Digging Deeper

March 20-26, 2003
Digging Deeper
By Howie Mansfield
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Unity Acres Looks to New Ways to Raise Funds for Rising Expenses

ORWELL — In the past, when Unity Acres needed money, somehow it was always there — sometimes appearing out of thin air. Today’s current economic climate has forced Unity Acres to look outside its circle of friends to keep alive the spirit of Father Raymond McVey, who co-founded the Acres with Kate Stanton.

After much consultation, Unity Acres will hold a fundraising event at the Persian Terrace Room at the Hotel Syracuse on April 8. The festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m. Stephen Dickhout, an administrator at Unity Acres, said the needs are greater than ever. “We are at the tail end of a very difficult winter. Fuel oil prices are up and it has been depleting our funds. The bills are mounting to keep the four buildings we have going,” Dickhout explained. “The day-to-day expenses keep going up. We have between 70 and 80 men here at the moment. We are concerned about the safety and viability of buildings for those men.”

Mary Maples, a member of the Unity Acres support committee for 37 years, said unforeseen problems have made the situation there worse, with “frozen pipes, leaky roofs, drifting snow and depleted funds.” This is the first ever fundraiser, Maples can recall, at Unity Acres. “Father McVey thought his friends would always come through for him and they did. This is beyond what we expected. They don’t have the money.”

When problems with the water system arose, Maples said there was no drinking water at Unity Acres for days. This is just one instance of the concerns the Acres faces daily. Mark Capone, vice president of the Unity Acres support committee, said they have always relied on personal contributions as their main source of income. Keeping to a bottom line budget has become increasingly difficult and has forced Unity Acres to come up with creative ways to raise funds. “These types of fundraisers have been pretty successful. It’s going to be similar to what was done for Jail Ministry last year. This event will be a great night of entertainment by some talented people from Central New York,” Capone said. “We need to go to the people. Everyone is having tough times and because of the uncertainty, people have pulled back in funding. We need the extra funds to meet those costs.”

Capone called the efforts to keep up with various problems “a constant battle.” Early March brought 18 more inches of snow to Unity Acres and more pressure on the leaking roofs. Combined with keeping three to four vehicles working, feeding the residents and maintaining a well and underground pipes needing “extensive repair,” the task, Capone said, is a difficult one. “You can’t budget for these unforeseen things very well. Somehow we keep on making it work. But the last couple of years, the contributions haven’t been there.”

Dickhout said Unity Acres hopes increased funding will allow them to prepare better for future problems. “We need to anticipate those unanticipated needs,” he said. “There are many projects we would like to do, but we can’t do anything unless we have the money.” Capone hopes people won’t lose sight on the service Unity Acres provides to its residents. “We want to be successful in our mission to be a home for men with problems and addictions,” Capone said. “If they didn’t have Unity Acres, they would be out on the streets.” Maples said for the men, Unity Acres is their only home. “We all have a great devotion to care for these men,” she said. “They have cut all bonds with their families because of their problems. We are it.”

Tickets for the Unity Acres fundraiser are $25. Reservations must be made in advance. For reservations, call Maples at (315) 446-1105 until March 30 and Dickhout at (315) 298-8772 until April 8. Unity Acres is always in need of underwear, socks and personal hygiene items for the residents. For more information on donating these items, call the Acres at (315) 298-6215.

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