Fiscal court hears from volunteer groups who specialize in helping out less fortunate 

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Boyle County Fiscal Court heard updates from two different giving organizations Tuesday as part of its regular meeting. Representatives from both Helping Hands and Happy Feet spoke to the court about what strides they’d made in the past year, and how the groups hoped to fundraise going further.

Helping Hands

Bruce Nichols and Arnold Marshall told the court the local volunteer organization Helping Hands has helped a total of 292 people so far this year, through the month of November. Nichols said the group had spent $10,645 in food and other items, as well as assisted with the veterans day dinner, serving 1,200 veterans and family members for about the seventh year in a row. 

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“We haven’t done much with first response for fires, but we have put up homeless people for five to six nights a week, as well as helped furnish homes,” Nichols said. 

The group has helped pay utility bills for individuals who can’t make ends meet, for instance. 

The men explained how the group bought 10 Thanksgiving dinners. “And board members went out and distributed them to 64 people in roughly 10 families,” Nicholas said. “We intend to do that again for Christmas, and I know that’s a drop in the bucket, but if you’re cold and hungry, we try to make a difference.” 

Arnold wanted the court to know what donors and volunteers had done for others’ lives. 

“A story I often think of … within walking distance from the courthouse, there’s a lady in her late 80s. She draws $750 a month, pays $450 in rent. The rest goes to medicine and food. So I think you get the picture of where we’ve bridged the gap.” 

Arnold said it may be a water bill someone can’t meet, or the need for the group to chip in and buy some food. 

“We had a wheelchair ramp we needed moved …” Arnold said, and explained they had eight people show up who each did two hours worth of work. “That’s 16 hours of free labor. We bridge the gaps where the church begins and ends, and where the Red Cross is. We’ve delivered firewood. That’s what we’re about, helping people, our citizens, most of them taxpayers in Boyle and Mercer counties. We’ve even gone back and asked for suggestions of families we may have missed.” 

Nichols added, “Whatever the request is, we’ve been able to honor and fund it.” 

They explained most families find out about them through churches they partner with; some are referred to them by the Family Services Association of Boyle County. 

Arnold said Kiwanis recommended a family get a new stove, so the group went to retailers to find out which would donate. 

“We picked it up and delivered it, had it installed. They had the food but not the stove. Got to have both to make it work. If we have a donor, we’ll move it for them and get it to them.” 

The men spoke about how they “stretch the dollars” by getting in-kind donations. “We say we’ve put out $12,000-$15,000 in items, but a lot of that is donations, things we haven’t had to buy,” Arnold said. 

Nichols said the group will start keeping account of donations in order to keep the fiscal court informed.

They thanked the fiscal court for every year of its help, and consider themselves to be requesting funding for people who can’t speak for themselves. 

“We’re speaking for them, and fiscal court has been very receptive to funding our projects,” Arnold said. 

Nichols said the group has been able to honor about 90 percent of requests they’ve received. 

Happy Feet 

Lisa Burke updated the progress of a non-profit she’s affiliated with, Happy Feet, whose main goal and mission is to provide free athletic shoes to children in schools who can’t afford them. 

Burke spoke about doing some research in the beginning, asking a family resource director at a local school if they had a need, and said she cried when responding. 

“She said if they get shoes, they’re gently used or the wrong size,” Burke said. 

Over the past four years, Happy Feet has put 2,186 shoes on children in local schools, she said, including at the Kentucky School for the Deaf and area headstart programs. 

“Also, we work exclusively with Shoe Carnival in Lexington, we have a partnership with them,” Burke explained, adding the company comes down once a year to measure the kids, usually in April. Then the shoes are delivered around late July or early August. 

“They deliver them straight to us so they will have them when they start school. It’s worked really well, and they’re passionate about this program. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Burke said the group raises money in different ways, including asking for funding from the fiscal court. She told the court its donation this fiscal year bought 60 pairs of shoes for kids who can’t afford them. 

“We appreciate all you all have done for us in the past, and we know things are tight, but we hope you will consider us again next year.” 

She said they hope to apply for grants and also do work with some churches. “Not as many as I’d like …” Burke added. 

They also have private and corporate donors, but said they will have to rethink their fundraising for this upcoming year. 

“We’ve been told by some donors that this year they will give less, and we really can’t do less. This year, we spent $19,492 on shoes and socks. So, as all charitable organizations, we depend on good-hearted folks and passionate folks to help us along the way.” 

Burke also said she will be “passing the baton” to Susan Neal who will head up the organization. “She’s got more energy than I do,” she said. 

In other business 

• Chairman James Hunn with the Boyle County Human Rights Commission presented the commission’s 2017 report to the court. The commission has held eight meetings this year with an average of seven members in attendance. 

The report details issues discussed, including: relevant reports from community organizations; the federal law regarding hate crimes; a review of the fact there is no local uniform landlord tenant act; and citizens continuing to note need for local temporary housing or a homeless shelter. 

The report also notes the commission “still needs a definitive legal answer re: whether citizen complaints should continue to be heard in closed session.”

Members of the board, in addition to Hunn, include Kathy Miles, Susie Kelly, Amy Barkman, Gary Barkman, William Jenkins, Anne Sleet, Arlen Finke, Jan Bradshaw and Stacy Coontz. 

• Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning asked the court to consider Mary Beth Touchstone as an appointment to fill a seat vacated on the P&Z Commission by William Baas, whose term has ended. Touchstone is the former director of the Community Arts Center; Judge-Executive Harold McKinney praised her for her years of leadership. 

“After considerable work, I”ll recommend Mary Beth Touchstone for it. She did such a terrific job at the Arts Center, I move that we appoint her,” he said. The motion passed unanimously. 

P&Z Director Steve Hunter said he’s been very impressed with Touchstone’s tenacity.

“Mary Beth called and asked for all of our documents so she could read them,” Hunter told the court. “I was worried about that.” After a round of laughter, Hunter said P&Z is happy to have her on, and they will work on doing an orientation with her soon to get her going in the role. 

Touchstone joins board members Jerry Leber, Jeffery Baird, Terry Manon, Susie Kelly, Vince DiMartino, David Walden, Wendy Rochester and James Boyd. 

• The Boyle County Extension District Board requested the court appoint two open positions, a representative each for family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development. Paul Muth, a local artist heavily involved in 4-H programs, was appointed as the 4-H representative on the board, while Ben Guerrant was appointed as the family and consumer sciences rep. 

• The Boyle County Health Department Board requested Agnes Bartleson be reappointed to serve as the fiscal court community representative to the board, and it was unanimously approved.