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Calls for help rise for Ministries

February 01, 2001

Calls for help rise for Ministries



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County may have a healthy jobless rate but that doesn't mean everyone is faring well.

At Jefferson County Community Ministries, an organization that helps the poor, officials are surprised by the increasing numbers of people coming to them for help.

Over the past year, the organization shelled out $10,000 to help needy families with housing assistance, gave out $7,500 in prescription assistance and saw about 200 new families come in for help.

"That's incredible," said Jane Bowers, executive director of the agency.

Bowers went to the Jefferson County Commissioners last Thursday to request that they consider funding Jefferson County Community Ministries to help it serve its growing number of clients.

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The organization has been cramped for space to run its clothing and food programs and recently purchased the former Dollar General store at 238 W. Washington St. for a new headquarters, Bowers said.

The organization borrowed $100,000 for the building, Bowers said. The building is in need of renovation, which will cost about $40,000, said Bowers.

Bowers did not ask for a specific amount of money from the commissioners.

"Whatever help we get in either of those categories would be wonderful," she said.

Bowers said she thinks the increasing numbers of people coming to Jefferson County Community Ministries is a result of federal welfare reform that was designed to get people off welfare rolls.

Most of the families served by the agency are living on an annual income of $10,000 or less, Bowers said. They may be able to make ends meet most of the time, but a sickness in the family or some other hardship easily puts them in a financial quagmire, Bowers said.

In case of a sickness, such a family may earn too much money to get prescription assistance through Medicaid. On the other hand, they cannot afford private insurance to pay for the medication, Bowers said.

Jefferson County Community Ministries is supported by 45 churches. But those churches, some very small, have their own building programs and expenses and they can only help so much, Bowers said.

The agency operates a food pantry on South Samuel Street, an adult clothing closet at Charles Town Presbyterian Church and has an office and child's clothing closet at Zion Episcopal Church.

Although the commissioners did not act on the funding request for the agency, Commissioner Dean Hockensmith said they have been impressed by the group's work.

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