Person-to-Person looking for help from community
Published 4:30 pm, Thursday, March 31, 2011
Even as the country begins to show signs of recovery from the recession, the need for food, clothing and assistance with paying bills is still greatly in demand.
Executive Director of Person-to-Person Ceci Maher said she still continues to see a consistent level of need within the community.
"Compared to last year we have seen a leveling off but it's important to note that the leveling off doesn't mean the need has decreased," Maher said. "We're still seeing people who are caught in the down market now we're seeing more of a gap between the people who are beginning to recover and those who still can't find work."
Maher said some of the need is driven by pending home foreclosures and predictions that lower income families won't see any economic relief until 2012.
Unlike some non-profits, Person-to-Person is funded mainly through community donations. The organization only takes about one percent of their funding from the federal government so their services can be provided faster and where it is needed most, Maher said.
"We offer a wide range of services but some of our clients have required help with paying a utility bill or we even assist with security deposits," Maher said.
Bill and security deposit assistance only scratch the surface of the services that are provided. Clients can get help with rent, childcare, skills training, some medical expenses and eviction prevention. Person-to-Person also supplies one bag of clothing for each member of a family every 30 days as well as seven days of emergency food, Maher said.
Since Person-to-Person relies more on the community, Maher said two appeals are conducted each year. The first appeal is the annual appeal which goes out in November and brings in about 50 percent of the total operating budget. The second appeal is the camp appeal which asks for donations to send children in Stamford to camp for six to seven weeks, Maher said.
"We work with Stamford elementary school social workers to send about 500 to 600 kids to camp," Maher said. "It's really great because families will start lining up at about 6 a.m. on the camp registration day."
Each family has the opportunity to pick the camp they would like to send their child to that is being offered by Person-to-Person, Maher said.
"We very much believe in keeping the parents in control of these decisions," Maher said.
It costs about $620 to send one child to camp for six to seven weeks.
Donations are always needed at Person-to-Person but volunteers are also needed to help with registrations and to sort food and clothing, Maher said.
"We have 250 volunteers but we're always looking for anyone to come in and help," Maher said.
One of the benefits of being based in Darien is that the community has a tradition of being very generous, Maher said. She did note that during the worst of the recession the donations declined slightly, but since then things have picked up.
"Now people are feeling less of the economic burden but they need to realize that there are people who are still being effected," Maher said.
Person-to-Person's annual appeal was also down six percent this year, Maher said.
One of the lesser known aspects of Person-to-Person is the fact that they provide scholarships for students.
"We use some of the money we raise for scholarships to help break the cycle of poverty," Maher said. "If a person goes to college and gets a degree their yearly salary increases significantly and it helps to bring their entire family up."
This year Person-to-Person gave scholarships to 160 students, Maher said.
Even though the organization is dedicated to helping people in need, there are still guidelines in place to ensure the system isn't being abused.
"We have very specific guidelines that we follow such as never giving money directly to a client," Maher said. "This helps to make sure that the money is being used for its intended purpose."
Person-to-Person also has a committee that oversees the operations and reviews the organization's policies regularly to make sure everyone is getting their need's met, Maher said.
Anyone who needs assistance should call Person-to-Person to schedule an appointment so a staff member can meet with them and review their finances, Maher said.
"We like to help people make a budget because we don't want to see them end up in the same position again," Maher said.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering with Person-to-Person can contact Director of Volunteers Kathleen Bordelon at 203-656-4631 ext. 152 for more information.