October 21, 2014

ARRA funds awarded to Arenac County emergency programs

Local board to determine distribution in coming weeks

By John Fischer|Staff writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — The Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, chaired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has selected Arenac County to receive $9,559 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds to supplement local emergency food and shelter programs.

According to Emergency Food and Shelter Local Board Chairperson and American Red Cross Social Worker Erin Riley, the local board is in the process of scheduling a meeting to be held in the coming weeks to determine the distribution details of the ARRA funds.

She says the board is hoping to hold the meeting on May 19 and added the stimulus funding is equal to roughly half of the entire funds Arenac County assistance programs received for 2009.

Riley says the local board is comprised of formerly homeless representatives, various non-profit groups, local citizens and city/county departments.

To be eligible for funding, local agencies must adhere to several criteria, Riley says.

“[An agency] must be a private voluntary non-profit or a unit of government,” she said. “They must be eligible to receive federal funds, have an accounting system, have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs and have a voluntary board.”

Currently, only two associations in Arenac County receive emergency food and shelter funds through FEMA on a yearly basis — AuGres Christian Charities and Good News Ministries (Twining), says Riley. But, she added, that doesn’t disqualify another organization from applying for these particular funds.

“As long as they (different organizations) meet the guidelines, they’re welcome to apply,” Riley said.

Agencies interested in applying for ARRA Emergency Food and Shelter Program funding can contact Erin Riley at 989-892-1541. The deadline for applications is May 19, 2009.

Where to receive assistance if in need

The two aforementioned entities, AuGres Christian Charities (AGCC) and Good News Ministries (GNM), have programs in-place to meet the ever-growing demand for emergency assistance programs, although both only offer food-related assistance at this time.

According to Tim Bender, AGCC, and Joanne Rohn, GNM, while both organizations have funds remaining, both FEMA and non-FEMA-related, the summer months are usually the most demanding and an influx of available monies would go a long way, especially since both charities are seeing more people needing help due to the recession.

Rohn says FEMA funds — which GNM receives from both Arenac and Iosco County due to its Twining border location — account for roughly a quarter of its entire funding and additional funding would allow GNM to get more of the product it wants.

“We (GNM) spend locally when the food bank isn’t available,” Rohn said. “With additional FEMA funds, that would allow us to get more Spaghetti-O’s and Mac-and-cheese and things like that. We try to get families food that children can make when possible.

“At the end of March, the unemployment rate was up to 19.3-percent in Iosco and Arenac County. We’re seeing quite a bit more [people needing assistance].”

Bender says the additional funding will allow AGCC to purchase more food through the food bank, which he says will be necessary with the upcoming dry season.

“The demand’s the greatest when we get into the summer months,” Bender said. “So this is the best time for monetary contributions.”

Both organizations have fundraisers throughout the year to help boost their budget for emergency services.

“We (AGCC) have two big fundraisers each year,” Bender said. “We have our CROP walk, which just finished up, and in July, we have our Fourth of July chicken dinner.”

“In April, we had a local business and individual potluck dinner and auction,” Rohn said. “We raised $5,800, and continually write for grants to keep up funding.”

Bender says AGCC pastors and volunteers meet once a month to oversee the charity’s operation and every Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to noon, food is distributed to those in need.

“There’s a little bit of paperwork to fill out,” Bender said. “Any Arenac County resident is eligible.

“We also do a mobile food pantry once a year in the summer at a pavilion in AuGres.”

The Good News Ministries’ food pantry offers several services in addition to its food boxes, and supply distribution is by appointment, says Rohn.

“Mostly it’s (appointment) to make sure the boxes are ready,” Rohn said. “Last year, we gave out 526 boxes. What we do is take a banana box, split it in half and add eight to 10 cans of vegetables, six to eight cans of fruit, a plastic bag of meat and what I like to call, a ‘can’t eat it bag’, which contains stuff like toilet paper, paper towels and other personal hygiene products.”

Rohn also says of the 80 family pack boxes — which are designated for children under 18-years-old or pregnant women — compiled through the Eastern Michigan Food Bank in Flint, almost all are gone.

“We’re just finishing up our 80,” Rohn said.

She also says GNM tries to provide plants and furniture when possible as well as winter supplies and fresh produce.

“We don’t always have those items though,” Rohn said. “So its on a when-available basis.”

To contact AuGres Christian Charities, call Tim Bender at 989-876-7415.

To contact The Good News Ministries, call Joanne Rohn at 989-756-2486.

The American Red Cross also offers Emergency Food and Shelter assistance. To contact the American Red Cross, call 989-846-6333.

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