December 25, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
37°F
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North Ridgeville heating aid returns, thanks to donations

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Even as people have lost jobs or gone without raises and had to tighten their belts, tough times can still make them realize there are others with even less.

“I didn’t realize how important these programs were, and how much people appreciated what we are doing for the less-fortunate in our community,” June Yost said. “This really speaks loudly and clearly.”

Executive director of the city’s Community Care, Yost was referring to the outpouring of money from residents that is allowing the agency to re-institute its financial aid to families struggling to pay their rent or heating bills.

“We didn’t recoup everything, but it’s enough to begin the programs again,” Yost said.

The nonprofit agency’s board of trustees voted this week to restart both programs after donations came in

in response to news articles about the situation. A Thanksgiving service hosted by churches throughout the city raised an initial $2,000, and more money was contributed by individuals. Donations ranged from $25 to $1,000 — all from private individuals.

“There were no major businesses or organizations, it was all from people,” Yost said.

The funds are enough to restart the assistance programs, which were suspended in November after the agency nearly exhausted a $30,000 account by the end of September due to a 50 percent jump in clients since the start of 2009. Community Care is hopeful it will secure grant money from various sources to keep the rent and utility assistance going, Yost said.

Underwritten by private donations, local service groups including the Rotary, Lions Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars and churches, Community Care provides food and clothing for qualified clients.

It is unique among social service agencies in Lorain County in that it is the sole agency that devotes itself entirely to the community where it’s located, according to Yost.

The agency, which is in its 20th year, offers a one-time-only yearly assistance of $200 each for rent and heat bills. Those who are helped must first qualify for financial aid with an interview and application, and proof of residency in the city.

“Then they have to bring in a utility bill, or show they have been paying rent for at least three months on their own,” Yost said.

While much of the organization’s efforts have in the past assisted low-income households, the rise in unemployment has led to requests for help from families who live in some of the city’s newer, more expensive housing developments.

With the help of some 80 volunteers, Community Care distributed its annual Thanksgiving baskets with turkeys and all the trimmings to about 1,000 people — nearly double the number who received them in 2008.

“I have a stack of thank-you notes six inches high on my desk,” Yost said. “We are just so grateful.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com