Long before the ’37 flood, the Depression, and numerous other catastrophes, a group of concerned citizens, realizing there was a need for helping others in crisis, formed Family Services. Over 88 years of serving the agency has helped 1,800 to 2,000 people per year in need of clothing, utilities, and medical and dental care. It is the second oldest private charitable agency in Paducah/McCracken County.
Family Services, located on Joe Clifton Drive in the former Captain Dees building, is open weekdays 9:00 to 5:00. Heather Pierce, assistant executive director said, “What I like most about this job is the education we give our clients. We hold classes to help strengthen their families: lessons in budgeting, cooking, and even parenting skills. We help them with their immediate needs but also want to help them step out of where they are.” She added, “We see a community develop among those who attend our classes. They share their feelings about their situations with each other and see that they are not the only person with this problem.” Pierce said that they hope to be able to afford a counselor in the future.
A tour of Family Services takes one through multiple rooms, each with specific purposes. A small well-organized clothing store is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays for clients to pick out (free of charge) clothes and shoes of all sizes which have been donated. Another room holds shelves of canned goods and other food items. Shopping bags overflow with food from Noble Park’s “Christmas in the Park” food drive. “We try to organize these bags so that they hold balanced meals. For example, a bag with pasta would also have spaghetti sauce in it,” Pierce explained. Hopefully, knowing this will give readers an idea of how to donate at Christmas when they see the lights display. The Regions Bank fan drive fans are also distributed from this room.
Stacks of towels, sheets, personal items, etc. are available for families whose homes have been wiped out by storms, fires, and floods. Pierce said, “There have been instances when a family comes in saying ‘we’ve lost everything’. Family Services sets up house for them.”
Pierce, who has only been assistant director for two months, has already been touched by the good deeds rendered by Family Services. “I think I am most affected by people who come in who are in need of dental care. Maybe their face is swollen and they are suffering from severe pain. I can’t imagine trying to work if I was in that kind of pain. For us who can afford dental care and or insurance, we probably don’t realize how desperate these people are. We have two dentists who work with us, but a $1,500 allocation per person doesn’t go very far when one considers the costs of x-rays, repairs and extractions.”
Pam Truitt, executive director for nine years, shared another touching story of a young mother at back-to-school time. “Our clients always show gratitude. We had an event where we gave away back packs for school. Over 240 registered to win one of six back packs. One of the young mothers who won the drawing left skipping and smiling. She told me ‘you don’t know what this means to me.’ I later received a thank you note from her. Another time a man who had received our help in the past gave us $10. He told me that was all he could give but that he would never forget the help he had received.”
If one considers the vast amount of help given per year, Family Services’ operating budget falls short. In addition to donations from individuals and private organizations, Family Service’s largest fund raiser is the Iron Mom with 800 to 900 runners each year with the next one May 7, 2016. Lourdes Hospital and United Way are two major sponsors. Last fall was the agency’s first opportunity to sponsor the Barbecue on the River beer garden. It will be running the garden again this year, hoping to surpass last year’s total.
“There are so many in need. Every day we see people in crisis,” Pierce said. “We see two kinds of poverty: generational poverty and situational poverty. So many people have lost their jobs, or have been in an accident and are left unable to work. On the first day of every month we offer help for paying utilities. By noon that day our allocated money is gone leaving us unable to help many who have come.” An applicant’s proof of income and living expenses are carefully scrutinized to determine eligibility. Each client is limited to once a year help with utilities.
“We want to get our name out there and let the public know who we are. Many think that we are some sort of government agency. We are not. We operate to help Paducah and McCracken County residents who are in crisis. We want others to know that any help they give is needed and appreciated whether it be donations of their goods, money or time,” Pierce said.
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