by Henry G. Kammerer
Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island
It was the fall of 1973 when the secretary to an Island company manager came to her boss in tears.
"Social Services told me that the best thing I can do for my ill husband is to divorce him!" she said.
The manager, then president of the Grand Island Rotary Club, listened to her terrible tale: her diabetic husband (pre-existing condition, so her medical insurance would not cover him) desperately needed a leg amputated. The doctor and hospital bills would take every penny of savings and home equity they had. Rotarians raised several thousand dollars, used contacts with doctors and hospital to keep costs as low as possible and helped her keep their home. GI Rotary looked around and realized that even on Grand Island there were other situations, not as dramatic, with people in need of temporary help.
A permanent organization to provide emergency help to Grand Island residents was organized in 1974, incorporated (and approved as a 501c3 charity) as the Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island. Starting with Rotarians and retired teachers, the Neighbors Foundation worked with churches through the Grand Island Ministerium to set up a food pantry at St. Stephen R.C. Church and raise money through annual fundraisers. Food drives at churches, Scout groups and schools and postal workers, have kept that pantry well stocked.
Who do we help?
A family has been scraping by, but the car died - there's a big repair bill, the utility bills have ruined budget, and they pay the repair bill, but there's no money left to buy even the cheapest food. Or, a single mom just paid her extra-high utility bill, with nothing left for food! With non-perishable food on hand, and a gift card for milk, meat, etc., at Tops, clients can get immediate help when their kitchen is bare. During the holiday season, the Neighbors Foundation widens its scope to provide major food and gift deliveries to 50 or more families who have been having a tough time. Maybe their kitchens are not bare at the moment, but we have determined there is a real need.
We have volunteers to handle those calls. It takes time and toughness (and compassion). The Neighbors Foundation is trying to expand the circle of those available to handle that difficult, but rewarding, function. Providing an opportunity for organizations to focus their help, providing a chance for energetic Grand Island High School students to sort thousands of pounds of food, donated and purchased and allowing Island residents to "Share Their Happiness" in a fund drive all make the holiday season better throughout Grand Island.
Thus, for 40 years, devoted Grand Islanders have been making Grand Island a much better place to live. An idea started in one service club, Grand Island Rotary, has grown and spread with support from the entire Island. It would not have continued for that length of time if confined to one group, nor would it have obtained support from diverse groups - postal workers, town and school employees and Scout and school youth groups. The Neighbors Foundation continues to need the services of workers - sorting and delivering food, coordinating fundraisers, and the challenging task of handling calls for help. Interested people can call the numbers in our continuing ads in the Island Dispatch and Grand Island PennySaver or on our website: www.gineighbors.org.
Send contributions to: PO Box 155, Grand Island NY 14072.
Or you can visit the Neighbors Foundation website, www.gineighbors.org, and click on "DONATE NOW."