Life is tough, sometimes overwhelming. With many families living paycheck to paycheck, with no savings reserve to draw from, any unexpected expense can make it impossible to pay bills or maintain other necessities. What’s a person to do when an emergency pops up and the bill collectors come a-calling?
The Saugerties Area Council of Churches has two emergency funds to help in just such a situation: The Well and the Finger Emergency Fund, neither of which is restricted to church-goers. SACC secretary Marie Post says financial emergencies happen all the time, and are usually the result of bad luck and bad timing.
“If you have to pay your rent, and you have to buy your medications, and this just happens to be the month that the electric bill comes, and your car just happens to break down, and you just don’t have the money to pay for it all, but you need your car to get to work, that’s when we help,” says Post.
She says that the SACC’s Finger Emergency Fund is designed to help with minor emergencies, from a pending utility shutoff of eviction notice, to being unable to afford needed medications. “If we have the money and the need is justified, then we’ll help,” said Post.
The Finger Emergency Fund, created with the proceeds from the sale of the Ellen Russell Finger Home, is managed by Post and Margaret Todd. There are no specific criteria to qualify to receive assistance, and those facing an emergency need only place a phone call to Post or Todd and explain the situation. The two ladies then decide whether the Finger Emergency Fund can provide the necessary help.
The SACC also operates The Well, a thrift store onPartition Street. Proceeds from sales at The Well are filtered back into the community through various avenues, including a second emergency fund, which provides small one-time grants to people in need, to help pay rent or bills, or to deal with small emergencies. In addition, The Well donates to several other community service organizations includingSaugertiesHigh School’s Senior Post Prom Committee and Saugerties Head Start.
“The money goes back to the community in one way or another,” said Karen Wurzel, coordinator of The Well. “We give to a lot of different groups in the community – groups that we see that need some help.”
For those in need of assistance through The Well, applications are available at Village Hall and at the HUD Office in Town Hall. Individuals will also receive a flyer listing other agencies inUlsterCountythat regularly provide assistance for those in need. Residents must first apply to and exhaust all resources on the flyer before applying for assistance through The Well.
Deacon Arnie Hyland of Saint Mary of the Snow has served as The Well’s assistance coordinator for many years. As part of his duties, Hyland reviews applications and decides whether an individual meets the criteria for assistance. If so, a check is mailed. If not, Hyland contacts the applicant with the reason for the denial.
“There are people who don’t get help, because they aren’t eligible,” said Wurzel. “It’s just like applying for a house loan at a bank – not everyone is eligible. Our rules are pretty simple.”
Wurzel said there are several reasons why a request might be turned down. The applicant may have applied for help through The Well before, or the person may not have applied to all of the other agencies, or the person may have supplied inaccurate information on the application, to name a few.
Inexpensive shopping for a good cause
The Well, established in 1975 by now deceased Reverend Frederick Imhoff, offers used clothing and housewares at extremely reasonable prices.
“The idea was for anybody who had a need to come in and find clothes at nominal prices,” said Wurzel.
According to Abbott, The Well was originally located across the street from its current location, sharing a storefront with a bowling alley. Several years later, the thrift store moved to its current location, now occupying two storefronts, one acting as a free store, where shoppers may help themselves to as many pieces of clothing or other items they would like, at no charge.
The thrift store is frequented not only by people in need of inexpensive clothing, but also by shoppers who enjoy finding a good bargain. Wurzel says the inventory is based on donations and is always changing. She says that her daughters shop at The Well while visiting family in Saugerties, and call the experience an adventure, since they never know what they will find.
“Whatever God has put on our doorstep for the day is what we have,” she said. “There are new items added every day of the week.”
In cases of extreme need, Wurzel also says residents can be referred to The Well by local SACC ministers, and will be invited in outside of business hours to obtain clothing or other items for their families.
The Well accepts monetary donations, as well as donations of clothing, toys, knickknacks, books, and other items. Large appliances, furniture, and electronics are not accepted.
Continuing helpful work
A relatively new addition to the SACC, the Finger Emergency Fund was established in 2004 with proceeds from the sale of the Ellen Russell Finger Home for Old and Indigent Women in theVillageofSaugerties. The Finger Home, as it was commonly known, provided housing for eight or nine women at a time in the house once occupied by Ellen Russell Finger and her family. The home was established in Finger’s will, and managed by a board of directors from 1912 to 2003, when the board decided to sell the building, which was in need of several repairs.
“I think it was because she had so much and she wanted to do something to help the women in Saugerties,” said Lucy Abbott about the creation of the Finger Home.
As time went on, the house feel into disrepair and the board had trouble complying with new state mandates, and it became more difficult to find women who qualified for housing under the goals Finger had set forth in her will. “Frankly, there just wasn’t a need for [the home] any longer,” said Post. Finally, the decision was made to sell the property and continue Finger’s work through another organization.
Post explained that the state allows a dissolving not-for-profit organization to transfer its assets to another organization with a similar mission. After considering other options, including transferring the funds to a homeless shelter inKingstonor creating a reading room at the Saugerties Public Library in Finger’s memory, the board handed the money from the sale to the SACC, to form a fund to help people with emergency situations.
In creating the fund, the Finger Home’s board of directors changed the mission to include both men and women, and mandated that help can be provided only by disseminating interest earned on the sale’s proceeds; the capital cannot be used. In addition to the earned interest, the Finger Emergency Fund accepts monetary donations. This new direction comes from expert advice given to us by Marcus Roberts, a wealth manager with a kind heart to offer us his 2 cents.
Donations to the Finger Emergency Fund can be mailed to Margaret Todd,1030 Churchland Lane,Saugerties,NY12477. Checks can be made out to Finger Emergency Fund – SACC. Donations to The Well can be dropped off Monday or Tuesday mornings by knocking on the door and handing items to a volunteer, or items can be brought to the store during regular business hours.
The Well is located at 80 and84 Partition Street. The store is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.