Dale Matthews was a high school science teacher for 17 years; work that prepared her for her current role as the director of Clayton Area Ministries (CAM). She and her husband Steve own Matthews Motors in Clayton and have two children, Tyler and Morgan.
Q: Where are you from originally?
I’m from Dunn, North Carolina. I bought a piece of property in Clayton while I was teaching at Smithfield Selma High School. Then I met my husband down at the beach one Saturday and found out he was from Raleigh. We started dating and then when he decided to go out on his own in the car business we got married and built our house here.
Q: When did you quit teaching?
I retired in 1995, right before Morgan was born. I was needed at our business at that time. I kind of hauled around babies. I’d take a baby in each arm and go to the DMV in Smithfield for my husband. Then I’d keep them in the play pen on Wednesdays and he’d go buy cars. We’ve been very, very blessed.
Q: What got you interested in working for CAM?
When the kids got in kindergarten I got to know Clessie Pollard, who was pretty much running the food pantry by himself. I was looking for something hands-on where I actually helped people. I came over one day and worked with him. He was in his 80’s at that point and I saw that he needed somebody. He became my mentor, you might say, and a wonderful father figure. I grew to love him and he helped me along my faith journey. He taught me how to deal with people and how to accept people for who they are. So he eventually gave me the reins to be the director here and he eventually passed away.
He and his wife and four other couples started CAM in 1982. It’s been around a while.
Q: CAM is affiliated with lots of area churches, but you said he helped you in your faith journey. Do you attend a church in Clayton?
I actually attend First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. We’ve been members since we got married in 1991, although Steve has been a member back since the ‘70’s. Our children were baptized there and we still go to our home church. I do have relationships as director of CAM with the churches in Clayton. I do attend churches here and I do speak to the churches. I speak to circle groups. I also speak to Boy and Girl Scouts, schools, clubs, anyone.
Q: Do you enjoy the outreach work?
I do. I really do. This organization is run totally with volunteers. Nobody here is paid. I consider my main purpose seeing that the money flows in. We have to have money flow if we’re going to keep moving along. The relationships that I form in the community and our one fundraiser, CAM Slam that is a silent auction and golf tournament, fund us. The CAM Slam has been pretty lucrative for us. We made $22,600 this last year. We want to try to get more attendees to the auction so we can bring in more money.
Q: What kind of hours do you work?
The volunteers can be here anytime working. Most of our volunteers are retired people. CAM is open to our clients Monday through Friday from one to three. I have some wonderful retired men who go to the food bank shopping for me each week. Something that has really worked well for me is that I have each day of the week represented and staffed by a different area church and their volunteers. They take information back to the churches about things we need or are low in. They are great about keeping food coming in year around. This time of year is great. We are really stocked right now for Christmas. If I didn’t have churches doing food drives and sending things in it dwindles during the spring and summer months.
Q: What other services does CAM provide?
We also help with electricity and liquid propane (LP) gas. We can help the client one time per year with electricity or LP gas. We don’t give money. We write the check directly to the gas or electric provider.
We see a lot of people wanting help with rent. Rent is something we do not help with, because rent can be a slippery slope. We had to cut that out a long time ago. It’s God’s money and I’m very particular about being a good steward of God’s money. That’s essential if your going to have a strong non-profit organization.
Q: How long do you assist people in need?
We will give a client food one time per month for five months. We have to have some parameters. We’re not going to take you on like we’re Food Lion. At the end of the five months, if the client is still in need they are required to take a course at Johnston Community College in family budget management. It’s a two- to three-hour course that helps the person think about their priorities and how to make the most of the money they do have.That usually does it. If, however, they are still in serious shape I will give them additional time.
Q: When you see clients that aren’t making good decisions and are perhaps taking advantage of the system are you troubled?
Being a teacher showed me that some good, good people will make bad choices and take the easy way if they can. I love everyone. I feel like I have the hands and feet of Jesus Christ and I have to help and do what Jesus would do if He were here. But, at the same time when they are blatantly taking advantage of you, you have to nip that in the bud. You have to be a good steward of God’s money.
Q: So you came to your position with open eyes.
When I started Mr. Clessie would listen to the person’s story about their needs and help guide me. He knew every single person that walked through the door. We are more 21st century now. We require people to prove a need with their financial information.
Q: You almost act as a financial advisor to your clients.
If someone has an income and bills that leave them with $500 remaining at the end of the month, I ask them why they need help with their electric bill. They need to rethink their priorities.
If I help a few severely needy people in the day’s span that I’m here it humbles my heart. Jesus tells us there are always going to be poor people. It is our responsibility to take care of them. I didn’t say take them to raise, but care for them. I want to teach them to fish.
Correspondent Holly Lock