Sandy Rupp's Challenge
Just in the last six months, demand for services has jumped 25 percent at the Delonis Center homeless shelter. In the same period, Peace Neighborhood Center, another United Way agency, has seen "an incredible upturn in 'advocacy' calls--rental assistance, housing," says development director Kevin Lill.
"Everyone's scared," says Larry Voight, director of Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County. CSS got $282,000 from United Way last year, using the money to help fund everything from a food bank to adult day care. CSS staffer Caroline Nelson does intake for people seeking psychotherapy, most of whom have lost their jobs. "I'm going to say out of ten phone calls a day, I probably have one to two that are crying," Nelson says. "It is heartbreaking."
Rupp started work on December 1, 2004. "It was supposed be January of '05," she recalls, "but I got to town and they said, 'Show up for work-it's time to get to work!'"
United Way's previous permanent director, Jim Cieslar, had left a year before-partly to be near family members in the East, but also because of growing tensions with the agency's board of directors. Cieslar, who now lives in Massachusetts, says that he wanted the agency to take a stronger lead in determining how donations were used but that the board was dragging its feet.