In the current political climate, positive discussions of government assistance and community need in the same breath is frowned upon. Much more welcome are talks of program cuts and deficit reductions.
However, what seems to get lost is that when those cuts are implemented on the federal level the effects are felt locally.
Prime examples of local repercussions from cuts in Washington are the Homeless Prevention Program at the Lexington Rescue Mission, and Divine Providence Way which is run by the Catholic Action Center.
Laura Connell, development director at the Rescue Mission, said her program and 10 others didn't receive any money from FEMA's Emergency Food and Shelter Program last fiscal year, money used locally to help families avoid utility shut-off notices and evictions.
It was the first time EFSP bypassed Lexington in 24 years.
"Not only were we hurt, but a lot of other charities were hurt, too," she said.
Ruslyn Case-Compton, director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Lexington, which had distributed the EFSP grants locally, said the funds are awarded according to a formula based on U.S. Department of Labor data for unemployment and poverty statistics from the 2000 U.S. Census, and population.
Award amounts were determined by dividing available money by the number of unemployed people in a district. On top of that, Congress cut funding for EFSP last fiscal year by 40 percent, leaving $120 million instead of the $200 million the agency had received before.
Lexington didn't make the cut, although Kentucky received nearly $1.4 million.
The Rescue Mission received $22,000 of $161,000 in 2010 given to Fayette County to provide emergency assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities. That money helped supplement rent payments for 112 families and helped with utilities for 105 others, Connell said.
"We help with $100 toward the bill and help them work with other agencies to come up with the rest," Connell said.
The mission, which has received EFSP monies for five years, also gives $100 toward utilities which sometimes can cover the entire bill.
"This last year was a big shock for us," she said.
Ginny Ramsey, co-founder of the Catholic Action Center, said her agency's share of the money would have helped a lot at Divine Providence Way, a housing program that includes job training, vocational rehabilitation and social services for homeless men working toward self sufficiency. Their loss was about $5,000, she said.
"We constantly keep the beds filled whether there is money to cover them or not," Ramsey said.
Fortunately, "the community is wonderful when they know there is a need. I believe firmly that we as a community do have to respond," when government funding is cut, she said.
The Rev. Troy Thomas, president of the Black Church Coalition, agreed.
He said the organization had to cut back the amounts they granted and stopped accepting applications. The charity "cut off the fax machine on the fifth or sixth of the month during August, September and October," he said, because the requests for help outpaced their funds.
But in November the organization made a big push for funds which has helped this year along with the mild weather.
Mandy Brajuha of God's Pantry, said that food bank had received $18,000 in 2010.
"We have been reaching out to donors to make up those dollars," she said.
And now, that is what the Rescue Mission hopes to do.
The mission's fifth annual Walk for Warmth on Feb. 25 will have an added urgency this year, Connell said. "We are really going to rely completely on the walk," she said.
She hopes at least 500 walkers, who have raised at least $50 each, will join in the one- or two-mile walk through downtown Lexington, starting at Phoenix Park. The University of Kentucky men's basketball game will have a game at Rupp Arena at noon that day, "but we are hoping people will recognize the importance of what we are doing," she said.
So make plans to walk before the game, doing your part to fill the gap left by deficit reductions in D.C. and a growing need in Lexington. Your time is also needed just as much as your money.
And if you're interested in helping in other ways, Ramsey is hosting a training session for those looking to serve the homeless. The session will be held at the Community Inn 2-4 p.m., Sunday at 824 Winchester Road.
"This is to let people see that they can be a part of the solution and not just with their pocketbooks," she said.