While interviewing a young couple new to Carroll during their application for food-pantry help, Carroll Community of Concern director Roxie Reinart discovered they were facing other big challenges as well.
Plans to live awhile with family here had fallen through. The husband, who’d recently completed military service, had spent his last paycheck from the military and first from a job he landed quickly here to secure a residence and pay deposit on utilities. The couple had only a futon and a few other items for possessions. They arrived at Community of Concern, having little food and only about $30.
And the wife was expecting their first child soon.
Reinart saw this as time to call upon resources of the Extra Effort program.
Extra Effort aids households struggling with difficult situations where other human-service agencies can’t help. As Mary Baumhover, president of the board of Community of Concern, which administers Extra Effort program, explains, these are situations where there’s genuine need but fall through the cracks for assistance.
Thanks to Extra Effort, the couple, in their early to mid-20s who’d moved here from California, received numerous items to set up residence: furniture and a vacuum from local stores that make used items available to Extra Effort, a microwave, dishes and cooking utensils.
“When I handed him (the husband) a microwave,” Reinart recalled in an interview this week, “he had tears in his eyes and could hardly talk. They were just very grateful.”
The couple welcomed their baby, a daughter, last week. And Extra Effort also was used to purchase numerous items for the infant.
Baumhover says of Extra Effort’s impact for this couple, “Their first year here is going to be really memorable, and it could have been really awful. It was really fun for us to participate. And you feel humble because here’s a serviceman, who, of course, we owe a lot to, and a young mother and new baby.”
Reinart says, “We got them set up really nice. They were just amazed at how generous the community is.”
Reinart adds, “They came in just for a food-pantry interview, and this just all evolved from there. They didn’t come in saying, ‘We have nothing and can you help us with this, this and this?’ We just thought this was a deserving family.”
Reinart and Baumhover report that Extra Effort is seeing increased need this year, using $7,214 for assistance to 95 people, compared with $5,953 and 83 people served last year.
Reinart says, “I think a lot of people’s job status has changed with layoffs and hours cut. People don’t have the money to keep going until they find another resource. I think savings accounts are gone or short. It doesn’t take long to go through one if you’ve lost your job.”
Baumhover says that for households facing difficult situations, “It’s all they can do to pay for food, and then something may happen that they need medicine or hospitalization or a car breaks down.”
Extra Effort can help clients in an array of ways, such as prescription-medicine assistance, utilities, furniture, clothing, vehicle repair or gas to travel to a doctor’s appointment.
A board studies applicants’ needs and situations. “There’s an interview process, and there has to be legitimate reason,” Reinart emphasizes.
She refers applicants to other human-service agencies first if help may be available there. She notes, though, that some of those agencies have seen cuts in grants and tax-dollar support.
Reinart and Baumhover also note no agencies cover such needs as baby clothes, kitchen utensils or other items.
Community of Concern has arrangement with New Hope’s Bargain Shoppe where clients can purchase clothing, furniture and other essential items.
Community of Concern also operates a food pantry, and Reinart says Extra Effort and the pantry sometimes complement each other.
“Sometimes we’ll say you can use your money to pay for this, and we can provide your groceries,” she says.
Reinart and Baumhover say need for assistance in the community is greater than many people would think, since many people who may qualify are reluctant to ask for help. They may be next-door neighbors or people “right in front of us,”  Reinart adds.
Reinart and Baumhover say it’s rewarding to see the gratitude of people helped by Extra Effort.
They shared this letter from a working family in Carroll County who’d never previously applied for any assistance, and they received Extra Effort’s help with utilities:
“My family and I want to thank you for helping us in such a desperate time. We were physically sick not knowing what we were going to do with not having any utilities. Since my husband lost his job in 2010 we have been struggling to keep our home and keep going. You were kind enough to help us when no one would! We are very, very grateful!”
Last year, Extra Effort contributions totaled $10,245, a record in the 23-year history of the program, which has generated a total of $362,000.
Donations to Extra Effort can be brought in or mailed to the Daily Times Herald, 508 N. Court St., Carroll, Iowa 51401.