One of the largest nonprofit organizations in the region, Northwest Assistance Ministries was formed in 1983 when 10 church congregations pooled their resources in response to the oil and gas downturn brought about by the international oil glut.

"[The congregations] were being overwhelmed with requests for food and rent," NAM Executive Director Carole Little said. 'The concept of the ministry came out of the graduate school of social work at the University of Houston and was mapped out on a napkin."

The original ministry included a food pantry, resale store and had one paid staff member, Little said.

Today, NAM is supported by more than 50 congregations, has between 79 and 85 employees based on need and nearly 3,000 volunteers, she said. It supports 20 zip codes inhabited by 1.5 million individuals.

NAM is a nonprofit social service organization aimed at supplying basic needs to north and northwest Harris County. All of the programs are focused on meeting people's needs and family stabilization through food, shelter, education, transportation and primary health care.

"Surprisingly, we have a number of families that are on the brink of homelessness," Little said. "Many are living in their cars."

About half of NAM's $10.3 million budget for this year goes toward helping families in crisis. That includes Emergency Basic Needs, a program that provides food, shelter, utilities, clothing, transportation and prescription medication to needy families.

That portion of the budget also provides for Assistance–Housing Services, the Joanne Watford Nutrition Center and Interfaith Hospitality Network, a partnership with other congregations to provide help to homeless families.

NAM recently partnered with Harris County Housing Authority to provide 100 vouchers to 100 families with homeless children, Little said.

The goal is for the families to become independent and not need the voucher over time.

"Our goal is 30 days [for the families] to get back on their feet, but it is between 30 to 60 right now," she said. "The housing authority has committed to a second year."

Another NAM program, the Children's Clinic located in NAM's headquarters, has functioned for more than 20 years. A partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the clinic receives about 45 visits each day, Clinic Director Erin Broussard said.

Broussard said UT Health provides a medical director and advanced practice nurse practitioner, and the school receives a teaching site for medical students and rotations for interns in pediatrics. She said the clinic is a medical home model, meaning it provides primary care accessible to all children.

"We were a medical home model before it became cool," she said.

Broussard said some clients were afraid to advance in their careers after the passage of the Affordable Care Act for fear of not being able to use private insurance to receive treatment at the clinic, Broussard said.

However, NAM now accepts private insurance, she said.

The clinic also hopes to offer a home visit program in the future so families with other needs can be helped outside the clinic, Broussard said.

In addition to those programs, NAM holds fundraisers and drives throughout the year. The Jeans and Jewels Gala last October raised more than $780,000, Little said.

NAM's Survival Over Summer food pantry drive in the spring raised more than $100,000 between food and cash donations.

"Now we are pushing for back-to-school [needs], looking to raise about $30,000 to purchase school supplies and vouchers for uniforms and shoes," she said.

Volunteer information

Northwest Assistance Ministries relies on volunteers for a multitude of tasks ranging from delivering hot meals to entering information into computer databases. NAM requires potential volunteers to attend a volunteer orientation, led by a volunteer coordinator on the first Wednesday and third Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. Following orientation, participants select their areas of interest and must consent to a background check before they can be approved to volunteer. The class meets in the second floor conference room at NAM's main building at 15555 Kuykendahl in North Houston. Contact the volunteer coordinator at 281-885-4609 for more information.

Northwest Assistance Ministries15555 Kuykendahl RoadSpring