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Seeking Good Samaritans

New program seeks to help single parents make ends meet

Posted: August 18, 2008 9:45 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 

When a local single mom notified Single Mothers Outreach last week that she is $32.57 behind on her electric bill, the charity's volunteers wished they could help.

But there was no room in the organization's tight August budget to lend the mother a helping hand.

With donations sparse and demand intensifying, the situation prompted the group's president to launch Operation Good Samaritan, a new program that seeks to build a network of local donors to call on when local single parents are just short of making ends meet.

"We've had so many people lately come to us with needs that we just don't have the budget for," said DaAnne Smith, the organization's board president. "We have a lot of people losing their homes and losing jobs ... They don't have enough for even basic living expenses."

The group will e-mail the good samaritans with a story about a local parent struggling to pay for utilities, transportation or other basic living needs, Smith said.

Once the need is met, the group will send an update e-mail. The money donated will go directly to the clients, she said.

"Some people would rather give to a specific cause," she said. "They want to connect their dollars to a story."

The organization has recently increased its screening efforts to ensure that the clients' financial priorities are in order.

"We just initiated a new policy that when we have people that come back more than once, we are required to take a deeper look at what might be behind the financial crisis," she said.

Single Mothers Outreach has had a particularly rough year. The group closed its doors for three months last November and, after restructuring, has been slowly building back up.

Between February and July, it has been able to provide services to 128 families, an average of 22 families per month. Of those families, 41 came in seeking help with housing and utilities.

In a harsh economic climate, fundraising has suffered, while demand for services is on the rise.

"Donations are down precisely when the need is greatest," Smith said. "Here we are struggling ourselves because we didn't save for tougher times. Now we have all these people coming to us for help."

To join Operation Good Samaritan, visit www.singlemothersoutreach.org and sign up for the e-mail list.

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