In the late 1960s, Ginny Britt and the Rev. Ronald Rice could always be spotted volunteering at church functions. Eventually, their paths crossed one summer while teaching Bible school at Piedmont Park Apartments.
But not long after that, in a quick turn of events, Rice and Britt found themselves helping coordinate emergency assistance for downtown residents.
After that experience, the two decided there had to be a better way to help people in crisis, whether it was arranging temporary heating assistance, compiling a box of dry goods from a food pantry, or working to provide low-cost medication.
In response to this need, the Winston-Salem religious community organized Crisis Control Ministry in 1973 as a centralized and comprehensive way to respond to the emergency needs of people in Forsyth County. Rice served as the organization’s first executive director, and Britt provided support on the board of directors.
The following year Britt was hired as the assistant executive director, and when Rice retired in 1977, she was the natural fit to take over the position.
A few years later, Britt became an ordained minister, and that helped her get into a lot of pulpits on Sunday mornings — and into a lot of people’s hearts.
“My husband used to say I was the most depressing preacher in town. But it became obvious to me that I couldn’t speak to the needs of the ministry without speaking to the biblical imperatives,” she says.
“We thought with $2,500 a month in support we’d have all these problems solved,” she says with a laugh and gentle shake of her head. “Back then, if we saw a need, we acted to meet it. We rarely said no.”
Britt kept finding herself in the right spot at the right time, immersed in opportunities that would allow her to provide for the communities she was serving. Because of that, she quickly learned that community needs would continue to grow, but so would the generosity of supporters.
While part of Leadership Winston-Salem’s class in 1986, Britt met Doug Maynard, who was a professor and chairman of the Department of Radiology at the former Bowman Gray School of Medicine/Baptist Hospital. The two put their heads together and came up with a solution: donate the hospital’s pharmaceutical samples to Crisis Control Ministry. In 1987, the ministry became the state’s first Licensed Free Pharmacy, giving away millions of dollars in medicine each year to people who couldn’t afford their prescriptions. The pharmacy is still in operation today.
After a lifetime of service and volunteering, Britt is most proud of one specific accomplishment. She led an effort to lobby the school board for free breakfasts after learning that not all of the schools in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County were offering them to students. She fought to ensure that every school in the district would be required to serve free breakfasts and lunches — the only two meals some students would receive.
“I can’t stand the fact that people go without,” Britt says. “As a society, we have to learn to live more simply so others may simply live. Ron used to say, ‘To be in the place where the concern of thousands meets the needs of thousands is to stand on holy ground in what must surely be part of the kingdom of God.’ I believe that with every ounce of my being.”
Britt’s calling to serve others, and Crisis Control Ministry’s movement to make a difference for those in need, spearheaded the creation of several other nonprofit organizations in Winston-Salem: Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan Ministries, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC.
Today, Crisis Control Ministry continues to offer short-term emergency assistance to families in need. It’s the largest emergency assistance provider in the county.
For more information on programs or volunteer opportunities, visit crisiscontrol.org.