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Need for giving never ends

January 28, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- In today's economy, the need for charitable giving is particularly ever present, not just during the holiday season.

"It would be really, really nice ... that people remember giving doesn't just come in November and December," said Kathy Boylan, who helped develop and oversee the successful launch of the Eastern Panhandle Christmas Clearinghouse last year.

While more than 800 families and 4,450 children in Berkeley and Jefferson counties received toys, food and/or clothing for the holidays thanks to an outpouring of community support, Boylan said evidence of the economic recession continues to reverberate.

Caseloads handled by West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources staff in the Eastern Panhandle are up "dramatically," said Boylan, a DHHR community services manager.

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Boylan said the food stamp caseload has increased by 30 percent in the last six months.

So when donations did not stay in step with requests for help at the end of last year, Boylan and representatives from The Salvation Army, the Jefferson County Shoe and Coat Fund and the Warm the Children program went public with a plea for help.

"I got a lot of donations from Hagerstown, which just shocked me," Boylan said of last-minute support sparked by the Clearinghouse's plea only 20 days before Christmas.

A collaborative effort of gift giving by a broad spectrum of groups, agencies and churches, the Clearinghouse aims to minimize duplication of services and increase the number of people who receive help.

After a press conference on Dec. 5, Boylan said she returned to her office the following Monday and had 22 voicemail messages from people who either wanted to make a financial donation or adopt a family.

One caller from Prince George's County, Md., told Boylan he had recently purchased property in Berkeley County and was going to send a $1,500 check.

Looking ahead, Boylan said Clearinghouse members would like to get more churches and organizations "on board" with the coordinated giving program, which is facilitated by United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.

In a news release, Trina Bartlett of the United Way recognized Clearinghouse contributions from City National Bank's Christmas Cash for Kids program, ITW Sexton, Hedgesville High School, N. River Church, Toys for Tots, Otterbein United Methodist Church, Parish of Saint Joseph, The Salvation Army, Shining Star Tree, Warm the Children, and area individuals and families.

"Everyone involved in organizing and implementing the Christmas Clearinghouse is very appreciative," Boylan said in the news release.

"Our hope is that (in 2009), any school, church, business or organization that wants to give to those less fortunate, adopts a child or family through the Christmas Clearinghouse."

To learn more



o For more information about the Christmas Clearinghouse, call Kathy Boylan at 304-267-0118.

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