Offer a ‘Helping Hand’


advent_luke_storyRural Services looks for grassroots support to maintain ministry

by luke eggleston
sun staff writer

CINCINNATUS — The global economic crisis has dominated recent headlines as large companies have declared bankruptcy, announced massive layoffs or both.

If the projections of a crippling recession come to pass, life will become very difficult, particularly for lower middle class and poor people.

While Wall Street is benefiting from a $7 billion bailout from the federal government, agencies such as the Syracuse Diocese’s Rural Services ministry are left to fend for themselves.

Last year, the Cincinnatus based ministry, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Rural Services, Cortland-Chenango Counties; operates the Nearly New consignment shop and also maintains a garden, which supplies local people with fresh vegetables at its farmers’ market.

The ministry is not just for the rural poor, it provides an invaluable service for the middle class residents in any of the 11 communities within 10 miles of Cincinnatus.

Budget cuts over the last two years have made maintaining Rural Services very challenging. Currently, the ministry requires $60,000 just to cover its operating costs.

Sister Kathleen Heffron, CSJ, has been the key coordinator for Rural Services during the last two decades. The HOPE Appeal granted the ministry $30,000 but Rural Services now must match that amount.

A Syracuse-based fund raiser yielded just $2,000 so Sister Kathleen took it upon herself to generate more local support.

In order to generate the financing, Rural Services launched its first annual “Helping Hands” campaign Oct. 18.

Sister Kathleen pointed out that if 1,000 people donated as little as $30, Rural Services would have the money it needed to maintain its operations for the next year. Those who can’t donate $30 are more than welcome to send whatever their budgets will allow.

Rural Services also started a local penny drive, setting up jars in several businesses.

Sister Kathleen stressed that each donation is tax deductible and encouraged would-be donors to consider the holiday season as an appropriate time for giving.

The campaign will continue through January 2009.

In order to measure the success of the campaign, Rural Services volunteers unveiled a rainbow pole near their headquarters in Cincinnatus at the Oct. 18 kick-off.

Sister Kathleen noted that running Rural Services is a full-time task in and of itself. The additional responsibility of fund raising has made her position very challenging.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said.

Rural Services recently closed its farmers’ market and has moved on to the task of Christmas support.

The people that benefit from Rural Services are largely isolated. Most of them are over 20 miles away from the nearest grocery store.

Judy Maroney is one of the many volunteers who helps Sister Kathleen.

“I think they provide a useful service to everyone here,” said Maroney, who attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission in Cincinnatus.

Maroney and her husband moved to the Cincinnatus area from Binghamton. Like many of the volunteers, she is retired.

Since her arrival, Maroney has been inspired by the sense of a common good in the area.

“There’s a spirit of community here that really is exceptional,” she said.

Another retiree who volunteers, Shirley Goodrich, simply enjoys having an opportunity to help out and to socialize.

“They were asking for volunteers and well, I thought, ‘That’s a day out, that’s a day to be out with people,’” she said.

In addition to the clothing shop and the farmers’ market, Rural Services connects local people with social services to help with such issues as heating one’s home.

“They have so many services that it’s hard to pick out just one,” Goodrich said.

Rural Services networks with the Office of the Aging, Cooperative Extension, Catholic Charities, Family Health Network and the Food Bank of Central New York.

One of the seasonal service offered is the Food Sense program, which provides families with an entire Thanksgiving meal for just $15.50. The meals come from the Food Bank of Central New York.

Donations may be sent to PO Box 57, Cincinnatus, NY 13040. For more information, e-mail or call (607) 863-3828.

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