Published in the November 30, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — Just a few days into the Transcript’s annual Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund drive, initial donations have arrived totaling $350.

Established 28 years ago by the Transcript in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War to assist neighbors served by Christian Community Service (CCS) who were having difficulty paying for their home heating oil and other essentials, the fund has grown to become a dependable source of income that enables CCS volunteers to help clients make ends meet year-round.

The amazing part of this story is that these funds are raised during the four or five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year’s fund started out like this year’s fund, with a single $300 donation, but by the time Christmas and New Year’s had arrived, it topped off at a whopping $40,420.

The appeal of the Transcript’s Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund has always been that the funds donated remain in town, quietly helping neighbors you probably don’t even realize are in need of a helping hand. It could be due to a sudden or extended illness or disability, job loss, underemployment, living on a fixed income or any number of scenarios. The assistance provided is confidential and CCS has very limited overhead which enables your hard-earned dollars to be stretched as much as possible.

According to CCS Chairwoman Ellen Wiklanski, “The organization itself is run entirely by volunteers, and the actual operating costs are limited to less than 2 percent of the operating expense. Thanks to space in Town Hall, the only on-going expenses are for a phone line, a post office box and a storage unit. Occasional expenses include supplies and equipment for the pantry, such as carts and tables.”

She added, “The Food Pantry is the most visible part of the organization, and the pantry has approximately 100 households who use the pantry on a recurring basis. The Food Pantry enables the clients to save up to $100 in grocery costs; that savings enables folks to pay other household bills.”

Because the CCS Food Pantry is a member of the Greater Boston Food Bank, it can provide a variety of food, including fresh produce, frozen meats, and dairy products “at greatly reduced prices. The pantry spends more than $15,000 with the Greater Boston Food Bank per year, while receiving more than 60,000 pounds of food. The pantry also stocks its shelves by having to purchase needed items at the retail level; costs are sometimes as high as $1,000 per month,” Wiklanski explained.

Other services provided by CCS include financial assistance when someone needs emergency help. “For instance, we recently had a client who could not pay his entire rent because he had to use the rent money to get his car fixed, in order to get to work. CCS was able to pay the rent on time,” Wiklanski said.

However, she emphasized, “All of the emergency financial support is paid directly to the landlord, or business involved. Financial aid is never given directly to the client. CCS spends approximately $40,000 per year in direct help to our clients, with most of those costs for housing, utility bills, and automobile repair.”

CCS will also provide gifts to approximately 65 children this Christmas, all of whom are members of families who use the Food Pantry and other CCS resources. Fortunately, the very successful Take-a-Tag program run by CCS is virtually self-sufficient and allows the organization to provide wish list items for youngsters, bringing them joy during the holiday season.

How to donate

Donations to CCS are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. CCS automatically provides receipts to those who donate $250 or more. Tax receipt for donations of any amount will be provided upon request by the donor.

The Transcript will acknowledge all donations in the newspaper each week. Checks should be made payable to “Christian Community Service” or “CCS,” not to the newspaper. They may be mailed to the Transcript at P.O. Box 7, North Reading, MA 01864.

Those who wish to drop of their donations in person may do so at the North Reading branch of the Reading Cooperative Bank, 170 Park St. (next to Ryer’s Store).

Let’s keep working together to make the 2017 Neighbor Fund drive the most successful it has ever been.

Transcript’s 2017 NHNF donor list:

• A very warm and wonderful Christmas to everyone from Donald Daniel……………$250

• Matthew and Alison Martin…………………………………………….$100

Total Week 1……………………….………. $350