Hope staying afloat
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories examining the impact of state budget cuts on public health agencies serving the Allen County area.

By JENELLE JOHNSON
Family Living Editor

 

Register/Jenelle Johnson
Hope Unlimited staff members Brooke Madl, left, Neosho County advocate, and Donita Garner, child advocacy, recently assembled brochures that will be given to area law enforcement officers to give to victims of assault and abuse. The brochures contain information about Hope Unlimited’s services and telephone numbers that would be of help to crime victims.

Hope Unlimited’s board worked throughout 2009 to make the most of each dollar.
“In today’s economy we’ve scrimped and saved and stretched each dollar to its breaking point. Our grant money is contingent on the state budget. When the state’s budget declines” it’s a direct hit to the agency, said Dorothy Sparks, Hope Unlimited’s director.
Sparks has received word that one grant may be cut as much as 4 percent. That $4,000 to $5,000 is used to support the shelter and assist with outreach crisis services. Another grant may be cut $1,000, money used to support the Child Advocacy Center.
“I know $1,000 doesn’t sound like a huge cut, but we depend on grants to help fund our services. We also depend on donations to keep our shelters staffed and stocked with supplies,” Sparks said.
Last year’s cash donations were down 50 percent from the previous year. To make ends meet for this fiscal year, which ends in June, the center mounted a fund raising drive beginning last October.
Called the 25/25 Campaign — a $25 gift to match the center’s 25 years of existence — the campaign is “halfway” to its April deadline, Sparks said.
A gift of $25 goes a long way to buy milk, eggs and bread for the shelter, which is never empty.
A donation also “can make the difference be-tween us keeping the lights on or turning them off,” she said of the shelter’s future.

SINCE 1984, Hope Unlimited, 8 N. Washington Ave., has provided 24-hour shelter, food, clothing and advocacy to victims of violence and abuse.
To curb expenses, one staff position was cut last year, phone lines reduced to one and staff now take the facility’s trash to the landfill themselves.
“We used to take clients to doctor’s appointments and to court hearings but with the lack of funds we are having to decline when asked for help with transportation,” Sparks said.
Another money-saving option may be to reduce office hours. Hope Unlimited is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office may have to cut back to a four-day week, Sparks said.
The center gets daily calls for assistance with groceries, rent, utilities and medical necessities.
During the holidays people were especially generous, Sparks said. Many would bring food, diapers, laundry detergent and other supplies for the shelter and place them under the Christmas tree at Hope’s office.
The Holiday Hope Shop, which helps clients provide Christmas gifts for family members, served 223 people last year.

HOPE UNLIMITED is the only victim service agency in the area. Its programs include a Child Visitation Center, Child Advocacy Center, emergency shelter and outreach services.
Only Pittsburg, Emporia and Overland Park offer similar services within driving distance of Iola.
The shelter has 22 beds, including cribs, and is usually full every night.
If less grant money is received this year the board may have to depend on volunteers to staff the facility, which also have been in short supply this past year, Sparks said.
With the weak economy many people who formerly offered their services at the office or at the shelter have returned to the work force to earn extra money to support their families, Sparks said.
“It would be tragic if Hope Unlimited doesn’t receive enough money through grants and donations to keep the facility open,” she said.

ONE PROGRAM, the Orientation Assessment Referral Services, which had been on the verge of losing its funding, received a reprieve in October when grant money was received.
OARS — a joint program with Social and Rehabilitation Services — has a roster of 90 clients. In typical years, OARS sees 30 clients.
Lisa Chauncey is the OARS advocate and handles all 90 clients, the highest case load handled by one person in the state, Sparks said.
OARS services help people who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault through support groups and safety planning to enhance their safety whether at home or work. OARS is a volunteer program through SRS.

“WE APPRECIATE any help from the community whether it is through monetary donations or the donation of their time or supplies for the shelter,” Sparks said. “I want people to be aware of our situation. The community has supported us for more than 25 years, and I am asking for your continued support.”
For additional information or to make a donation, call Hope Unlimited at 365-7566 or online at hope-unlimited.org.