Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 24, 2014

Mission’s assistance skyrockets

Number of people served in Bluefield grows dramatically in 2014

BLUEFIELD — The bitter cold and consecutive winter storm systems that covered the region through January and February has led to several new service delivery records for the Bluefield Union Mission.

The two-month total of daily meals served in 2014 was 11,590, compared to the previous record total of 7,514 daily meals served for the same period of 2013. The same two-month period set new records in food bags (1,397 in ‘14 compared to 950 in ‘13), clothing (1,214 families served in ‘14 compared to 675 in ‘13), lodging (599 in ‘14 compared to 224 in ‘13) and emergency kerosene (719 families served in ‘14 compared to 237 families served in ‘13).

“Wow!” Craig Hammond, executive director of the Bluefield Union Mission said. “We have had the biggest numbers we have ever had. We set new records in just about every one of the 25 services we provide. Last year was one of the biggest years we ever had, but it looks like this year is going to be even bigger.

“The good news is that we have been blessed with the resources we need to continue delivering these services to the families that need them,” Hammond said. “We did have an increase in utility assistance from 115 families in 2013 to 175 families in 2014, and the board decided to ask the families who ask us for help with utilities to make requests from the other agencies in the area that provide that kind of assistance and receive state or federal funding to provide those services.

“We will still be the safety net for families that have exhausted their requests to the other agencies — I think there are six of them locally — but we’ll still help if there is an emergency. We have lines outside the door every day asking for help with their utilities,” Hammond said. “That restriction just applies to assistance with utilities. We’ll still continue providing all of the other services we provide. We’ll even help with utilities if, through no fault of their own, people find themselves in that kind of a predicament.”

Hammond said that the Mission is on pace to deliver more than 70,000 daily meals in 2014. “We’ve been blessed by being able to serve,” Hammond said. “We’re also on course to provide more than 3,000 emergency shelter nights. That’s the most we’ve had in our 83-year history,” he said. “We’re setting new records in every category.”

One category that has recorded one of the highest levels is “encounters,” a category that registers either person-to-person interaction or interaction via telephone. In 2013, the number of encounters was 15,736 in January and February, but in 2014, the number of encounters for the same two-month period is 27,594.

“It seems like the phone never stops ringing and there’s always someone at the window,” Hammond said. “We have been blessed with a dedicated staff, volunteers who are absolutely committed to the Union Mission and a community that is supportive of everything we do to help people. We have so much to be thankful for. We have been blessed.”

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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