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Offering a helping hand
Aide agencies seeing increased demand for services
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 If you want to help:

• Barton County Emergency Aid Council

3007 10th St, Great Bend

8:30-11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday


• Salvation Army

2545 10th St, Great Bend

8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday


• Central Kansas Dream Center

2100 Broadway in Great Bend


• Community Food Bank of Barton County 

3007 10th St. Great Bend

1-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday


 In an ironic twist, the myriad agencies in Barton County that help the needy are themselves in need.

These services, funded primarily through private donations, are seeing so many requests for assistance that they are turning people away. They are running out of money to render aide.

Why? The reasons are unclear. 

There has been a downturn in oil prices that has trickled down to impact related jobs. There has also been a spate of utility shut-off notices being sent as companies try to clear their books before winter.

But, for those on the front lines the cause is not as important as the affect. All of the agencies issued a plea for any support they could get.

“People are just in a struggle right now,” said Jennie Gordy, office manager for the Emergency Aid Council. The council, a separate entity housed in the same building in Great Bend with the Community Food Bank of Barton County, offers money to help those facing eviction or loss of utilities.

“As fast as it comes in, it goes out,” Gordy said of donated funds. “We’ve been extremely busy and haven’t gotten as many donations.”

The council is planning its annual soup supper in October and organizers are hoping for a large showing.

“Some people don’t realize there is such a need,” she said. “I love helping other people and there are a lot of people out there. I never knew there was such a need until I started this job.”

Governed by the Barton County Association of Churches which provides the many of the contributions, the council is not there to give handouts, just a lift. 

Those seeking assistance must come in and fill out an application. They have to be able to prove it is an emergency situation in order to qualify, but very few are rejected.

“We don’t pay the whole  bill,” Gordy said. They offer just enough to keep the lights on and/or keep the applicants in their homes.

Now, she has had to cut back on how much she gives so she can help as many people as possible. “We’re here to help people.”

Emergency aid is not alone.

The Great Bend Salvation Army Store receives money for assistance on a monthly basis, but is only able to make it through about 20 days before exhausting those funds, said store Manager Dana Walls. Then, they have to wait until next month.

In addition to selling donated clothing and household items, the Salvation Army store offers help with rent, utilities, business attire, prescriptions, backpacks for school children and a free summer kids camp. Now, they are offering less assistance per family to spread the money around as much as possible, Walls said.

Walls said the local economy and the oil slump appear to be at least partly to blame. 

“It’s horrible right now,” said Kimberly Becker of the Central Kansas Dream Center. When she arrived at her office Thursday morning, she found paperwork on eight residents who were getting the utilities shut off “because I couldn’t help them enough.”

The center also helps with rent and utility bills. But, “we’ve had to put a cap on what we give,” she said.

Sometimes, what the center can offer isn’t enough to make a dent in a person’s bills. Perhaps, she said, all the agencies involved in helping the needy would be better served if few people received more substantial help.

After someone is evicted, the center can offer lodging for women. However, Becker said, there are no shelters for men or families in Great Bend.

The center is raising money to accommodate these groups, but that is a long-term project, she said.

The Community Food Bank of Barton County serves a slightly different mission by offering non-perishable food items to the needy. Although there have been a lot of people seeking assistance, the food bank’s Bob Essmiller said they are doing OK.

However, he said, they could always take donations.