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Sixty-eight families aided by grants

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image Curt Morgan, a volunteer with the Catholic Conference at St. Anne Catholic Church in Ruskin, helps a family fill out an application for emergency help.

It was just a mattress but it made all the difference.

By PENNY FLETCHER

RUSKIN — It was just a mattress but it made all the difference.

Until they received it from the St. Anne Conference, the family of four had been sleeping on the floor.

“Maybe it isn’t ideal, all of them on one mattress, but it’s better than sleeping on the floor,” said Conference Chairman Rich Ricca.

The mattress was just a small part of what a recent $6,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center enabled the Catholic Conference to do.

First, the grant was matched by the Conference — immediately making it $12,000.

Then a series of meetings was held by the Review Committee headed by Sister Rosalie Hennessy to figure out where the money would do the most good.

The Community Foundation grant was given in March. It was part of the Dr. Charles and Iona Mathias Fund.

The money comes from donations and bequests and may be left to spend at the discretion of the Foundation or put into a specific area, such as education, families, animals, environmental, and dozens of other wide categories.

“It leaves us a great deal of discretion,” said Sister Rosalie. “We might know it is for families, but what families? And for what reason? We, as a committee must carefully go over each application and decide.”

These are weighty decisions, said Rich. “Sometimes the smallest thing — like that mattress — can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

The most recent grant was used to help 68 families.

Rich broke it down this way: 37 families were helped in a big way and 31 to a smaller degree.

Forty-seven percent went for rent for 14 families. Thirty-one percent to utilities for 16 families. Then there was the “catch all category” that helps the people who fall between the cracks. This 22 percent helps in various ways that no agency can provide.

“This time, a mom called from Massachusetts. Her son had come down for a job but when he got here, there really wasn’t any job. He went to a homeless shelter and got mugged and robbed. The mom was calling to see if we could give him the money to send him home.”

The bus ticket turned out to cost more than a plane ticket, and so after someone from the church drove the 26-year-old man to the airport, the $180.40 plane ticket took him on home.

“We never know if we’ve helped change or save a life,” said Rich.

Another thing this particular grant accomplished was to help a father who could not pay his car payment or three month auto insurance. Without those, he could not work.

“Once they get behind, they can’t get caught up so sometimes, just a quick fix is all they need,” Rich said.

A lot of people are now between places to live too, need to get into an apartment or mobile home and get some furniture so they can qualify for food stamps and other assistance they can’t get living in the woods.

The effect of falling behind on electric bills is to turn off electricity after three months and that was averted for a family as well.

“Think of it. No hot water. Maybe no water at all. No refrigerator. No clean clothes or dishes. No baths. This has a dramatic effect on families. How can the children even stay in school?” Rich asked.

So Curt Morgan and other volunteers faithfully volunteer to take applications, day in and day out, praying that the money will continue to come in.

The Conference makes some from the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Ruskin (east on 11th Ave. N.E. just south of St. Anne Catholic church) but most comes from donations.

“If only people would provide for this in their wills so many more people could be helped,” Sister Rosalie said.

To do that, you may contact the fund’s administrator, Robert Mohr, at 137 S. Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center or call his office 813-634-5500. Mohr, an attorney, is the chairman of the Development Committee for the Community Association and also administrator of the Funds.

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