Home Sweet Home

On July 14, 1981, a grandmother caring for five young grandchildren sought help in the form of housing. Ms. Dunston was raising a 6-year-old boy, 8 and 9-year-old girls, and a set of 11-year-old twins (a boy and girl). Because she lived in a housing project, she did not have enough room or resources to keep all the children there. Ms. Dunston reached out to what was then The Ark Urban Ministries Center where she was referred to the Calvary Pentecostal Camp. Reverend Wallace Helflin and his mother, the camp’s owners, welcomed the entire family for that entire summer.

In March 1986, a man arrived at the Ark with his wife, two children, a dog, and a cat. He had brought them to the South after being laid off from his still mill job in Ohio. That day the center’s first director, Sister Helen Wright, provided them with food and shelter. The man eventually started a painting business with his son and was able to get his family back on their feet.

The Ark Center started as a shelter for men that housed 25 per night. In November 1985, the center added a two-story addition in order to provide emergency shelter for up to 10 women per night, thanks to The Presbyterian Urban Council of Raleigh, a group of 19 Presbyterian churches in the Raleigh area. The council provided most of the funding for the women’s wing.

These are just a couple of what is now Urban Ministries of Wake County’s first success stories. The next four decades is history.

Fast-forward 40 years later. UMWC’s Helen Wright Center for Women (formerly the Ark), now temporarily houses up to 70 women. Not only does the center provide shelter for those in need, but also medical resources, case management and an extensive workforce development program. In Fiscal Year 2021, 45 women graduated from the workforce development program with certifications to become pharmacy technicians, medical administrative assistants and physical therapy technicians.

Once the women are employed, they will save 75% of their earnings to cover expenses once they leave the program through a 60-day residency program that aims to help women transition from the shelter to a long-term home.

Please take the time to explore some of the heart-warming and inspiring stories from current and former HWCW guests.

Here’s to 40 more years of laying the foundation of home.