Area agencies hit hard by reductions in funding

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   An increasing demand for services coupled with a cut in donations from United Way and anticipated funding reductions on the state level led several non-profit agencies to plead their case Thursday evening before the Carter County Budget-Finance Committee.
   Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center is not expected to meet its June payroll and will end this fiscal year $2,500 in the red, according to Kathy Dula. All trips have been canceled and during the last year, Dula said, employees each took a one month layoff.
   "We only have three full-time employees," she said. "The building is in desperate need of maintenance and repairs. We need, if at all possible, the full $18,000 this year. This, hopefully, will help us get back on track."
   Twenty percent of the population is over the age of 60, she said, and every day, the center receives calls from hospitals and other agencies regarding senior citizen services. The center serves approximately 230 clients per month.
   Last year, it received $36,000 from the City of Elizabethton and $14,000 from the county. For Fiscal Year 2002/2003 Dula is requesting an additional $4,000 from each entity, for a total of $40,000 from the city and $18,000 from the county. "We desperately need help," Dula said.
   Darrell "Pappy" Crowe of the Elizabethton/Carter County Boys and Girls Club said more than 1,100 children were served last year. Thursday, there were more than 60 children in attendance at the club. Since moving to its new building, services have been expanded and include a computer room, library, arts and crafts, and athletics.
   The club has an all-volunteer staff of more than 300, according to Crowe. "If we didn't have volunteers, we would be flat out."
   All money received from the club's after-school program and all registration fees for athletics is put back into the center to be used for the children, Crowe said. The club receives $10,000 from the city as well as help with utilities.
   "We thank you for what you do for us," Crowe said, and asked that funding from the county remain at last year's figure of $10,000.
   Elizabethton Parks and Recreation last year received $22,500. This year, the agency is requesting an increase of $9,500 for a total of $32,000 to support its programs and improve its facilities, including the numerous Little League fields it maintains.
   Cathy Johns of Community Day Care said that program provides child care for persons of low to moderate incomes who have children age 5 and younger. The day care allows parents to pursue job training or college while secure in the knowledge that their children are well cared for.
   "The Community Day Care was started by a group of very committed people 33 years ago when there was no other alternative for child care," Johns said.
   The curriculum goal for children who attend the center is for all of them to enter school on the same educational background level as children from more affluent economic backgrounds, according to Johns.
   The day care is unable to raise tuition rates because parents that utilize its services are "barely able to pay for it now," she said. "We keep applying for grants, but Pappy keeps winning them."
   Johns asked that the county fund the day care at last year's rate of $1,500 so that it may continue helping families in need.
   In recent years, there has been a growing number of domestic violence cases in Carter County. Shepherd's Inn, which has been in existence five years, is the only life-support agency in the county which takes in women and children who have fallen prey to domestic violence. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
   The shelter is funded totally by contributions and grants. Two years ago, Shepherd's Inn purchased a house. Until now, the shelter has received $40,000 annually from the city, but no funds from the county. A spokesperson from the Inn asked the county to provide $12,000 during the next fiscal year.
   "Our contract with Elizabethton Housing Authority will cease this year and that's where our house payment came from," she said. Funds from the county would go toward making the house payment.
   Carter County Sheriff John Henson said the facility has been a "tremendous asset to us." The sheriff's department often receives domestic violence calls resulting in the mother and child having to leave home in the middle of the night. "This is the first time we've had a place to take them," Henson said.
   "Do you want that [money] taken out of your budget?" County Executive Truman Clark asked the sheriff, jokingly.
   "Might as well," Henson said. "Everything else does."
   Other budget requests included $1,000 for Retired Senior Citizens, $4,999 for the First Tennessee Development District, and $3,000 for the Emergency Child Shelter.