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Essex Community Services in dire need of support - any help is welcome



by Sylene Argent

Since 1975, Essex Community Services has provided an array of programs to area residents in need, including a transportation service, foot care clinics, friendly visits and reassurance. Staff also organizes other services, such as the snow patrol program, which links volunteers with those who have accessibility issues to clear driveways during the colder months, and the community closet, which provides non-perishable food items and necessities to individuals and families during a crisis. 

  Over those four decades of operation, there have been high points and low points, and currently the local organization is experiencing what Executive Director Kelly Stack said is one of the lowest points to date.

  With the minimum wage increase, continued maintenance to its buses, and the price of gas, Essex community Services is struggling financially.

  Stack said the charitable organization’s gas bills have doubled because the price at the pump has increased.  

  Essex Community Services charges $12 for local roundtrips and $18 for a roundtrip into Windsor, so clients can get to medical appointments or conduct other business. Taking a client from Colchester to a clinic in Tecumseh, she said, could take up to an hour. The Organization did raise those rates recently to match other regional agencies.

  The increase to the minimum wage is also affecting Essex Community Services as there was no increase to the budget to accommodate the difference. Currently, Essex Community Service employs Stack as a fulltime employee, as well as two drivers. Another two drivers are available on a fill-in basis. There are also four part-time employees. Stack also was able to bring on an additional employee through the Student Summer Program.

  “The staff members volunteer time, more than they should have to, because they know how important our services are,” Stack said.

  In the last six months, repairs to two of Essex Community Service’s buses within its transportation fleet have totalled $12,000. The two buses are older with higher mileage.

  Essex Community Services is funded through the Local Health Integration Network and also hosts fundraiser to continue to provide services to its clients, which are not funded. It also receives a $20,000 grant from the Town of Essex, annually.

  “We have been busy,” Stack said, adding Last year, 22,000 people had either called, walked in, or used a service. Stack said the organization also tries to apply for grants for additional funding.

  Without that Town grant, Stack said at least two employees would have had to been let go because of the wage increase.

  With those challenges, Essex Community Services has depleted its bank account.

  Stack knows other organizations, small businesses, and families are feeling the same pressures and are experiencing the same issues. “It is becoming increasing difficult to make ends meet. We are constantly looking for ways to fund what we do. We are never sitting idle.”

  Stack said, sure, a merger with another agency is possible, but she fears this will result in loss of services. “I don’t want to see any of this close,” she said. “The services and programs we offer, if we lose in any capacity, there would be a huge hole in the community.

  “We have always hit hard times where we’ve struggled. Right now, we are in a really tough spot. We are open to any help that anyone would be willing to do.” Stack said, adding that help could come in the form of sponsorships, donations, or in organizing a fundraiser.

  “We are open to anyone. It’s about the community and being a part of the community. I’m so happy to be in this community because I know how awesome it is, but it has been tough. For me to reach out and ask for help, it is hard, personally,” Stack said, adding the organization is looking at ways to save dollars around the office, too.

  The just over $1500 in proceeds from Saturday’s Essex Business Expo, which was hosted in the Heritage Gardens Park, was presented to Essex Community Services. The donations will be of great help and is a great example of how the organization can be supported.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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