Parish: Local families doing ‘a little better’

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BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Parish House spent $3,000 less in 2017 than it did in 2016 helping needy families, the director reported Tuesday at the Buckhannon Rotary Club.

“It just thrills my soul,” Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking told Rotarians. “Now, that may not sound like a lot to you, but $3,000 less means that there were some of our families that were doing a little better than they had the year before.”

Rapking came to Rotary to update the club on 2017 statistics, and while there, delivered a message of hope and healing.

“Our cash payout for emergency assistance in 2017 was $107,000,” Rapking said. “That’s about 100 families per week.” She said emergency assistance money is used to pay heating bills, electric bills, propane and food.

“It can be used for any other kind of emergency you can think of that could put a family into a dire situation,” Rapking explained. “We pay for transportation to out-of-town doctors’ offices, to hospitals, and even occasionally, we help with funeral expenses.”

The Parish House spent $25,000 to stock its food pantry in 2017, the majority of which is spent on meat for Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams that are distributed to less fortunate families during holidays.

It’s a credit to the people of Upshur County that the Parish House is able to help so many, Rapking emphasized.

“We have generous folks in Upshur County who will just give us money to purchase food or groups that will come together and do food drives,” she said. “The biggest expense comes from our Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday packages purchasing meat.

“This year, we were able to do that because Salvation Army helped us out, because we had a generous, generous donor, and we got a couple of other grants,” Rapking added. “So between Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams for about 1,400 households, we spent about $16,000.”

One area in which the Parish House could use more assistance is in stocking toiletries and other household products that aren’t covered by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — benefits. Rapking said SNAP benefits cards only allow people to purchase things you can eat or drink. People with a SNAP benefits card can’t use it to buy diapers, feminine hygiene products, laundry detergent, toilet paper, deodorant, soap and paper towels, among other necessary household items.

“So, where do people come when they need toilet paper and those other items?” Rapking said. “They come to us. So when you’re out shopping for those kinds of things, just give it a thought that SNAP benefits don’t cover everything that a family needs.”

Rapking said her work shows her that joy can be found in even the most dire circumstances.

“The poor will always be with us, but that doesn’t always mean that the poor won’t always share their lives with us and help us to realize that even in the midst of the poorest conditions, there can be joy,” Rapking said. “Even in the midst of the most dire situations, there is a current of joy that can run in our lives, and we can tap into that.”

Rapking said helping others in need can heal our own emotional pain, which may heal their pain and encourage them to help someone else.

“It’s a virtuous cycle,” she said.

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