ASHLAND The holiday season comes around and people want to give.
Often the first impulse is to give stuff — cans of green beans for the holiday food baskets, coats and hats for the homeless, toys for needy kids.
Those all are laudable impulses, and economically disadvantaged people certainly need food and clothing, says Neighbors Helping Neighbors director and CEO Todd Young.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors is the formal name of The Neighborhood, the umbrella organization at 2516 Carter Ave. under which a number of social service non-profits operate.
In the long run, what the people who come to The Neighborhood need is to change their lives, and to do that, one thing they need from their community is understanding.
Not sympathy, necessarily, or pity, but a clear grasp of what drives poverty and social misbehavior like illicit drug use, and what it takes to propel people out of it.
More than another sack of groceries, The Neighborhood also needs financial help, Young said, to fulfil its mission of making people whole again.
"We call ourselves a betterment program. You can come here and be better for it,” Young said.
Access to food, clothing, haircuts and other tangibles is part of it, but the overarching goal is to provide those goods as part of a larger goal — re-entry into the community via jobs, careers and permanent housing.
Like many non-profits, The Neighborhood gets grants but depends on community generosity for a significant portion of its budget. Each of the agencies in the building has its own director, agenda and budget, as does Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
It typically raises a big chunk of its revenue through fundraisers, but this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic racing across the nation, social distancing precautions have forced cancellation of most of them.
Most recently it canceled the Wine & Bourbon Ball, which usually rakes in around $35,000. Earlier in the year it canceled a steak fry that would have brought in around $10,000.
The money will be sorely missed in an agency that needs $200,000 annually to pay a small staff and keep open the 30,000-square-foot building that houses it and the other agencies.
The staff is Young, an assistant and a rotating roster of four clients in a 10-week job program.
Assisting The Neighborhood will help get people who are down on their luck back on their feet, according to Young. And more people fit that category now than ever before, because of COVID-19.
“We’ve started to see people come in that have never come and used the services of The Neighborhood before, because of what we’ve been through in the last nine or 10 months,” he said.
Many are workers in service occupations like the restaurant and retail industries that have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series. The second story will appear in Wednesday’s edition.