downturn, disasters put
strain on local aid resources
for assistance is increasing;
donations are decreasing
(December 2008) In mid-November, Tiffini Mundt,
manager for the Jefferson County Chapter of the American Red Cross,
scrambled to find suitable housing, food and clothing for a family in
Madison, Ind., that had been burned out in a fire. Across the street,
on the same day, Annie Payne, social services director for the Salvation
Army, worked feverishly to get money to a local family stranded in Texas
so they could come home.
by Don Ward
Eggers volunteers to ring the
bell for the Salvation Armys Red
Kettle Campaign, which supplies
families with emergency needs
throughout the year.
For both women, it was just another day at the office.
Around the local area and throughout the entire country, charities and
aid agencies have been inundated with pleas for assistance because of
natural disasters and the severe economic crisis. But many aid agencies
have also seen a decline in donations since people have to make cutbacks
and dig deeper in their pockets.
At the Salvation Army food pantry, the shelves are almost empty, according
to Payne. She said the windstorm on Sept. 14 that knocked out electricity
in the region and severely damaged roofs and trees put a tremendous
strain on area families.
We fed over 400 families during that period, she said. We
really need for people to donate more non-perishable goods to help restock
Since the storm and the economic downturn, the food kitchen has been
serving about 300 individuals a week, and has run out of food three
During a normal year, the Salvation Armys Christmas Assistance
program in Madison helps approximately 100 families. Payne said the
number of families seeking assistance for this holiday season has more
The thrift store operated by the Salvation Army saw a serious drop in
sales and donations during the summer months, but Payne said things
are beginning to pick up. Anyone wishing to donate gently used items,
including toys, can just drop them off at the office, located at 331
E. Main St. The agency can arrange to pick up larger items, like cars
There is also a great need in the area for volunteers to ring the bells
for the Salvation Armys Red Kettle Campaign. The campaign is a
tradition that literally rings in the Christmas season for the Salvation
Army. All funds raised help those in need in the community throughout
the year. These funds enable the Salvation Army to help those who need
assistance with emergency rent, mortgage payments, food, utility assistance,
local disaster relief, and more. Anyone 18 years or older can
volunteer, said Payne.
At the local chapter of the Red Cross, 404 E. Main St., Mundt said her
office is receiving 10 to 20 phone calls a day with requests for assistance
with heating, cooling, housing, clothing and basic needs.
Unfortunately, however, there has been a large decrease in donations
across the board, she said. It is extremely difficult to
assist families with their needs when donations are not coming in.
Mundt said her organization is not a government agency, so it does not
get funding from anywhere except from individuals, companies and businesses
who take the time to give monetary gifts.
It would be wonderful if a company, business or individual could
volunteer to adopt a family for a holiday meal or to assist with childrens
need, she said. Despite a well-coordinated effort by all
the local agencies to work together so we dont duplicate holiday
assistance, sometimes a family is actually left off of the list.
She said monetary donations are greatly appreciated since families like
the fire victims receive free vouchers to purchase things they lost
in the fire. Also at this time of the year, she asked that anyone who
is replacing their Christmas tree call the agency before they throw
out the old one. I would especially like to find this family a
Christmas tree with the holidays approaching, she said.
At the state level, Roger Frisk, president of Indiana Association of
United Way, said the economic situation and numerous disasters in the
state this year have taken their toll on donations to the 62 United
Way agencies in the state.
All but six of our 92 counties were at one time declared disaster
areas this year because of major flooding and other issues, he
said. That has affected aid agencies throughout the state.
United Way raises money primarily through workplace donations and then
gives those funds to other aid agencies. Our campaigns for this
year are moving very slowly, said Frisk. Many people have
lost their jobs, and many more believe the end of their jobs is near.
In Madison, Staci Turner, executive director of Jefferson Countys
United Way agency, said people here are also giving less and cutting
back. We are only at about 60 percent of our $360,000 budget for
2009, she said. If we dont hit our target, then we
may have to cut back on what we donate to the agencies we support.
The United Way in Jefferson County supports the Boy Scouts in the area;
Casa Amiga, a Hispanic community wherein immigrants can learn English;
Girls, Inc.; Jefferson County Association for Developmentally Disabled,
which operates Sandstone Industries, the Special Olympics and a variety
of school programs; Meals on Wheels, Catch a Ride, Turning Point, a
domestic violence shelter; the USO, which helps military personnel;
the Salvation Army; Southwestern Recreation Association, which offers
soccer and other recreational activities to area youth; Lide White Boys
and Girls Club; Retired Senior Volunteer Program; and the Jefferson
County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
There is good news for many aid agencies, however. For the remaining
part of this year, including the holiday season, many local organizations
report funding is holding steady.
At Retired Senior Volunteer Program, director Vicky Copeland said, We
are holding our own as far as funding goes for now. Her organization
is comprised of 200 volunteers aged 55 or older who work at the hospital,
schools and local agencies. During Christmas, RSVP makes Christmas gift
for the OVO Head Start program. The American Legion also donates to
RSVP to help with their programs. We can always use more volunteers,
In Carrollton, Ky., the police department annual holds a Christmas party
and a Shop with a Cop, day for disadvantaged children.
We hold a variety of fundraisers throughout the year, and we receive
donations from our local industries for our program, said Police
Chief Mike Wilhoite. So far, our funding has not been affected
by the economic downturn.
His department supplies a full set of clothing, including coats, undergarments,
shoes and belts, for the children selected for the program. Those children
are referred by the local school system.
River Valley Winery, 126 Sixth St., in Carrollton, is holding a benefit
concert to help with the program. At 8 p.m. on Dec. 18, local band Muddy
Loafers will perform. The cover charge for the concert is a toy for
a young child. Winery owners Krasi and Vicky Georgiev will donate 10
percent of their sales that evening to the program. Muddy Loafers is
also donating their time to the program. Christmas is about giving,
said Vicky. We want to give to our community. This is a way we
To donate or for more information about
Jefferson County United Metro Way, call (812) 265-2036. For the American
Red Cross Jefferson County Chapter, call (812) 265-3818. For the Salvation
Army, call (812) 265-2157. For RSVP, call (812) 265-3950.
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