UWLC offers COVID fund to help agencies which help residents

Safe Home, etc., stretched thin as COVID cuts into donations 

Laurens County, South Carolina –  Like other non-profit agencies, the Safe Home of Laurens County is stretched thin even on a good day while working to provide needed services to its clients, most of whom never live within the shelter for abused women. Now with the COVID-19 crisis added to that, it’s gotten even more “interesting.” 

“Because of social distancing, we are having to place some of our victims in hotels, and that brings another level of concern for safety and how to provide food to the families while maintaining safe distances,” said Dawn Ardelt, director of the Laurens County Safe Home. “And not to mention covering the costs of hotels.” 

The Safe Home is facing other concerns as well, such as the decreased funding that was typically raised through its thrift store, “Our Little Shop,” which was closed to the public for several weeks. The thrift store, located in Western Square on West Main Street near BI-LO, provides funds for utility bills of clients who have moved to a safe location. 

“The store has just reopened under limited hours, but that was several weeks of funds that we don’t have to assist these women,” Ardelt said. 

Such stresses faced by the county’s most vulnerable people are adding stresses to the agencies who assist them every day, said Alesia Carter, director of the United Way of Laurens County.

“We are hearing that food is a big issue for the agencies who help people. But there are a lot of other stresses as well, like how they will fund the utility bills,” Carter said. “Right now people can get forgiveness on late fees for their utility bills but the bills are still piling up, and agencies like United Ministries aren’t sure they’ll have the funds to help those people.” 

The United Way has been working to compile a COVID- 19 fund that will be allocated on a grant basis to the 501-c3 non profit agencies serving the people of Laurens County. 

“We won’t be starting our new campaign until September, and we expect that to be lower this year because of the businesses shutting down for awhile,” Carter said. “This fund is different because it’s only for COVID relief. 100 percent of it will be used for food, shelter and utilities in Laurens County and it’s for the agencies which provide the services.” 

UWLC staff has some funding available to pass on the agencies during the COVID-19 crisis, and guidelines for agency assistance is available on the website. An application should go up later this week, Carter said. Until then, agency directors can send an email and request an application. 

“We’ve had a donate button for the COVID-19 relief on the website but so far all the funds we have are from sponsorships which we were able to move over from our golf tournament, which was canceled. We are working on getting some grant funds,” Carter said, adding that the fund currently is not large and will be distributed as long as funds are available. “But anyone can donate to this new fund, and any certified 501-c3 non profit which is directly helping people of Laurens County can apply.”

Federal FEMA funds will also be coming late this week, and non-profit agencies can apply for those online as well. 

These FEMA funds and other federal assistance programs are based on the 2010 census. Those 2010 results were estimated to include only about 61% of the population at that time.

“It’s why our census tracking is so important and right now we are way behind on that for 2020 too,” Carter said. 

Anyone can apply for or donate to the COVID-19 funding pool on the website, www.uwlc-online.org. The other way to donate to the COVID-19 fund is to mail a check to UWLC, PO Box 544, Clinton, SC 29325, or call 864-833-3623 and leave a message. 

For those who would like to donate checks or restaurant cards for Safe Home clients may may send checks to The Safe Home of Laurens County, PO Box 744 Clinton, SC 29325. 

Donations of cleaning supplies for the Safe Home can be left off at the thrift store, Our Little Shop, 1500 Western Square Plaza, Suite B, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday. 

Those needing Safe Home services call 864-682-7270. 

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