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As need rises, there is less to give

March 31, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. -- They need your time and your money, but with the economy down, Franklin County nonprofit agencies said they will take what they can get.

Right now, Franklin County residents have more time than money to give, agency representatives said.

Local nonprofit agencies said the need for social services has spiked rapidly in the last two quarters of the current fiscal year, while funding has begun to plateau or even decline.

At the same time, volunteers are coming out of the woodwork, said Amy Hicks, executive director of the United Way of Franklin County.

The United Way works with 27 community partner organizations to help struggling individuals and families.

Hicks said it is nothing new for there to be more need than money, but this year, the gap between the two has grown.

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Megan Shreve, executive director of South Central Community Action Programs, said her agency has seen at least a 20 percent increase in the number of families seeking emergency services, including food and shelter. In some areas of Franklin County, need has jumped as much as 40 percent, she said.

South Central Community Action Programs operates the homeless shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., as well as a food bank and other programs to help those in poverty.

Hicks said the rising need and falling donations have forced the United Way to limit its number of partners for 2009.

"We are thinking creatively how to accomplish our goals with what we have," she said. "One thing we are doing is not taking on any new partners."

The United Way of Franklin County closed its annual campaign in February about $20,000 short of what it raised in 2008.

The decline is indicative of the times, as people have less money to give, Hicks said.

Shreve said the disparity worsens as the cost of living continues to increase, forcing more people to seek help.

Fortunately, there are many people who still want to help, said Tom Reardon, executive director of the Franklin County chapter of the American Red Cross.

"The more volunteers I have, the less money we need to spend," he said. "I have 301 active volunteers."

Reardon said the declining economy has actually helped his organization grow.

"The economy is spurring people to volunteer and we are a volunteer organization," he said. "It is amazing to me how much everyone cares in Franklin County."

Even with more people signing up to give time to the Red Cross, the United Way and South Central Community Action Programs, Shreve said the trend of declining money and increasing need will continue.

"We have seen some increase in donations because we are asking for donations," she said. "However, I expect we will also continue to see more people in need as they struggle to make ends meet."

Shreve and Hicks said having more volunteers should allow their organizations to maintain a consistent level of service.

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