Throughout the area, families look for help
by Vickie Elmer
Published in July, 2009
Faith in Action, a nonprofit that has operated in Chelsea for twenty-eight years, is seeing record demand for its free clothing room and food pantry. Director Nancy Paul says that in the last four years, the number of people the group helps has doubled.
The need is so great that Faith in Action plans to open a second food pantry in Dexter as soon as it finds the right location, Paul says. The organization serves low-income families in the Chelsea and Dexter school districts.
More parents also are signing up for the organization's "adopt a student" program, which will begin its third year this fall. Families who qualify for federally subsidized free or reduced lunches can enroll their children, and a business or individual will buy all the school supplies they need, plus a backpack and a $25 gift card from Target. The first year, eighty-five children were adopted; last fall, 110 were, and Paul expects another increase this fall.
All four local school districts are seeing more children signing up for free or reduced-price lunches. This past school year, 7 percent of Dexter students accepted the help, up from 5 percent three years earlier. Chelsea increased from 7 percent to 8.1 percent in the same period. Manchester, hit hard by factory closings, went from 13 to 15 percent.
Saline has the lowest percentage of students taking free or subsidized lunches, but even there, the rate has risen from 4.4 percent to 6.4 percent. And in all four districts, there were at least a few homeless children enrolled this past year, says Peri Stone-Palmquist, director of the county's Education Project for Homeless Youth.
[Originally published in July, 2009.]
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