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REACH cuts back on some services

September 26, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Jodie Stock is executive director of REACH.
File photo,

"If there's anything I can say unequivocally, it's that my board (is) very passionate about everything we do here, so having to make decisions that impact staffing and programs and people that we serve is extremely difficult."

-- Jodie Stock, executive director of REACH





Faced with reduced funding, the Hagerstown nonprofit REACH will cut back its utility relief and transportation assistance programs to focus more on helping the homeless, Executive Director Jodie Stock said.

"Like many other nonprofits, we're experiencing loss of donations" as the economy leaves donors with less to give, Stock said. In addition, the organization has seen reductions in some of its grant funding, she said.

All told, the reductions were almost $50,000, or about 15 percent of the organization's budget, Stock said. An initial budget of $311,000 for the current fiscal year had to be cut to $265,000, she said.

Making the cuts was not easy, Stock said.

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"If there's anything I can say unequivocally, it's that my board (is) very passionate about everything we do here, so having to make decisions that impact staffing and programs and people that we serve is extremely difficult," she said.

In the end, officials agreed the focus should be on REACH's core mission of preventing homelessness, Stock said.

REACH operates a cold-weather shelter from October through April where homeless adults can sleep, shower and eat. That program will not be affected by the cuts, Stock said.

REACH also will continue to run a Day Resource Center for people facing crises such as eviction, but it will no longer provide emergency funds for electricity, gas or fuel oil, cutting its crisis funds by about $7,000, Stock said.

Those in need can still get utility assistance from the Washington County Department of Social Services or the Washington County Community Action Council, she said.

REACH's Day Resource Center will continue to provide mail and phone services, information, referrals, laundry and showers for the homeless, help with security deposits and assistance with water bills.

"Water bills are one of the only utilities we are going to help with, because if you don't have water in your home, it could end up being condemned and then you could end up with a homeless problem," Stock said.

The other major cut to the budget is the elimination of the staff position that coordinated REACH's Faith in Action program, through which volunteers provide transportation and assistance to those with physical limitations, Stock said.

That staff person resigned and the position will not be filled, she said.

REACH will not be accepting new clients into that program, but will try to continue to serve those already in it, Stock said. The program serves about 30 to 40 people each month, providing transportation primarily to medical appointments, but also sometimes to grocery stores and pharmacies, she said.

With the departure of the staff person, REACH is hoping to recruit a volunteer or volunteers to take over scheduling and coordinating those trips, Stock said.

Despite the cutbacks, REACH will continue with a plan to hire a case manager this season to help those staying in the homeless shelter improve their situations. That new position was built into this year's budget after the success of a trial last year, Stock said.

Last winter, an unpaid intern working as a case manager worked with 24 people over a five-month period. Of the 24 people, 15 were successfully placed in permanent housing, she said.

Stock encouraged anyone who wants to help REACH continue with its mission to attend the Taste of the Town event on Oct. 3. The event, a food tasting and benefit auction, costs $40 to attend and will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Athletic, Recreation and Community Center at Hagerstown Community College. Tickets and more information can be obtained by calling 301-733-2371.

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