs volunteers to help get the word out and help with the marketing of its current location. “It’s a good place for people to volunteer, especially those who are interested in Christian mental health,” Nooman said.

And, of course, she needs the help of Silent Samaritans.

For information on how you can be a Silent Samaritan or volunteer with Agape Christian Counseling, visit www.agapechristiancounseling.org or call the center at 704-849-0144.

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