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Help organization needs money

February 23, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

In 2003, the Waynesboro Area Human Services Council provided emergency assistance to 797 households.

The 1,283 adults and 1,007 children who were helped received food, clothing, diapers, cash assistance, school supplies or the loan of fans, heaters or air conditioners.

Denise Esser, Human Services Council coordinator, said funds are running low.

"We're at the point now where I can't write any more checks," she said. "We haven't turned anyone away, but we limit how much we do help so we can help a lot of people."

For large needs, Esser said, she enlists the help of other agencies, such as the Salvation Army.

The agency's annual report notes that increased needs often are the result of reduced hours at work, job layoffs and business closings. Requests for cash assistance to help pay rent or utilities and to help with medical needs have increased greatly over the past two years, and the agency's funding has not kept up with the demand, agency representatives said.

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The shelves at the food bank "are starting to get a little low, but I expected that," Essert said. "They were very full at Christmas because of all the donations. Clothing is never a problem, and the diaper bank is fine."

The agency also operates a bread pantry, with day-old bread donated by Food Lion.

The diaper bank is an emergency supplemental program. Clients can go in once a month and purchase diapers at a reduced rate, Esser said.

Esser and administrative assistant Missy Baer, who work part time, are the council's only paid employees. Thirty-six volunteers put in 1,189 hours in 2003.

The organization is overseen by a 14-member board of directors.

"We're down on contributions," Esser said. "We need to receive at least a thousand dollars a month in donations.

"Everyone makes a lot of donations at Christmas, and everyone takes a break, but we still have people who have needs," Esser said. "We get a lot of requests for help with heating oil, and there are still some electric and water shutoffs."

The 332 households who requested cash assistance for rent, utilities and prescriptions in 2003 asked for a total of $133,614. The agency was able to disburse $30,262. The clothing bank helped 558 households and the food bank 273 households, with 1,506 food boxes distributed. School supplies went to 139 children.

The mission of the council, which was established in 1979 by the Waynesboro Fellowship of Churches, is to provide emergency assistance to low-income residents of the Waynesboro Area School District and Greencastle-Antrim School District.

Esser said the agency's goal for 2004 is to continue to search for other avenues of financial support for programs and operating costs, and to work toward setting up a volunteer-assisted financial budgeting and education program.

The council receives money from United Way, Waynesboro Fellowship of Churches, local churches, various grants and contributions from individuals, businesses, schools and organizations.

Anyone in the Waynesboro or Greencastle area who needs assistance can call 717-762-6941 to set up an appointment.

Those wishing to donate diapers, food or clothing may call for information or drop off items at the agency's office. Cash donations may be mailed to Waynesboro Area Human Services Council, 24 E. Main St., Waynesboro, PA 17268.

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