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Help needed for the helpers
by Jason Collins
Jan 02, 2013 | 1932 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lupe Sanchez
Lupe Sanchez
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The Beeville Vineyard is in no better shape financially than the people they help.

Lupe Sanchez, executive director, said that in November they were $1,500 in the red to pay their own bills.

The reason for this is that, with so many people in need, they are using everything they can to help them. That and the fact that most people would rather donate money to help someone in need and not to pay the agency’s light bill.

“We are not doing good in operating funds,” Sanchez said. “We have bills to pay — water, electricity and phone.”

Fortunately, they received the Day of Giving funds in December. So, the doors will stay open. At least for now.

“That money will keep our doors open for a while,” she said. “We are going to have to look into some sort of help.”

Sanchez reminds that they are not one of the big charities with staffs to match.

“There are only four people that are paid employees, and two of them get paid for one day and volunteer two days,” Sanchez said.

She adds that 70 percent of the Vineyard’s non-dedicated funds go toward helping clients. The remaining 30 percent goes toward operating expenses.

The problem is the lack of donations coming in.

“We are not getting the donations like before,” she said. “Not many people are going to give you money for operating expenses.

“They feel client services are more important, and they are.

“But if we can’t afford to keep this place open, how are we going to help these people?”

Now, Sanchez isn’t one to sit on her laurels and complain. She is ready to hit the street and solicit donations.

“Someone was saying that there are 42 different churches here in town and only nine help us out,” she said.

Established in 1984, the Beeville Vineyard outreach program assists low-income people in Bee County with free food, clothing, furniture and household items.

Donations from the churches, foundations, businesses and civic groups ­— as well as from individuals — fund the Vineyard.

So, soon, if she hasn’t already, she will be knocking on the church doors.

“I want to try and start visiting more churches that don’t know what we do and how we need their help,” she said. “A lot of the volunteers come from different churches also.”

The money, she said, is desperately needed.

People are still coming in needing help to pay rent and buy their medicines.

Even though the amounts seem relatively low, the need for medical help is growing. Oftentimes, its only $20 to $40 per person depending on the type of help needed. But within a month, the Vineyard offered nearly $900 in help.

And when that money runs dry, there is no more help.

“Sometimes, we have to turn them down, because we don’t have the money.”

What many people don’t understand is that the Vineyard operates within the confines of a budget. Money is dedicated for certain expenses, such as medical help or rental help, and when that amount is empty, they cannot help until more is donated.

Frequently, grants they receive restrict what the money can be used for — such as only to help pay utility bills.

In November alone, nine people faced eviction.

“A couple others have come in, but they didn’t have their eviction notice yet,” she said.

Help depends on what the Vineyard can give.

“If they owe $600, I can’t do that much. I can do half though,” she said.

With the influx of Eagle Ford oil workers, many places that once charged only a few hundred dollars in rent now are asking, and getting, $900 to $1,000 — an amount leaving many in the cold.

While she doesn’t have figures from years past, she has seen an increase in just her short time at the Vineyard.

“I have only been doing this since August, and I don’t know how it was before,” she said. “From what I have seen, it has increased.”

Especially in demand is rental assistance.

“The need for rental assistance has doubled,” she said. “We used to do like one or two per month.”

Those nine people were given a total of about $2,300.

There are several reasons so many people are coming in needing help with rent. Partially, its due just to circumstances.

“There are a lot of people losing their jobs, and a lot of them are women,” she said. “They have a job they are going to, but they don’t start for a couple of months or weeks, and they get behind on their rent.”

Sanchez said that some of the increase is also due to more awareness of the available help.

“People are becoming more aware that they can come here and get help with their utilities and food,” she said.

Then there are also those caught in the rental price tsunami.

Oil field workers are willing to pay outlandish prices for small homes.

These families can’t afford that and are either having to scrape the money together or find somewhere else to live.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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