Special grant helped 300 families during recessionby Judy Martin Godshalk of MMA
As the recession of 2009 deepened, Mennonite Mutual Aid realized its regularly budgeted Sharing Fund money wasn't going to meet the needs of financially struggling people this year.
"For the first time ever, our Sharing Fund ran out of money in June," said Phyllis Mishler, Sharing Fund manager at MMA. "We've used our entire budget before, many times, but never as early as June."
Knowing the intensity of the needs families would continue to face during the recession, MMA provided an additional $50,000 in June through a specially created, one-time Faith in the Future Grant.
This money was used only for people who had lost their jobs or who were underemployed because of the economy. Through this grant, until all its funds were disbursed in November, more than 300 additional families received assistance.
A great moment in mutual aid
The total grant amount was increased by an additional $10,000 made available when MMA decided to scale down the size of its booth at the Mennonite Church USA Convention 2009 in Columbus, Ohio, this past summer. In addition, the conference moderator announced the opportunity to delegates to give to this fund.
"It truly was a great moment of mutual aid," Mishler said. "For the rest of the summer, I continued to receive contributions from individuals and churches that helped boost the Faith in the Future fund by another $6,500."
Through this united mutual aid effort, families (names changed) who received assistance included:
• David in Oregon, a father of six (three with special needs) whose hours were cut back, who needed help with medical bills and the mortgage.
• Jim in Pennsylvania, a father of two who lost his job in December 2008 and needed help with rent.
• A husband and wife in Pennsylvania with three children who both lost jobs and needed help with their mortgage.
• Tim in Michigan, unemployed for more than a year who also lost insurance coverage only to discover he needed heart surgery--but had no health insurance coverage.
• Carl in Virginia, who lost his job and insurance and then injured his shoulder. With the Faith in the Future Grant, his church helped him pay COBRA insurance premiums so the injury could be covered.
Sharing Fund grants are one of the unique differences of MMA. The grants are funded through MMA members purchasing products, as well as through the organization's commitment to tithing, and through individual donations from MMA members and staff. Money in the fund is then used to match the benevolent efforts of churches attempting to meet the needs of individuals within their congregations and communities.
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