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Assistance program losing support

Our church recently learned Helping Hands in Elkins will be losing all assistance from the United Way in Elkins. This is a concern because Helping Hands is a small local assistance program that provides immediate assistance to those in need. Helping Hands does not replace other assistance programs but provides immediate, emergency relief.

I remember how Helping Hands was formed – it was shortly after the 1985 flood. Due to the volume of requests for assistance, the churches and community leaders recognized the need to collect and coordinate requests to confirm the needs of individuals. The leaders pooled their resources and formed an organization to vet individuals who met the guidelines for immediate and limited assistance. The individuals requesting assistance were screened based upon income, resources, and circumstances. Helping Hands was formed and supported by local churches and organizations.

Helping Hands has slowly lost the local support from churches, organizations, and most recently the United Way. A huge concern is what will the community do the next time there is a need to assist individuals – without Helping Hands there is not an organization to screen, oversee and coordinate assistance for those in need.

Without Helping Hands, individuals will again contact each church, each organization, and each agency to ask for help and there will be no centralized organization to prevent duplicate assistance. Is this the best way to help as many people in need as possible? Without the coordination, we will be doing our own screening, not sharing who we help and duplicating efforts thus, not being able to help the most people with a real need.

The pandemic and the consequences we are currently experiencing are a real emergency for many people – high unemployment, food insecurity, and possible utility shut-offs are just some of the problems facing our community. How can we address this problem individually? We can’t – we have to work through our churches and organizations with a centralized screener to help the most people and the most serious needs. Helping Hands is one of our community’s centralized screeners.

Please speak with your church and/or civic organization to see if you can possibly support Helping Hands in Elkins on First Street. I hope that United Way will re-evaluate their decision and resume supporting this important organization and allow the important screening of individuals to continue. I know if you have any questions, Helping Hands would be glad to answer them. Please let our community continue to work together as one caring community.

Jane Hazer

Elkins

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