Another Year of Giving: A Look Ahead to 2012
By Terri Lee Freeman
President, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region
As a new year begins, my thoughts turn to the many nonprofit organizations in our region who feed the hungry, house the homeless and care for the sick—the groups that make up our safety net. These are the food pantries, homeless shelters, community health clinics and other groups that provide basic human services to individuals and families in our community. Since the recession began, demand for their services has far exceeded their capacity. In fact, in my many years as President of The Community Foundation, I’ve never seen anything like this.
Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services in Fairfax County, Virginia, is one of those groups. Good Shepherd provides affordable housing and financial counseling to low income families. The group also offers monthly emergency grants of up to $350 per household to prevent evictions and utility disconnections, and to help cover the security deposit or first month of rent.
A decade ago, those emergency funds would last the entire month.
Three years ago, at the start of the economic crisis, the funds would last two to three weeks before being depleted. Fast forward to this September when a month’s worth of emergency funds were distributed in a single day. In other words, families who showed up or called Good Shepherd’s offices on September 2, or any day that month, had to be turned away. October and November weren’t much different.
Good Shepherd’s clients are working people doing everything they possibly can to support their families, yet they simply can’t make ends meet. Many of them have never asked for help before.
But wait. It gets worse. On the first of December, as people poured into the waiting room, as the phones rang off the hook and email referrals from the County arrived as quickly as the calls, the staff of Good Shepherd did what they do every month of the year: they patiently helped clients fill out applications and answered questions from anxious parents as their young children played nearby with donated toys.
And do you know what happened on December 1, in a small office building on Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia?
Good Shepherd’s funds ran out in one hour.
If that’s not a barometer of where we are in the economic crisis, I don’t know what is.
Last month Good Shepherd was able to help 30 families. They turned away many more. Imagine what it means to be the 31st person. Imagine what it feels like to be the 31st person. That person may be your neighbor. Or your family member. That person may be you.
In this new year, let’s all step in to help at least one family—the 31st family—by supporting the nonprofit organizations that provide a safety net for those who need it most. More information on how you can help those who need it most is available on our website.
Happy New Year.