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October 28, 2014

United Way presented The Salvation Army with a $10,000 emergency grant this month to help cover expenses incurred to serve 27 households to lost their homes during the May 11 fire at the Windsor Hi-Rise Apartments in Marysville. The Salvation Army spent $115,000 to help house displaced residents. From left to right: Shari Marsh, United Way Executive Director; Ken Yunker, United Way Board President; and Beth Fetzer-Rice, Jodi Peterson-Sonstein, Tiana Purvis, and Melinda Frey of The Salvation Army.
Six months after a fire destroyed the Windsor Hi-Rise apartments on Marysville’s south side, the impact is still rippling through the local social service community. United Way awarded a $10,000 emergency grant this month to The Salvation Army to help replenish the agency’s housing programs. The Salvation Army had run out of money to serve local clients in September after spending $115,000 to serve 27 households who lost their homes in the unprecedented disaster on May 11.

“In Union County, we usually serve 20 homeless families a year,” said Beth Fetzer-Rice, Director of Housing for The Salvation Army. “We served more than that through the Windsor Fire alone! This large disaster significantly tapped our resources and impacted the funds we had available to help other families for the remainder of the year.”

The Salvation Army called on staff from Delaware, Franklin, and Morrow Counties to assist their Union County social workers in the immediate aftermath of the blaze. They secured additional nights of emergency hotel stay for residents, worked with local pantries to provide food, then two months of case management to help them find permanent housing solutions.

“They were housed. They were stable. Then they were totally uprooted and didn’t have a lot of resources to deal with it,” Fetzer-Rice said.

The most pressing challenge for these families was finding a new place to call home. Windsor was a low-income, subsidized housing facility.

“Affordable housing is at a premium in Union County,” noted Ken Yunker, United Way Board President. “As a community, we were not meeting the needs prior to the fire.”

“It’s not like there was another apartment building across town that you could simply move these people into,” said Fetzer-Rice. “It highlights the fact that we need more affordable housing.”

Fetzer-Rice praised the work her social workers performed in the aftermath of the fire and noted the collaboration that exists among social service organizations in Union County. She said that the American Red Cross and Union County Emergency Management officials were very supportive, working non-stop to get people re-housed. The Salvation Army is United Way’s top-funded Partner Agency and its housing programs receive the most donor dollars, with $102,000 originally allocated in January for use in 2014.

“If our community did not have this homeless program that we brought to Union County 10 years ago, this would have been a different conversation,” she said. “The infrastructure to help these families was in place. I don’t know who would have had $115,000 to house these displaced residents otherwise.”

United Way works to bring neighbors and resources together to improve lives in Union County. United Way of Union County has raised more than $18 million for local needs since it was established in 1958. More than just a fundraiser, United Way collaborates with local businesses, government, and non-profit organizations to solve pressing social service issues large and small.

For more information, please visit www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org.
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