POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 - 9:23pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 12:02pm
People Attempting to Help need donations
TYLER - The faith-based paradigm that is People Attempting To Help - a template for other faith-based efforts in cities across America - is calling on its roots, Tyler's faith community.
PATH began in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church 25 years ago and now is the time to prayfully consider how to keep the ministry going, said Christina Fulsom, PATH's executive director.
"It's the economy," Mrs. Fulsom said. "Donations are so far behind where we were last year at this time that we only have about a month of on-hand operating" funds.
Figures supplied by PATH reveal a sharp increase in services from 2008 to 2009. In each of the past three months alone, services rendered increased by nearly 30 percent from their 2008 equivalents. In May 2008, for instance, 1,992 services were provided. Contrast this with 2,552 services given in May 2009, and there is an increase of 28.1 percent. More than $40,000 went to aid county residents in May with electric utilities, $21,000 for food assistance and more than $11,000 in medical prescription assistance.
"We are very efficient spenders at PATH," Mrs. Fulsom said. "But breaking the cycle of poverty, feeding people, keeping them in their homes and teaching them how to fish for themselves takes about $100,000 a month. If we cut anything more, we'll be turning people away who are looking to us for a chance. That hurts."
Cutting PATH programs to save money is not the answer, said PATH President Rabbi Neal Katz of Tyler's Congregation Beth El.
"It doesn't work that way," he said Wednesday. "Each PATH program combines to address the total picture of service and is part of PATH's comprehensive approach to help the needy of Smith County."
And the faith-based ministry is frugal, Katz said.
"Only 4 percent of the budget goes to administration," he said. "So about 96 percent of funds go directly serving people who need help. There is nothing superfluous about a PATH program."
And PATH's depth of service makes it the largest and most comprehensive help agency in Smith County, Mrs. Fulsom said. According to PATH figures through May, 17,502 individuals have been helped with food assistance and about 400 have applied for medical prescription assistance. The organization has helped 86 families with rent or mortgage assistance and seen an increase of 250 new families coming for help. An additional 400 people each week, not included in the official 2009 totals, come weekly for fresh produce provided by PATH.
"In two weeks, I'll have to sit down and assess where we are financially and what hard choices must be made," said Mrs. Fulsom. "We'd like the faith community to come to our Web site, look at our programs and pray about what God would have them do to help their neighbors. We need people to pray for us right now."