County reconsiders OIC's request
Commissioners to give organization additional $25,000
By Janet Conner-Knox
Times Staff Writer
Wilson County Board of Commissioners voted in the January meeting to reconsider OIC’s request for additional funding. A second nonprofit committee meeting was held on Dec. 29 to further discuss the issue. Howard Jones, founder of Wilson OIC, asked for an additional $75,000. But in a 5-2 vote, Jones’ organization will instead receive an additional $25,000. The money comes from dollars set aside for another nonprofit that did not qualify for the money. Those voting against the additional funds going to OIC were commissioners Chris Hill and Bill Blackman. The committee had met Dec. 2, but at that time Jones did not get the money. County management said then that Jones could come back next fiscal year and put in his request again.
Jones, who was present for the vote this month, thanked commissioners for the $25,000 during the public comments portion of the meeting. “Our purpose here in being in Wilson is economics,” Jones said. “Everybody knows we give away food, but that is not an OIC project. The food is a cost to us.” Jones said he agreed to be the site for the food giveaway because the community needs it. He also told commissioners that OIC has taken on the work the county used to do “One thing I want to make sure I am clear about is when this program first got started this was a county project,” Jones. “It was so expensive for the county, that Jerry Smith, who was the director of social services, told me, ‘This thing is killing me.’”
Jones saw the effect of the food giveaway and said he would take it on, but didn’t have any idea where the money to run the program would come from. “I took it on years ago and it has been a cost, too,” Jones said. “We’ve been doing it for the past 20 years and by the grace of God in the past 20 years I never come to the county. I never came to the city for any local money. I’ve been able to find grants and revenue from other places.” He said there are those who make donations that help with running the program and the food program is really needed. “How can I say no to 5,000 people,” Jones asked. “I appreciate the volunteers that come to help us.” Jones began telling commissioners that even though the food giveaway is on Wednesdays, the preparation begins on Mondays. “My staff has to close the shop for the whole week and there is no budget for that,” Jones said. “There is a lot of work that goes on before the curtain rises on Wednesday morning.” Jones said OIC stepped in to help the Wilson County Health Department years ago to assist them with AIDS testing and counseling. Jones said they built a clinic in his building. “It was our cost – no cost to the county,” Jones said.
Jones said that also cost OIC a lot of money. “Since the time we have been doing this, we have served over 1,100 cases every year,” Jones said. “We do screening. Every Friday and Saturday night we go out where the real cases are – what we call hot spots.” Jones said he’s got some staff where all they do is outreach for HIV/AIDS screening, awareness and counseling. On Thursdays, Jones said his staff goes into the jails to make sure inmates know how to prevent the spread of HIV and are tested. Additionally, Jones said they are responsible for finding hundreds of jobs for Wilson residents each year. “I just wanted you to know about OIC,” Jones said. “And thank you for the money.”