Money for crises awarded

December 15, 2004

By Ginny Wray
Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation on Tuesday awarded a total of $672,500 to two local organizations to help people in crises.

Safetynet Inc. received $420,000 to redistribute to low income people and families in crisis situations, and the United Way of Martinsville and Henry County received $252,500 to help area nonprofit organizations respond to the needs of those in personal financial crisis situations.

The Harvest Foundation has funded a variety of projects, such as these that are charity and simply help people with needs, according to Harry Cerino, executive director of the Harvest Foundation.? "They may not be transformational but it has the potential to be transformational on lives of individuals, so it's a little more personal."

Safetynet helps people who have "exhausted all sources of help," and are referred to Safetynet by the local social services, Salvation Army, Red Cross and Memorial Hospital social services offices, said John Matthews, Safetynet treasurer, board member and board of trustees member.

Safetynet accepts private donations and has an endowment which it invests, and then uses the income from the investments to benefit the community.

"The problem has been with the downturn in the economy, our return on our endowment had gone down.? With the downturn in the local economy, our donations have gone down.? At the same time, because of the downturn in the local economy, our expenses have more than doubled.? It's been a double whammy," Matthews said.

The all-volunteer organization helps about 150 people a year, and also donated $100,000 to help displaced workers when Tultex Corp. closed and the same amount when Pillowtex closed, Matthews said.

"Those types of large expenditures on top of increase need for the community anyway have basically depleted our endowment to some degree.? Rather than let that continue to go down," officials sought help from The Harvest Foundation, he added.

When Safetynet was created in 1986, organizers said no qualified case would be turned down, even if it put the organization out of business, Matthews said.? "The last thing we want to do is get out of business" so when the funds dropped, the board turned to The Harvest Foundation, which invests the proceeds from the sale of Memorial Health Systems and uses the return on the investments for health, education and welfare issues locally.

Matthews said it is hard to predict Safetynet's future needs because they will hinge on the area's economy.

However, "we feel with that money...we'll be able to grow our endowment up to where we can weather just about any storm in terms of the economy," he said.

The United Way's grant was its second to help agencies assisting people with basic needs - rent, mortgage payments, utilities, medication and other things "that we all need," said Kathy Rogers, executive director of the local United Way.

In October 2003, the grant money went to social services' emergency fund, the free health clinic, Mission Center, Salvation Army and Citizens Against Family Violence, Rogers said, adding that does not mean those agencies will receive funds this time around.

Funds were awarded on the basis of needs, not a set amount for each agency, she said, and the same will be done this time.

The United Way will issue a request for proposals from agencies soon and examine each application individually, she said.? The goal, she added, is to get the money out into the community quickly.

"Based on our conversations with a lot of different agencies, basic needs are such a growing need in the community," Rogers said.


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