Inspired to help others
Diane Cogsdell was inspired by God to go out and help people in need.
She began in her hometown of Washington, D.C., but has continued the practice after moving to Union County.
At first, she went out in Charlotte with a few sandwiches to give to the homeless population. She soon learned that a few sandwiches would not be enough. She went from 30 sandwiches to 230.
"The line was so long and the need was so great," Cogsdell said.
She started in Charlotte because she did not see any need in Monroe.
"Now I see them," Cogsdell said. "In Monroe, you have that one shelter. But, so many people are coming to my office in need of housing. They can't get into housing, they've gotten evicted."
"Although the need is here (in Monroe), it's more quiet," Cogsdell said. "It's not as in your face. Now that I'm seeing clients here, it's in my face."
Her organization, Theophilos III, is headquartered in Downtown Monroe. She opened her office there in September. She is the founder and chief executive officer.
The name came to her during a church service in Maryland, after God told her to open an organization, Cogsdell said. The name means lover of God. The three symbolizes the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, she explained.
Cogsdell now shares her time between Monroe and Charlotte.
She assists people beyond their housing needs.
"We do everything," Cogsdell said. "Whatever they're in need of, that's what we do."
She has assisted people with furniture, clothes, food, bills, evictions, housing and anything else people need assistance with.
In addition, she runs classes about personal finances, job skills, parenting classes and other classes to help people become self-sufficient. She also runs a ministry for people who are interested.
"We're not so much a hand-out, but a hand-up," Cogsdell said.
Cogsdell has volunteers who help with Theophilos III,
"Because of the economy, people cannot contribute," Cogsdell said.
She encourages people to come and volunteer with the organization.
The funding for Theophilos comes from Cogsdell. When she worked in Cabarrus County, she paid for the organization with her paycheck. Now she takes money from her unemployment benefits.
She said her work "has to continue."
However, she has taken some steps to receive a salary. She recently added a home-health service piece to her organization. They are hiring chore aids to do light housekeeping for the elderly and disabled. She has a national identification number and will be paid through Medicaid. She is also interested in becoming a United Way member agency one day.
"It's going to be good. It's good," she said. "It's survived this long."
Later this year, Cogsdell will offer housing to people in need. She has already secured the location.
"I'm going to move out of my home," Cogsdell said.
It is similar to what she did in Washington, D.C. Her mother moved out of her childhood home and it became the first of the three housing units she opened in the city.
In addition to the services she runs through Theophilos, Cogsdell has partnered with many other area organizations. She does events with the Union County Community Shelter, has a partnership with Common Cupboard, has a working relationship with the Department of Social Services and often holds events with Turning Point.
"We're really out there," Cogsdell said. "We have really gotten known in the community and I'm proud of that."
She often receives letters and cards from clients. She has received feedback from elected officials, as well.
"Our services have not gone unnoticed in the community and they thank Theophilos a lot," Cogsdell said.
Cogsdell gives her time, money and even her home to help others. She is motivated by one thing.
"God. It's all God-driven," she said. "I take no credit for (anything)."
Even when people thank her, she tells them to thank God instead.
"I thank Him for using me as a vessel," Cogsdell said.
She plans to extend her reaches beyond Union County and Charlotte. She hopes to move into Cabarrus County and return to Washington, D.C.
She also plans to research all the states where homelessness is a key issue and visit the top 10.
"We're going to work our way on the list each year, just to reach out," Cogsdell said. "It's not a lot, but it's just to say we love, we haven't forgotten about you."
She also hopes to partner with more area facilities.
"I'm just out there just trying...I love people. I have a compassion for people and everything that I do is all inspired by God," Cogsdell said. "A lot of people worry...I say God has this. This is His plan. You have to sow a seed."
She has large hopes for the future and hopes to help many people.
"Theophilos is going to soar," Cogsdell said.