Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:25 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Foundation's Community Chest created to help families in crisis

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

Landing on a "community chest" square in the Parker Brothers' board game of Monopoly, a player might be pleasantly surprised with a boost to the pocketbook.

In real life, families sometimes need that same kind of boost.

Thanks to a donation made to the Homer Foundation by an anonymous source, a Community Chest has been created on the southern Kenai Peninsula "to support families with children in times of need, and other individuals as extraordinary circumstances might dictate," according to the Homer Foundation website.

The main focus is to meet immediate needs of families not being served by other agencies or programs.

"The concept has been kicked around at the foundation for awhile," said Joy Steward, the foundation's executive director. "Then, we had an anonymous donor step forward this winter concerned about emergency needs in the community that are not being met."

While several existing entities on the southern peninsula provide emergency, one-time support for families in crisis, creation of the Community Chest was not only to ensure financial support to families in need, but also to make people aware of available resources.

"I took a bit of the funding to do a media campaign and I made some calls and am happy to add other people's names to what we're calling a resource list," said Steward of contact information on the Homer Foundation's website that includes:

• Homer Community Food Pantry for food and other emergency assistance;

• Glacierview Baptist Church for emergency assistance, referral by congregation;

• Kachemak Bay Lions Club for eye exams and glasses, Thanksgiving baskets and emergency assistance;

• Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Students in Transition Program for support for homeless teens and families;

• Kenai Peninsula Housing Initiative for emergency housing and rental assistance;

• Share the Spirit for emergency assistance;

• South Peninsula Haven House for shelter and child care;

• Refuge Chapel for three-day hotel vouchers;

• St. John's Catholic Church for emergency assistance;

• The Salvation Army for commodities, rental and utility assistance and holiday assistance;

• And other community resources listed on the web at pop411.org.

The foundation's first partner in the Community Chest effort is the Homer Community Food Pantry.

"We've partnered with the pantry because we already had a relationship with them, but we're working on building relationships with all these entities so they know in the future they can come to us," said Steward.

The foundation is currently providing the Homer Community Food Pantry with a set monthly allotment. In return, the pantry provides information to the foundation about what kinds of needs arise, how money from the allotment was used to meet those needs and the number of people that were served.

"Because of confidentiality, we're not asking for names, but we want a sense of what kind of needs there are," said Steward.

Ruth Dickerson, a board member of the Homer Community Pantry, said the cooperative effort is well-timed.

"It will be incredibly helpful this time of year because the federal funding we've had is not being given out this year," said Dickerson. "It came at a great time."

Utility payments, emergency housing, food, fuel, prescriptions and firewood top the list of needs of which pantry personnel are aware.

"We limit our giving to once a year per client as a general rule," said Dickerson. "And we're still getting more and more people signing up for the first time in their lives. Even people that may be working, but still can't get by."

Steward stressed that the foundation is not providing direct support to individuals, but is working through the pantry, as it will other resource agencies with which it is developing relationships.

"We're trusting them to make the decisions they've been making for a very long time," said Steward. "They've been limited by cash. We're hoping to raise the bar a little by making more cash available."

While the donor has verbally committed to ongoing support of the Community Chest, Steward said the vision is for "a fund that gets larger and provides more support."

To donate to the Community Chest, go to www.homerfund.org, click on "Community Chest" and "donate now," and follow the directions.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.