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Hundreds of Helping Hands Could be Lost in Ohio

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October 11, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Hundreds of helping hands could be lost in Ohio. A budget bill on Capitol Hill would cut funding for people working mostly as volunteers, helping those who need help the most. A House Committee proposes eliminating programs such as AmeriCorps and VISTA, that are administered by the Corporation for National Community Services. Such programs include some 80,000 volunteers.

More than 200 of these workers are deployed by the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, where executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt says they are the "boots on the ground."

"These individuals work on the front line every day, feeding their hungry friends and neighbors, helping to rebuild communities and provide opportunities for individuals who are often afflicted with unemployment, poverty and homelessness."

Besides their work with growing numbers of food bank clients, Hamler-Fugitt says, AmeriCorps and VISTA members help feed tens of thousands of children in summer food and backpack food programs. They also help low-income Ohioans complete their tax returns free of charge.

AmeriCorps is one of the largest employers of 18-to-24-year-olds in the country, paying them a small stipend for social service work. Hamler-Fugitt believes its funding should be significantly increased, because it provides jobs that are desperately needed in Ohio and the rest of the country.

"Our greatest fear is that many of these young people who are committed in serving in these volunteer capacities for a very modest stipend will be forced not only to leave our state, but potentially our country."

The draft of the 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services budget bill that includes the cut will get subcommittee scrutiny before it reaches the full House.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH