Lack of funds has forced a temporary shut-down of HELP House, a London-based outreach organization whose primary mission is providing food to the hungry.
The doors closed July 26 and will reopen Aug. 7. In the downtime, organizers are directing clients to other food pantries and resources in the county. The closure is a first for the 11-year-old organization.
“We didnt have enough money to buy four weeks of food but we know at this point that we have enough for two weeks, said Kelly Armfelt, a HELP House advisory board member.
HELP House distributes 7,000 to 8,000 pounds of food each week, which they purchase from the Mid Ohio Food Bank. The cost is $200 to $400, depending on what the food bank has available. In June, the organization served an average of 893 individuals per week.
Run by volunteers, HELP House pays for the food, as well as building utilities, rent, and other outreach efforts, through two funding sources. Grants from the United Way and the Federal Emergency Management Agency supply 60 percent of the funding. Local individuals, civic groups and businesses donate the other 40 percent. The grant money is holding steady, but community donations are down.
“We have faithful regulars who budget a donation to us into their monthly expenses, and every once in a while, someone walks in out of the blue with a check for $100, but that kind of thing is happening less and less, Armfelt said.Its not like people arent thinking about us. Its just that everybody is going through a hard time right now.
Armfelt is confident HELP House will make do and bounce back. A newsletter mailing scheduled for this week likely will generate donations, she said, and organizers will continue to stretch to its fullest each dollar that comes in.
Thanks to bulk pricing, a dollar spent at the Mid Ohio Food Bank buys triple what it might at a traditional grocery store.
“A $50 donation buys three families of four a days worth of food, Armfelt said.
To make a donation, send checks to HELP House at 122 E. Center St., London OH 43140. For more information, call (740) 852-1980.
Back-to-school supply drive continues
Despite the temporary closure, HELP House continues to collect donations not only for its food pantry, but also its back-to-school clothing and supplies drive.
Until Aug. 7, donations can be dropped off at First Presbyterian Church, 211 Garfield Ave. in London, between 9 a.m. and noon Tuesday through Friday. When HELP House reopens on Aug. 7, its usual drop-off hours will resume: noon to 7 p.m. on Mondays, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, and 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
“We are encouraging groups and organizations to collect a large number of just one item on the supply list, Armfelt said.Supplies that are especially needed include scissors, pink erasers, zippered pencil pouches, washable markers, rulers and plastic supply boxes.
For years, Trinity United Methodist Church in Lilly Chapel has had fun with the one-item approach. They hold an Undie Sunday, during which new childrens underwear goes in the collection plate in place of money.
Armfelt appreciates the congregations creativity. She hopes others put together similar collections. Groups taking the one-item approach should call HELP House first to prevent duplication of efforts.
No matter how items are collected, donations are sorely needed.
“We are concerned that we will not be able to meet the needs of area children this year because we have been spending the bulk of our donations and grant funds on providing food and personal hygiene items for individuals and families, Armfelt said.
When HELP House started the back-to-school drive several years ago, they served 200 to 300 students annually. In the last three years, that number has grown to more than 500. With the need rising and resources declining, organizers decided last year to limit their school supply distribution to kindergarten through eighth-graders. In the past, they served children in grades K-12.
“We looked at where the need is greatest, Armfelt said.
The school supply distribution is set for Aug. 14. Donations are due by Aug. 11. Volunteers are needed from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 12 to bag supplies by grade level. Chaperoned youth groups are welcome. Volunteers also are needed on the day of distribution.
Needed school supplies are: No. 2 pencils, 12-count colored pencils, 24-count crayons, large erasers, large glue sticks, washable markers, boxed tissues, pocket folders, rulers (centimeters and inches), rounded and pointed scissors, spiral bound wide-ruled notebooks, plastic supply boxes and vinyl zippered pouches.
The school clothing distribution is set for Aug. 21. Donations are due by Aug. 18. Volunteers are needed from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays to hang, sort and arrange clothing. Volunteers also are needed from 8:30 to 11 a.m. on the day of distribution.
Needed school clothing items are new and gently used school clothing, new underwear, and new socks—all for boys and girls, all sizes.
For more information about making a donation to HELP House or serving as a volunteer, call (740) 852-1980 or e-mail HELP...@hotmail.com for details.