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In difficult economic times, residents of Brunswick County, like nearly everywhere else, need temporary help putting food on the table and paying their bills.
That’s where Brunswick Family Assistance (BFA) usually comes in—providing emergency funds for rent and utilities assistance from its budget and food from the onsite food pantry.
Although BFA receives grants from foundations and state agencies, it relies heavily on donations from the community. In a time when more people are finding it hard to stretch a dollar, donations tend to decrease as the need for help increases.
Over the past few years, the Shallotte-based nonprofit has been struggling to keep up with increasing demand, but this year has been more strained than usual.
“Food and gas prices have gone up dramatically, and people are unemployed, particularly laborers, even tourism is down,” BFA Executive Director Joe Cannon said this week.
“The budget’s not going as far. Driving to a job in Horry or New Hanover puts a big dent in the budget where it didn’t before.”
According to Cannon, food pantry demand is up more than 40 percent over last year, while requests for rental assistance and utilities are up more than 70 percent.
At the same time, BFA Board Chairman Fred Abernethy says the agency has seen a 25 percent dip in donations.
To solve this problem, BFA’s board of directors has launched something new—a membership drive encouraging individuals to pledge $50 and civic groups and businesses to pledge $100 each year. The board’s goal is for these small amounts to add up to a stable source of income for BFA.
“We’re hoping to get 1,000 members from throughout the county,” Cannon said, noting he and the board members are getting the word out to churches, civic clubs, businesses and people they know.
Abernethy is putting together a list of contacts to get the word out about the available memberships.
It seems to be working. Cannon says BFA is averaging about five new members a day, and between 150 and 200 people have signed on so far.
Members will be part of a committee that will help plan future projects for the agency and seek out additional funding sources, Abernethy said.
As well as emergency assistance for food and money to pay bills, BFA also provides needy families with Christmas gifts and meals every year, supplies for students at the start of the school year, assistance for the homeless and referral to other programs in the county, if needed.
For more information on BFA and the membership drive, call Cannon at 754-4766.
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.