Agencies have plenty to share

December 26th, 2008    Author: Marsha Mundy    Filed Under: News

The economic slump that has the country in it’s grip hasn’t damaged the holiday spirit or affected local agencies that distribute food, gifts and toys to those in need. The demand may have increased but the supply has also increased to meet the needs.

According to Captain Amber Boone, commander of the Salvation Army in Batavia, the contributions both monetary and toys have kept up with all the requests.

Those families needing help were given until the middle of November to sign up. They filled out an application requesting specific toys for their children and Boone said that those coming to the Salvation Army this past week to receive the toys have all left in good spirits about the experience.

The Salvation Army is making Christmas a little merrier for people in Clermont County. Those who are helping include, from left, volunteers Bernard Werline, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Groves, Marine Cpl. James Jones, Salvation Army Captain Amber Boone, and volunteer Becky Lawrence.
"We have been distributing toys to families for the past week," said Boone. "By setting appointments at 15 minute intervals, we have been able to serve 30 families every hour."

Families were given tickets in correlation to the number of children in the family and were then taken to "Toyland" in the basement of the Salvation Army Church located in Batavia to make their selections. Families also received Kroger gift cards to purchase food for their family.

Volunteers from the Marine Corps and the community helped to make the distribution easier as they accompanied the families through the process, holding their toy-filled bags and offering assistance.

Boone accepted a bag of toys from a drop-in donor and was smiling and grateful to all those who continued to drop off toys and donate cash. According to Boone, area corporations and private donors have supplied the Salvation Army with more than enough to meet the large demand.

"One woman in our church here makes blankets," said Boone. "She made 80 blankets this year for all the little ones. We believe that the Lord will provide, and he already has."

The Adopt a Senior Program with Clermont County Senior Services has received a fantastic response from the community according to Sharon Brumagem.

"The community and the people have made this program successful," said Brumagem. "We did not receive any help this year from big businesses like we did in the past, but we have received help from places like the county engineers office, doctors offices, the sheriff's office and Glen Este High School. I can't thank the public enough for their support."

The 300 to 350 senior citizens who are on their list will all receive a gift, according to Brumagem, and they will have enough funds left to supply CCSS for the next couple months.

"Any excess we collect will go into an emergency fund for seniors," said Brumagem.

"I hear that other agencies have been having tough times, but the people in our county have put their arms out and wrapped them around our seniors."

Brumagem said that the media coverage helped get the word out about the Adopt a Senior Program and they received dozens of calls from people wanting to help.

"Down the road, because of the response, we will get 10 new volunteers to help with our services year round," said Brumagem. "The community took us serious about adopting a senior and they are really adopting them. We have never had the turnout of new volunteers that we had this year. Many people couldn't give monetary donations, but they wanted to help in other ways."

Services CCSS offers include meals on wheels, extra hand volunteers and transportation services.

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation has raised more than $250,000 in response to their "heat or eat" alert.

"Challenges in the economy have already started to take a significant toll on our community's most vulnerable people, including those who are unemployed, have lost jobs or who work in jobs that don't cover basic living expenses," said Kathryn Merchant, GCF president and CEO. "The need for food and heat is not just a problem during the holidays; it will continue throughout the winter."

The GCF allocated $250,000 in emergency grants for food, shelter, rent and utility assistance to nonprofit groups that provide basic services and issued a call for other donors to help triple the amount.

"With job losses, foreclosures, increasing food and energy costs, more people find themselves standing in food pantry lines for the first time in their lives," said Tina Osso, executive director of Shared Harvest Foodbank in Butler and Warren counties. "Food pantries are routinely running out of food, some are reducing the hours they are open, some reducing the amount of food they give each family and some are giving up all together and closing their doors for good."

In Clermont County the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati - Eastern Area Food Pantry has received a grant from the foundation for $10,000 to purchase food and Clermont County Community Services has received grants for heat, rent and utility assistance.

"With the help of local vendors, food drives and the foundation, we were able to provide an average of 30 families each day with emergency food supplies," said Cara Good, director of the Eastern Area YWCA. "During the 2008 holiday season, we set a new record one day by serving 54 families. We provide three days worth of food for each family member and depending on how our cash donations come in, we are also able to assist with personal care items."

The YWCA has received donations from local schools, area grocers and businesses who conducted food drives for the pantry. And monetary donations have enabled them to purchase quantities of food from the Free Store Food Bank at a lower cost thus increasing their purchasing power.

Those clients already receiving help from the YWCA also qualified for gifts for their children and the agency helped more than 100 families.

"The need has increased 11 percent this year. We have people asking for help this year who have never had to ask for help before," said Good, "and although we have seen a decrease in large donations from corporations, private donations have been more generous than usual. It is heartwarming to see and it certainly is appreciated.

For more information on how you can make a donation to one of these agencies, contact The Salvation Army at (513) 732-6328, Clermont Senior Services at (513) 724-1255 or the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati - Eastern Area Food Pantry (513) 732-0450.
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