BELPRE - During an economically tough time, Belpre Area Ministries has seen an increase in giving and an increase in need.
The group held its annual backpack giveaway program Wednesday for Belpre City Schools students. Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, was on hand to help distribute backpacks and school supplies to students. This year's program was made available through a partnership between Belpre Area Ministries, local churches, the Office Depot Foundation's ninth annual National Backpack Program and the National Foundation for Women Legislators. Hundreds of area students were expected to take part in the program.
Ray Wiblin, treasurer for Belpre Area Ministries, said it has been a tough year, both on the community and on the ministry as well.
Photos by Michael Erb
Monte Bellew, pantry coordinator for the Belpre Area Ministries, organizes food Wednesday at the pantry. Though the ministry has seen an increase in funding this year, the amount of need also has grown, with a nearly 30 percent increase in the cost of the group’s food pantry alone.
The ministry actually has seen a 14 percent increase in funding, mostly due to church and personal donations. About 32 percent of the ministry's nearly $34,000 revenue comes from area churches. Another 31 percent is through thrift store sales, while just over 18 percent is made available through the United Way.
Area businesses and organizations contribute 9 percent of the ministry's funds, and personal donations make up another 9 percent, Wiblin said.
"People have responded very well," he said.
The need, however, is growing.
"We've had an almost 30 percent increase in the cost of the food pantry for the first half of the year," he said. "This is also the time when we start getting hit really hard in the utilities, with people anticipating their needs for the winter."
The group also offers aid on purchasing prescription medications, finding temporary housing and paying for transportation.
The group began this year by cutting back on some of its services, including help with rent and housing, Wiblin said. Due to the increase in funding, most of the programs have been restored.
Still, the ministry is looking at a $1,500 deficit, which actually is better than originally anticipated, Wiblin said. The group hopes to secure more donations and support as the need for services continues to grow.
"If we don't continue to have income, we won't be able to continue providing the services which are needed," he said. "It is as the whole community comes together that we are able to exist."
Belpre Area Ministries is at 2310 Washington Blvd. and can be contacted at (740) 423-2069.