This year, the commissioners hosted their second annual Community Funding Request Presentations Workshop. Representatives from forty-nine organizations were scheduled to get three minutes at the microphone to defend their requests. In recent years, largely due to the nudging of Commissioner Joe Belcher, the commissioners have required applicants to provide services the county would otherwise have to pick up.
As a result, applicants are starting to make more reasoned demands. Three conservative talking points actually made it into the dialogue. For example, Sara Laws, director of the Hope Chest for Women, told how her organization, which helps cancer patients, serves ladies who don’t make enough to pay for treatments, but make too much to qualify for other types of aid.
Allison Jordan, representing Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe, quoted Bill Milliken, founder and chairman of Communities in Schools, Inc., and author of The Last Dropout. “It is relationships, not programs that change children. A great program simply creates the environment for healthy relationships to form between adults and children. Young people thrive when adults care about them on a one-to-one level, and when they also have a sense of belonging to a caring community.”
The third talking point was a recurring theme, recently articulated well by Gene Bell, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville. Bell spoke of the need to contribute. The point of charity is not, as presidential candidate Ben Carson said, to “pat everybody on their head and say, ‘There, there, you poor little thing. I’m gonna take care of all your needs . . .’” but to get people to a point where they’re empowered to create and contribute meaningfully to society.
The meeting went fast, but it left attendees overwhelmed. Charity after charity told of the thousands of people in crisis it served each year. Dreadful stories put faces on the problems, and the audience was led to believe more and more people were out there with no available lifeline. The first impulse was denial, to hope there was a level of fraud or that the bar defining crisis was set too low.
At least three organizations requested funding for navigators. Some presenters told how the position not only connects people with services, but, through education and outreach, helps people identify their own multiplicity of needs to match with services for which they may never have suspected they could qualify.
No votes were taken Tuesday. The commissioners will mull over the applications and divvy out the grants later in the budget process.