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Slow economy brings brisk business to Jefferson County Community Ministries

Number of families and individuals who come for help is steadily increasing

July 08, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Christen Schwarz, left, and her daughter, Steffanie Schwarz, 11, and son, Alex Schwarz, 13, shop last week at the Jefferson County Community Ministries Clothes Closet.
By Richard F. Belisle, Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — The economy’s slow recovery means harder times for many Jefferson County residents these days, and that means more business for the Jefferson County Community Ministries Inc.’s food pantry and clothes closet, according to people who run the agency.

The number of families and individuals who come to the ministry at 238 W. Washington St. for help is steadily increasing, which subsequently increases the amount of money needed to provide for their needs, ministry officials said.

“The needs today are greater and more complex,” said Robert L. Shefner, 71, executive director. 

Besides food and clothing, the ministry provides limited financial assistance for emergency shelter, utilities, heating fuel, rent, gasoline and prescription medications.

“In 2011, we served more than 12,000 people,” Shefner said. “We spent $60,000 more on client needs than we took in donations last year.”

The projected income for 2012 is $155,792, while expenses are projected at $213,209.

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“We spent $30,000 more in the first six months this year than we spent in the same period in 2011,” he said. “It’s projected that we’re going to spend twice as much in the second half this year than we did in the last half of 2011.”

The ministry’s fiscal year runs on a calendar year.

It has three part-time paid employees, including Shefner, who are paid only stipends.

“We pride ourselves in minimizing our overhead so the money can go to direct support,” he said.

The ministry depends on volunteers who contribute more than 1,500 hours a month to taking care of clients’ needs, Shefner said. Many volunteers are members of the 51 Jefferson County churches that support the ministry.

“They are the best set of committed volunteers that I have ever worked with,” he said.

The ministry’s operating funds comes from donations from churches, civic organizations, businesses and individuals. It also relies on donations of food and clothing.

Shefner said the ministry’s financial development committee is hoping to increase donations through letters it will send to businesses, organizations and individuals seeking donations and pledges.

The food pantry escaped damage and having to toss out any food from the devastating storm on June 29 because it only lost power for 12 hours, said Jan Dougherty, pantry coordinator.

“We were lucky. None of our food was spoiled,” she said.

A good thing, as it turned out, because business was exceptionally brisk in the pantry last week with residents who lost perishables from power outages.

“They came in for everything,” Dougherty said.

The pantry normally provides clients with enough emergency food for three meals a day for three days.

“A family of five would receive 100 pounds of food,” Dougherty said.

To make a donation of food, clothing or money, call the ministry at 304-725-3186 or go to www.jccm.us.

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