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Ministry asks for county help

March 23, 1999

Wyman HallBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A local organization that supplies food, clothing and other assistance to the needy is seeing more people pass through its doors.

Now it wants the government to help.

Jefferson County Community Ministries has helped 1,700 people this year, up 200 from the previous year, said executive director Jane Bowers.

Bowers thinks the increase in clients is due to new federal welfare-to-work laws, which she says are making it difficult for some families to survive.

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Community Ministries helps families by distributing food, clothing and financial assistance from three locations in town. But some of the facilities are getting cramped, and the organization would like to consolidate its operations at one location, Bowers said.

A week ago, Bowers went before the Jefferson County Commissioners for help.

With the county's tax base gradually increasing because of industrial development, Bowers believes the county can pitch in.

"I do want you to take some responsibility," Bowers told the commissioners, who are developing their 1999-2000 budget.

Commission President James K. Ruland praised Bowers for the organization's efforts.

Ruland did not mention any money for Community Ministries, but he said the commissioners may be able to help the agency with its space needs. If the agency finds a building, perhaps the county could help with renovations or improvements, Ruland said.

There is no strict formula Community Ministries uses to determine who gets assistance. Ministry workers sit down with individuals or families and compare their expenses against income.

But Bowers said its not a simple act of giving assistance if expenses outweigh income. Bowers said families need to understand that luxuries such as cable television or call waiting may get heavy scrutiny in the review process.

People who need the service range from senior citizens struggling to make ends meet to laid-off workers who may need help only for a few months until they are called back to work, said Bowers.

The agency distributed about $30,000 in assistance last year, Bowers said.

The main office and children's clothing center is in Zion Episcopal Church at 221 E. Washington St. The food pantry is operated from an office building on North Samuel Street, and the adult clothing closet is in Charles Town Presbyterian Church, 220 E. Washington St.

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