September 23, 2014
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Neighbors help needy despite lag in donations

Donations to Neighbors Helping Neighbors fell short this year, although help picked up as Christmas approached and even continues as recently as this week.

We had a donation Monday from the firefighters, reported Roberta Steinle, project coordinator for the city’s Department of Human Services. She said the firefighters came in with a $230 donation to bring total donations for the holiday season to $11,746.70. This compares to $15,123 donated for the same period a year ago.

While cash donations were down, the program served about the same number of people. Between cash donations that are used for gift cards to local markets and more than 300 food baskets prepared by area churches and the Warwick Rotary Club, Neighbors Helping Neighbors helped 557 families at Thanksgiving and another 366 at Christmas.

The program, which works because of its network of supporters, is coordinated by the city that screens requests to avoid duplication of gift cards and baskets.

For whatever reason, maybe warmer weather than customary, cash donations to the program got off to a slow start. They picked up in early December following a story in the Warwick Beacon.

The lag in donations never threatened the program, as reserves from prior years allowed the purchase of sufficient market gift cards to meet demand. Also, in addition to donations, about $8,000 flows into Neighbors Helping Neighbors annually from dress down days at City Hall.

“It takes approximately $25,000 a year to make it all work.

So next year, we may be a little short,” says Steinle.

But then, she notes, there’s no cutoff to donations.

Also, there’s no limitation on when program resources are used to help people.

Throughout the year, Steinle uses gift cards to assist those in need.

The names of donors are published in the Beacon, which also serves as a collector of donations. Also, Mayor Scott Avedisian has made a practice of formally thanking donors. Steinle expects those letters will go out soon if they haven’t already been mailed.

It’s the letters Steinle receives that make her efforts worthwhile.

On Tuesday, she pulled out an envelope that contained pictures of a family and a note card.

“It starts out, I don’t know what to say, and ends with a thank you. It reads, ‘On behalf of my mother and my nephew, we are so grateful for the generous donation of gift cards to Stop & Shop.’ What a humbling experience to have to look for food and to call for a holiday basket for a family member.”

Steinle carefully put the correspondence away.

It is evidence that neighbors continue to help neighbors.


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