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Community Action Council helps needy all year long

December 22, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Editor's note: For these 12 days before Christmas we will be recognizing individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others. This is the 11th in a series.

An annual holiday present from the Washington County Commissioners allows the Community Action Council to help needy residents all year long.

"It is a Christmas gift to Community Action Council that benefits the community," said Glenda S. Helman, director of services for the Community Action Council.

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Each December since 1996, the County Commissioners have given the Community Action Council a $25,000 Crisis Intervention Allocation. That money is in addition to funds included in the agency's annual budget.

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"Sometimes you have to think with your heart," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Last year the Community Action Council used the money from the County Commissioners to help 827 people, Helman said. To qualify for help, a family must be below a certain income level.

The group has a total budget of about $469,822 and gave emergency services to about 1,500 families last year.

While donations to nonprofit organizations and charities often increase during the holidays, it is important not to forget the needy rest of the year, Helman said.

"Poverty doesn't stop after Christmas," she said.

Requests for help from the Community Action Council often increase during the winter as expenses and stress grow, according to Helman.

During that time there are "a lot of utility crises and housing crises," she said.

For example, in one family the father had to quit his job because of an operation and his wife, who had a low-paying job, was unable to make enough money to pay utility bills, Helman said. Community Action Council gave them money to pay for utilities, she said.

With last December's gift, the Community Action Council:

- Gave $18,093 in rent subsidies to 240 people from 87 families.

- Paid $3,299 in utility bills for 103 people.

- Paid $492 in medication costs for 15 people.

- Gave $352 in County Commuter vouchers to 459 people.

- Gave $2,000 to the interfaith Religious Effort to Assist and Care for Homeless (REACH) shelter at 148 W. Franklin St. The shelter helps about 35 people a night.

For information about Community Action Council call 301 797-4161.

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