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Demand high for aid from charities

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By Johnathan Ryan

Local charities are not sure what to expect in terms of donations and need levels in 2008, but they are feeling some apprehension from high unemployment.

Kershaw Area Resource Exchange (KARE) appears to be in the most precarious position.

KARE Administrator Mike Hilton said monetary donations continue to fall at his agency while need continues to increase.

"Unfortunately, that has just coincided with the loss of jobs," Hilton said. "There's definitely more need right now than we're used to having."

KARE saw an increase in clothing and food donations in 2007, he said.

KARE offers financial assistance for housing and utilities to the moderate to very poor. It also offers a clothes closet and food pantry. It is located at 210 S. Hart St. in Kershaw.

KARE doesn't maintain a specific set of guidelines for who can receive assistance, treating each case as its own, Hilton said.

Despite a short-term increase in demand, HOPE of Lancaster Director Elaine Adkins said her agency isn't having to reduce benefits to help all qualifying people who apply. That's due to strong food and money donations in December.

"The generous donations during the Christmas season have kept us able to give the amounts we normally would," Adkins said.

The agency is best known for its food assistance to the needy, but also provides financial assistance for mortgage, rent and utilities.

But Adkins has never seen as many people seek help as she is now.

"We are seeing record demand at this time," she said.

HOPE's main focus now is helping laid off Springs Global workers. Their financial troubles and reduced spending is having a trickle-down effect on the earnings of some workers in the area, such as restaurant workers who are now making less, Adkins said.

Jody Miles, director of Lancaster Christian Services, said monetary donations made over Christmas have also given her agency some cushion. Demand is normal at this time, but Miles suspects that laid off workers will result in a "deluge" of demand in coming months.

Mile said the summer months are typically when charities see fewer donations since giving declines when people spend more of their discretionary money on vacations.

Christian Services maintains a large clothes closet and thrift store, and provides financial assistance to the very poor, Miles said. In most cases to receive financial assistance, one has to be enrolled in one of the agency's workplace literacy programs.

"We don't have a large sum of money to hand out," Miles said. "We really need to target our giving."

For information on giving or receiving assistance, HOPE of Lancaster can be reached at 286-4673, Lancaster Christian Services at 285-4444 and KARE at (803) 475-4173.

Contact Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416 or jryan@thelancasternews.com