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Non-profits see differences made in lives

Embarrassed, a 17-year-old girl went to the Literacy Council of Tyler for help, because she did not know how to read, write her own name or tell time.

“She was 17 years old and had not spent one day in public school,” Jessie Prestridge, the community relations coordinator, said.

The girl was living with her grandparents who were supposed to be home schooling her, but her skill level was around the second grade.

The Literacy Council has a youth program that helps students get their GED. This girl has now passed every section but one of her GED because of the help she received through the Literacy Council.

“I wish everyone had a job that they knew they were helping [hopeless] people, because that’s what drives me, knowing I am making a difference in someone’s life,” Prestridge said.

Prestridge has worked with the Literacy Council since 2001.

Local social service organizations provide people in need with food, education, medication and other services, in order to bring hope to people in Smith County.

In the midst of the current economic crisis, non-profit organizations are finding changes in volunteers and funding.

Organizations like PATH, The Literacy Council of Tyler, and the Salvation Army are seeing a greater number of volunteers since the decline in the economy and the loss of jobs.

“There has been an increase of volunteers coming in saying they want to give back to the community,” DeAnn Sutton, volunteers coordinator at the Literacy Council, said.

Lori Pallex, volunteer and special events coordinator for the Salvation Army, said that they are seeing a lot of men who recently lost their jobs coming to volunteer.

“In times of economic crisis, we tend to focus more on humanity, on each other, on families and neighbors, and less on material things,” Christina Fulsom, the executive director of PATH, said.

Suzanne Daniel volunteers every Thursday at PATH, serving as a caseworker.

“I love it. PATH is very close to my heart,” Daniel said. “You can sit across from someone who absolutely does not know what to do and give them hope.”

PATH is an organization in Tyler that has not yet had any problems with receiving funding since the economic crisis.

“We have been very fortunate. I hear across the nation and from other non-profits that they are receiving less funding, but that is not true for us,” Fulsom said.

While some organizations like PATH are still receiving the funding that they need, others are seeing shifts in funding.

The Salvation Army is one organization that experienced a change.

“We have had a shift. Some of our big donors are really stepping it up and donating more because they know that run-of-the-mill people aren’t able to anymore,” JoAnn Lutmer-Paulson, the grants administrator of the Salvation Army, said.

The Literacy Council of Tyler is running a little behind on raising the funding that they need.

“The unknown is will we make it up or will we get further behind,” Nancy Crawford, the executive director of the Literacy Council of Tyler, said.

The United Way, which funds 25 organizations around Tyler including the Salvation Army and the Literacy Council, saw a slight decrease in funds in 2008, bringing in 2 percent less than their goal.

“We are expecting to have more of a pledge loss, which means that maybe people who were working at the time and have since lost heir job, that pledge will cease or at least decrease,” Lisa Gardener, the allocations director of the United Way, said.

For more information on how to give funds or volunteer directly for one of these organizations, contact their local office or find them online.

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