The succinct pleas for help appear in this newspaper every Wednesday.
"Chemo side effects lead to rent request," "Death and illness cause financial woes," and "Custody of grandchild leads to request," were all past headlines about families in need of assistance created by unexpected events.
Helping with that boost is what Lex-Care, Inc., is all about.
Founded in 1987 by Linda Harvey, Lex-Care is a not-for-profit group of people and agencies who are quietly serving Lexington families who find themselves in crises. Many simply need help regaining their footing and may not need help again.
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In other words, many of those families could be your neighbors or you.
"We are unique," said Angela Gibbs, Lex-Care's board chair. "As opposed to most non-profits, we are able to help families in crisis with up to $750." Families can receive no more than $750 over a five-year period.
"That is unheard of," she said, too. "The families just need to show some way to pay in the future."
The requests are for utility, rent or mortgage payments, car repairs or insurance, or to pay medical bills or obtain medical equipment. Lex-Care does not pay for prescription drugs, however.
Usually a family's financial shortfall occurs because of a decrease in income that will be corrected in ensuing months. Each of the notices in the Herald-Leader contains wording that indicates the family or individual will be out of the red with that one-time donation.
"There has to be income coming in on a monthly basis," said Amy Wills, the past board chair. "We do not give assistance to people who don't have a monthly income."
Lex-Care hopes to help 400 families this year. As of July 1, 207 families had been served.
In addition to financial assistance, Lex-Care also buys disposable diapers in bulk and distributes them, without referral, at the Cardinal Valley Center and the Salvation Army. Families are allowed 20 diapers a month per child.
In 2010, more than 7,600 diapers were given out to 371 families.
And Lex-Care gives bus passes to clients in need of transportation.
The requests for help are coordinated by Lex-Care from a variety of referral sources including social workers, family resource centers, medical centers, religious organizations and social agencies. Fayette County Public Schools often refers families, which helps children remain focused on their education.
Anyone connected with a public or private agency or corporation wanting to help meet needs in the community is eligible to be a member of Lex-Care. There are some 285 members at 161 agencies that pay $15 fees to be on a listserv dedicated to dousing emergency flare-ups. Those members are able to refer their clients for help.
"It is community members helping meet the needs of the community," Gibbs said.
It is an all-volunteer operation, Wills said, with no office space. "Everything is online," she said. "Our administrative costs are very small."
The agency once had an employee who oversaw requests, but that got expensive. A committee now rotates the cases so that no volunteer becomes overwhelmed. "We really tried to adapt and to be cost effective and leave the most money out there for the clients," Wills said.
But even with those cost-cutting measures, money does get tight. Donations are down from about $50,000 a year to $30,000.
"When you don't have money, you have to put the requests on hold," Wills said, "and wait for more money to come in."
Over the past two years, a golfing event was added as a fund-raising effort, bringing in about $19,000 last year, Gibbs said. The 2011 Lex-Care Golf Marathon will be held Aug. 15, at Andover Golf and Country Club. Space is still available, she said, for golfers who can raise $500 in donations.
"That helps a lot of families," she said.
Lex-Care reminds me of the hero of The Little Engine That Could children's book. What other agencies with larger budgets but more restrictions can't do, Lex-Care can and does. And its members do it with a big heart but little fanfare or publicity.
Lex-Care's mission is to address the emergency needs of our neighbors.
It is a clearinghouse for blessings.