Helping those in need

Jack Chase is the founder of The Needs Network, which finds goods and services for people in need.

By Stephen H. Cowles | 247-4538

January 30, 2009

Antreia Cotton and her three children recently became homeless. A severe illness kept her from working, then unable to afford a place to live.

Immediately, she needed stability and hope of any kind. While she's close to finding new shelter, the Newport News resident said she received help through another form: The Needs Network.

"Someone referred me to First Call, which directed me here," Cotton said. "They gave me food, some clothing, Pampers. I've been back, and they blessed me even with a coat. They just opened up to the community. There's just a love that comes through (founder) Jack Chase."

And to think that the network began in a garage. Nine years ago, Chase organized and supervised through e-mails a way for people to find goods and services. The network is intended chiefly for folks such as Cotton, who are without a home, as well as the disabled, elderly and families in need.

The idea started when he was a regional welfare agent for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He traveled throughout Virginia and northern North Carolina, teaching people how to live within their budgets.

During that time, the Hampton resident developed an e-mail list. The first experience of putting it to use occurred in Harrisonburg. A woman in the group told him of her need for a sewing machine. He put the word out, and "five quickly became available, including one from another woman in the group. Within a day, the problem and solution were found in one room."

"I realized people all over who are suffering," he said. "Many are above poverty level but, in reality, suffering just as much because at a certain income level, they can't qualify for certain kinds of government assistance. When I was released (from church service), I couldn't stop.

"I solicited individuals and corporations. Not everyone had an e-mail then. (Now) when we find someone, I broadcast that news and almost immediately instant success."

Today, this wellspring of food, furniture, clothing, appliances and contacts for jobs is housed in three side-by-side storage units in Newport News. A grand opening took place last month at a Tyler Avenue location.

"It was in the back of our minds that we need a warehouse," he said, "and this past June the opportunity became available."

Chase is assisted in this project by his neighbor and friend of 25 years, Steve Hinton, who helps with pickups, delivery and sorting of contributions.

The service itself also has a couple of needs. First, partners (such as ministers) to help in identifying people truly needing some the network's service.

"We've tried to be a support to existing services, without being redundant," said Chase.

The second item: "We would hope for money." All the staff members, such as Olivia Torain, work on a volunteer basis, but the rent and utilities (about $4,000 monthly) need to be paid regularly, and there's no independent source for funds beyond what's been donated or comes out of Chase's pockets.


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