In late 1971 some local citizens were discussing what could be done in our communities to help families in need. Christmas baskets for needy families were being planned as the end of the year approached.
Viola Schultz, county public aid official, informed the group that the greatest need of low-income families in Carroll County was a place to buy good, usable clothing and small household items. Christmas baskets weren't enough.
What started with these few concerned folks then grew. Members of several other faith communities around the county joined the discussions to plan a way to help our neighbors in need. For the initial start-up, congregations, organizations and individuals were invited to contribute up to $300 as a share in this outreach.
In March 1972 the Carroll County Help Center (CCHC) was launched. The group's purpose was to help meet the emergency needs of individuals and families; to assist people unable to help themselves; and to provide opportunities for people in the county to work together.
The first officers elected were: Lois Frank, president; June Kingery, secretary; and Rev. Tony Hawkins, treasurer. Two directors from each of the seven communities in the county were elected to serve on the board and take care of the needs of their respective communities.
Churches, service organizations and individuals throughout the county contributed money for rent and start-up costs. A Thrift Shop opened March 17, 1972, in Savanna; rent was $100 a month.
Now located at 126 S. 4th St., Savanna, the Thrift Shop is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. The board and workers are all volunteers; there are no paid salaries.
Today monthly expenses approach $1,000. Fixed costs include rent, a phone for emergency use, electricity, water/sewer charges, and a dumpster. Snow removal costs and higher winter utilities also impact the budget. It takes a lot of 25-cent, 50-cent, and $1 items to cover operating expenses and supply additional funds to help those with emergency needs.
In addition, since 1975 the CCHC Board has provided scholarships for graduating high school seniors in financial need and enrolled in a vocational or two year educational program.
The CCHC policy for giving emergency assistance requires a client to be a county resident for at least six months. Currently, up to $100 per year per family can be offered, as funds are available. Funds for emergency assistance are sent directly to the service provider by the CCHC treasurer.
Other emergencies can include fire or floods and the client may come to the Thrift Shop to select clothing (at no charge) for immediate need. In addition, small household items may be selected to help furnish their alternate housing.
CCHC cooperates with Sullivan's, Shaw's and Lanark Food Center which accept food vouchers (up to $50), signed by a board members or town contact. Before offering a food voucher, a referral is suggested to one of the three food pantries serving Savanna-Mount Carroll-Thomson, Shannon-Lanark, or Milledgeville-Chadwick.
CCHC also works with the local ministerial associations, township supervisors and Tri-Counties Opportunities Council to coordinate emergency assistance for Carroll County residents.
For information about 2020 CCHC board members and town contacts, call CCHC President Nancy Sweitzer at 815-622-8132.
What can you do to participate?
•Donate good, clean, used clothing of all sizes, household items and linens. Bring items to the Thrift Shop on Wednesday mornings, Fridays 10-4, or Saturday 10-2. Furniture or electronics are not accepted.
•Volunteer to help staff the Thrift Shop on Fridays or Saturdays. Those interested in becoming part of the network of volunteers may call Sweitzer or a church in their community.
•Attend quarterly meetings of the Carroll County Help Center Board as an interested citizen. Meetings are the fourth Tuesdays of January, April, July, and October. Location rotates.
•Contribute monetarily to the Carroll County Help Center. Donations may be directed to treasurer Carol Gloor. As a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization, donations to the Carroll County Help Center are tax deductible. Assistance from churches, service organizations and individuals will help sustain a pool of resources to assist neighbors with emergency needs.
•Meet the 2020 Challenge. In 2020 Carroll County Help Center celebrates 48 years in service. They invite everyone to participate in their “$48 For Our 48th Year Challenge” to continue the partnership that first allowed them to start providing emergency assistance to families in Carroll County.
Monetary contributions from churches, organizations and individuals will help sustain CCHC’s pool of resources. Send contributions to: Carroll County Help Center, c/o Carol Gloor, Treasurer, 946 N. Fourth St., Savanna, IL 61074.