From April through July, Helping Hands of Columbus has given food to 659 families. Of those, 278 are new clients. It also paid out $18,000 in monetary assistance during these four months.
That kind of growth is concerning and it is outpacing the organization’s resources, Helping Hands executive director Jennifer Garrard told the Rotary Club of Columbus Tuesday at Lion Hills Center.
“In the last three months, we’ve had 237 new people sign up for help,” she said. “They have not been regulars or people who have come to see us in the past. … More people are needing help, so I am so glad that we are here to help, but it is hard for us to stretch our resources to reach everyone who needs help.”
She said Helping Hands is completely out of monetary assistance funds until the next round of Emergency Food and Shelter Program (ESFP) funds come in, which has stalled the program.
“(Our biggest need) today is financial,” she said. “I have not been able to make appointments for three weeks, but I keep telling them to call back and see if the money is there. I check the bank account every day to see if that second half of my ESFP funds have come through.”
The monetary assistance program offers rent/mortgage assistance, utility assistance, dental and prescription assistance, initial medical office visits and gas vouchers for travel to doctor appointments or job interviews.
All of these programs are based on a one-time emergency out of the person’s control, and there is a vetting process and paper trail to ensure eligibility.
The food pantry, located at 223 22nd St. N., also is experiencing a shortage, but Garrard is confident that donations will pick up.
“Our food pantry is a little low right now, but we always have faith that donations are going to come in, and they do, at the right time,” she said. “But, we are low, even on the basic necessities: green beans, corn, vegetables, rice products, pastas, peanut butter. We try to think of things that are more nutritious, but we are grateful for any donation that we get.”
Donations are always accepted, and the facility has refrigeration and freezers, so it can accept fresh, frozen, canned and packaged food. Drinks such as bottled water, juices and sport drinks are also accepted.
She is constantly applying to grants in hopes of getting an added layer of support, but community donations are the main source of supply.
Food is not the only donation that is accepted though, there are several categories of items that are accepted.
“People can help in different ways,” she added. “We take money, we take food of all types and we also take hygiene items. Anything that people have to spend money on, they’re coming to us asking for.”
Clients for the food pantry must live in Lowndes County, and if they receive food stamps, it must be less than $400 monthly. The amount of food given is based on family size and clients can receive food every other month.
Anyone needing assistance or wanting to donate can reach out to the organization at (662) 328-8301.
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