Nonprofit Spotlight: A Doorway to Hope

Volunteers with A Doorway to Hope collect Christmas presents for the Angel Tree Project — providing gifts, household essentials baskets and gift cards to families in need.

Although not related, Maria and Martina Young share much more than a last name — they also share a passion for helping those in need, as evidenced by their nonprofit, A Doorway to Hope (ADTH).

Since October 2010, A Doorway to Hope has been serving working, low-income families who are at a crisis point and need a helping hand. ADTH has served more than 1,200 families and 4,800 individuals by providing temporary emergency assistance to families in need.

Co-founders Maria Young, left, and Martina Young and Vice President Laura Grelck all run A Doorway to Hope.

“We feel very strongly that we want to support people in our community who are working hard to help themselves,” said Maria Young, co-founder and president of ADTH. “Our goal is to really create economic self-sufficiency. We come in and help them with whatever it is they need — food, clothing, furniture, or rental/utility assistance — and make sure all their basic needs are covered so they can return to stable ground.”

ADTH provides one-time emergency assistance to low-income families whose world has been shaken, whether it be by job loss, a death in the family, an illness or other circumstance. Their crisis team works with Wake County school social workers, partner agencies and churches to help people get back on their feet.

“When you have somebody who has a low-income job, they don’t have enough money to save,” said Laura Grelck, vice president of ADTH. “So when their car breaks down, or their child gets sick, or anything causes them to miss work, that’s a loss in wages. That’s where we start to see the dominoes fall, when they have to take the money they were going to put toward rent and fix their car instead.”

By partnering with other local organizations, such as Dorcas Ministries, the YMCA and A Green Chair Project, ADTH is able to provide people with clothes, childcare assistance, furniture and more. In addition to the crisis ministry, ADTH also provides household essential baskets, a summer food program and an Angel Tree Christmas project.

One recipient of the Angel Tree program was a single mom who found herself living in a hotel with her three teenagers over Christmas. Although she was working, her husband had left and she was struggling to save for a security deposit and the first month’s rent for an apartment. After she found housing, ADTH paid her security deposit, her first month’s rent, provided a household essentials basket and helped her furnish her apartment via their partnership with The Green Chair Project. She has been stable ever since.

Unlike many nonprofits, ADTH is completely volunteer driven. As a result, almost 100% of donations go to a family in need. The three women who run the ship — Maria Young, Martina Young and Laura Grelck — all met at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Cary (affectionately known as “St. Michael’s”).

“I’m a social worker, and I’ve been doing therapy in this area for over 20 years, working with the school system as well,” said Maria Young. “I was getting very intimate with the lives of families, and I saw all of these needs. I knew all these wonderful people here in Cary, many of which were from our St. Michael’s community, who wanted to help people, and I had this pocket of hard-working families who were struggling and in crisis. I called on my friends, and we were able to help a mother of four young children avoid eviction. That mom to this day still contacts me. She got a job and a car and was able to sustain herself.”

Through the community at St. Michael’s, Maria was able to connect with Martina Young, who at the time was in the process of forming a nonprofit organization with other church members.

“I was out here doing these things, without an organization, and they were working on creating a formal organization when I met them,” said Maria. “They were helping a woman who was trying to avoid eviction, so they were doing the same thing that I’d been doing. Martina and I were like, OK, we’re partners here.”

Martina Young and many others within the St. Michael’s community have always had a heart for service — at one point planting a garden at the church and taking the produce to Urban Ministries of Wake County.

“It became kind of an idea that there were many needs in our community, and if we could formalize it, maybe we could do more good,” said Martina. “It really started with discussions around the kitchen table with a cup of tea and just brainstorming ideas. We were trying to figure out what our niche would be. I do have an accounting degree and a degree in religious education, so I just brought those skills to the table.”

Grelck, who was also a member of St. Michael’s, volunteered with the Angel Tree project one year and asked Maria and Martina if they needed any help. Obviously the answer was yes, and Grelck now manages the organization’s programs, letter writing, marketing, social media and more.

Summer volunteers participate in the Wake County Summer Food program, offering free, nutritious meals to low-income families in the community.

For those who are looking to volunteer, opportunities abound. ADTH will be participating in the Wake County Summer Food Program next month, providing free, nutritious meals to families in need. Since joining the Summer Food Program, they have served more than 1,000 meals to low-income families in the area.

“It’s just three of us that really run this thing, and everybody has really big jobs,” said Maria. “We would love some people who maybe have a social media background to help with marketing, but we really need back-office support people and consistent volunteers. We really love the platform we’ve created, and we’re really passionate about it, but we’d really love some more support.”

For a small organization that’s built on the community’s support, ADTH makes a big impact. In the first quarter of 2022, they have already helped more than 25 families.

“We can’t do what we do without donors. We don’t have tons of corporate sponsorships, and we don’t get any funds from the federal government or anything like that. We are just a grassroots, community organization,” said Grelck. “Our programs don’t run without those funds, so going to our website and making a donation is also very important.”

“We’re just going up and up in the amount of support that we’re providing and the amount of people we’re helping, and we hope to see that continue.”

For more information on how to volunteer with or donate to A Doorway to Hope, visit

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