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HANDLE WITH CARE campaign to help Family & Children Services clients


By Rebecca Pierce

A unique local fundraising effort — kept alive for more than 25 years by donors who loyally support it each year — is being launched Nov. 15 by Family & Children Services (FCS).

Nearly 50 community volunteers came together at agency to personally sign letters that will go out to thousands of loyal and prospective HANDLE WITH CARE donors.

HANDLE WITH CARE provides basic needs for Family & Children Services’ clients when there is no other community resource.  This service is extended throughout the Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and South County area.  The agency is a United Way recipient of funds as well.

Since HANDLE WITH CARE has been in existence, tens of thousands of people have been helped by it, thanks to donors, according to FSC Chief Executive Officer Rosemary Gardiner.

“Many of the families we serve have many obstacles that get in the way of full utilization of services,” she said.  “HANDLE WITH CARE changes that equation. Our staff makes the request for a specific item when it is most needed.”

Many people in this community, and in the nation, are living paycheck to paycheck.  All it takes is an unexpected development – a layoff, an accident or a diagnosis – to catapult them into debt or homelessness.

As one HANDLE WITH CARE recipient described it, “Family & Children Services was like a lifeline when we were drowning.”

The problem was “the hiccups” in people’s lives that would unexpectedly occur and require funds the agency didn’t have through its service contracts with Department of Human Services and mental health entities.

The board decided to send people in the community a special letter asking them to give to a new fund called HANDLE WITH CARE, which was created expressly to provide an essential safety net for the Agency’s clients where none existed.

“Not one dollar goes to administration,” VanderKooy said. “The success speaks for itself,” he said. “Donors want to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors.”

• Repairs were made on a family car so a dad could drive his daughter to weekly medical treatments in Ann Arbor.

• A baby crib, mattress and sheets were purchased for a newborn, easing the financial burdens of a teen mother and the low-income family who took mom and baby in.

• Doorways in a house were widened to allow a teen who must use a wheelchair to move about and achieve some independence in his home.

• Eviction was averted for a family behind on rent payments because of funeral expenses after the death of their 3-year-old son.

• A local family received rent assistance, allowing them to relocate after a landlord refused to address a pre-existing bedbug infestation.

• Heat and power were restored for an unemployed man fostering his granddaughter when that family fell behind on utility payments.

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