Not so joyful over at Joyful Harvest…needing help

Times are truly rough and for those of us in the helping professions we are really feeling the effects of the economy. I had been fortunate that the agency I run had been more or less insulated from the economic downturn; in fact we saw our revenues increase at the same time we started seeing a surge in the number of kids and families seeking our services.
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I talk a lot on this blog, over the years I have shared my ups, my downs and everything in between but today I am totally going to expose myself because the agency I run does a lot of good and we need help.
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This is the agency I run, yes it is faith based but that aspect is more internal to me as the Executive Director and the board. Currently we serve youth and families from the Sudan, Iraq, Mexico and yes, Maine. We operate on a budget that is a pittance compared to many social service agencies, last year we served 301 individuals in all our programs on an operating budget of $57,000! I donate a good portion of my time; currently I am paid for 25 hours though I work well over that in any given week. I have one paid part time staff member and one staff member who receives a small stipend, we rely on partnerships with local agencies, universities, faith organizations and community members to provide services and support.
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For years we have been working out of a small and cramped space but after months of negotiations with one of the biggest developers in our area we have secured a space that will take us from 1500 very cramped square feet to 5000 square feet. Our monthly rent will only increase by $5 a month though we have build out costs for the new space, even that yours truly was able to get halved from $6000 to $3000!
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Many of you reading this don’t live in Maine and are probably wondering why is she sharing this, well I am sharing it because I have a voice and am hoping that maybe just maybe someone might be kind enough to help us out. We started this budget year with a $20,000 deficit that frankly is not getting better. Grants and partnerships that we have come to depend on, are no longer available, in fact the town we are in cut all youth funding instead investing it in the local food banks and pantries. Times are tough. I see it daily as a good share of my kids come from food insecure families, for more and more kids that snack is dinner. Once upon a time we had no food cost as the local food pantry used to supply our snack needs but with 200+ families a week coming in, they can no longer assist us! As a result to properly feed these kids, it takes $50-75 a week! I cut bananas in thirds to stretch snack.
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Even our annual Kid’s Shopping and Pancake Event that last year distributed 537 gifts and fed 163 folks is no longer immune to the economic downturn. It’s a program where kids get to “shop” for items for their parents, and get them gift wrapped and the whole family enjoys a full breakfast that is served to them plus a visit from Santa. Calls from families seeking a respite from the daily crush of financial disparity have been coming into my office since before Thanksgiving but the support is not there. In past years the breakfast had local sponsors, this year I am personally putting in my money along with my board to ensure the breakfast happens. Everyone needs just one morning they can relax and laugh without pressure.
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I am asking readers of this blog to consider giving to the Joyful Harvest Neighborhood Center. We continue to look at fundraising ideas and I am a damn good grant writer but the reality is that being in Maine, many larger grants are not available to us as we don’t have the mass that a Boston or New York has. Our board is restructuring and moving ahead we feel confident we can get through this hump but it will take time. You can look at our website, we are listed on Guidestar so our 990 is available, and if you have any questions ask away. If you are local, consider volunteering, either for our Kid’s Shopping and Pancake Event or long term.

I admit writing this post has been one of the hardest things I have ever written, but letting down the kids and families that I serve is not an option. This job stopped being a job to me about 6 months after I started, seeing how much harder it is for the rural poor in this country is something I had no idea about, but now that I do I am driven to do all I can to make sure these kids have their needs met. If that means embarrassing myself or alienating readers that’s fine too, but I hope it doesn’t do that.

One Response
  1. December 8, 2011

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