A local outreach network that distributes food, household supplies and even Christmas presents to anyone in need has adequate storage space for the first time in 15 years thanks to help from the city, county and the United Way.

Partners gathered at the Brompton Lane warehouse facility on Friday to celebrate the opening of the Community Unity Resource Center, which will be home to the endless efforts of Churches Outreach Network. The facility features about 8,000 square feet of storage and office space that the organization and its partners can use as their goodwill base for humanitarian relief.

“We need resource centers in every community, we need this in every community because when a storm comes you want to be able to have a place where its at,” said Churches Outreach founder and organizer the Rev. Rodney Coles.

Coles was joined by Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly, Pitt County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin McLawhorn, United Way of Pitt County representatives and many others during the morning ribbon-cutting and celebration.

The city, county and United Way each helped fund a one-year lease on the facility, dividing the $31,000 contract three ways.

Churches Outreach partners with multiple agencies in the county including the Department of Social Services, the Greenville Housing Authority, the Salvation Army and Pitt County Schools, to distribute food to the hungry year-round and to share cleaning supplies and household goods after disasters like hurricanes and floods. Volunteers with the effort even work with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program to ensure no child goes without a gift at Christmas.

Coles said over the years he has had to beg and borrow for places to store donations the effort receives and supplies it purchases with donated funds. From year to year, volunteers have rarely worked from the same spot. Earlier this year, someone broke into a storage space he had secured on Albemarle Avenue and stole pandemic aid including hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies valued at $7,000.

Without adequate storage space, Coles said the organization has had to turn away supplies that could have helped people. Now, it will be able to accept them.

“We have been refusing stuff that has come in in the community and we had nowhere to place it,” he said. “Now we have somewhere to place it. ... We needed to have one place where people could get their stuff working with the agencies.”

Coles said all funding for the facility as well as the lease is handled through the United Way, which will help raise funds to extend the lease into future years. Churches Outreach and other organizations will help in the funding as well, and Coles said he hopes the county and city will continue their support.

McLawhorn said Coles has done tremendous work in the community since he arrived here from New York in 2005.

“So on behalf of the Pitt County Board of Commissioners, we certainly support your efforts and will continue to do so because you are doing the work of God and we certainly appreciate that,” McLawhorn said.

Connelly said Churches Outreach has worked with the city on numerous occasions to meet disaster needs and assist residents in need.

“When I look at the name, the Community Unity Network resource center, it’s almost like another loaded title for it because it embodies our community beyond just Greenville, Pitt County, it’s all of our areas, and it’s unity,” Connelly said.

The network teams with nonprofit groups, churches and ministries to supply humanitarian relief wherever its needed, said Paul Dunn of Lutheran Services Carolinas.

“We have shared with all of North Carolina, we have brought products into Georgia all because of what the county, city, United Way and Interfaith Ministries did,” Dunn said.

Now that the facility is open, Coles said Churches Outreach Network is ready to able to accept donations of hygiene and clean supplies, water, non-perishable foods and other necessities in addition to cash for ongoing pandemic relief efforts. Call 341-3077 or Coles at 717-9600 to coordinate a drop-off time or make monetary donations to United Way.