Family

In Bourbon, struggling families can go the The Well

The Rev. William Allen, executive director of The Well and associate pastor at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church, helped a client with a utility bill. The Well is a non-profit created by 20 Bourbon County churches and the Salvation Army. It offers some direct assistance and referrals to other social service agencies.
The Rev. William Allen, executive director of The Well and associate pastor at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church, helped a client with a utility bill. The Well is a non-profit created by 20 Bourbon County churches and the Salvation Army. It offers some direct assistance and referrals to other social service agencies.

It's fitting that the office is spare, with mismatched furniture and folding tables and with a few chairs lined up under a front window in a makeshift waiting area.

The Well, in Bourbon County, is designed to help people meet basic needs: keeping a roof over their head, keeping the lights on, keeping food in the house.

"It's hard out there, and it just seems to keep getting harder," said the Rev. William Allen, an associate pastor at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church.

A non-profit, The Well was created by the Bourbon County Ministerial Association in 2007. More than 20 churches worked with the Bourbon County chapter of the Salvation Army to offer a centralized place for people seeking help. Individual churches offer what financial assistance they can. The Salvation Army also contributes.

Originally, volunteers from all the churches were to rotate through the office, but now Allen and five other stalwarts answer the phones and meet with clients in the small annex of Zion Baptist Church in downtown Paris once a week. They can offer $100 a family to help with food, rent, utilities and other necessities, but they also can refer folks to other places that can help.

"We call her 'Hillary,' like Hillary Clinton," said Rev. Ron Carter, associate pastor at Zion, smiling in the direction of Mary Brown. "She's a diplomat. She can get things done."

Brown, who is retired from a sewing company, downplays her skills, instead focusing on the needs of the people she is trying to help.

"This is a small town. You try to think things aren't that bad, but some of the situations we see are so sad," she said.

Because Bourbon County has a population of less than 20,000, The Well staffers are likely to know a lot about a family even before someone from that family comes for help, said Jeanette Burnett, who also works with the Salvation Army and is a retired social worker. Burnett said it's important to put aside any preconceived ideas about folks and focus on what they need.

Brown said that sometimes that need can be an eager ear or a prayer.

Burnett said the group of volunteers has become a well-oiled unit.

"If there is something I don't know about, we can work it out together," she said.

Officially, office hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Thursdays, but Allen said the staffers often find themselves there late in the evening. They have been known to help get people to doctor's appointments or offer rides to deliver a bill payment or take a trip to the store.

Allen, who said he's inspired to do the work because he was once homeless, said people are sometimes surprised how deeply people are struggling in small-town Kentucky.

The Well helps about 20 families a week. Last year, the organization gave away $40,000.

"We try not to turn anybody away," Allen said.

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