Mount Vernon: ‘Not Too Far From Here’ Fund Aids Local People in Need

Mount Vernon: ‘Not Too Far From Here’ Fund Aids Local People in Need

Church helps individuals and families with sudden medical and housing costs.

Aldersgate Methodist Church Endowment Committee, seated around table from left: Suzanne Dalch, Joe Tompkins, John Martin, Gary Bradshaw, Win Lindley, Mary Ann Robertson, Lew Ashley, and Roger Amole, chair.

Aldersgate Methodist Church Endowment Committee, seated around table from left: Suzanne Dalch, Joe Tompkins, John Martin, Gary Bradshaw, Win Lindley, Mary Ann Robertson, Lew Ashley, and Roger Amole, chair.

“Somebody's down to their last dime

Somebody's running out of time

Not too far from here

Somebody's got nowhere else to go

Somebody needs a little hope

Not too far from here”

The song “Not too Far from Here” by Steven Siler and Ty Lacy goes on to say “Help me Lord not to turn away from pain. Help me not to rest while those around me weep.”

This song inspired a member of Aldersgate Methodist Church in late 2009 to make an anonymous donation of $250,000 to establish an endowment fund to help those in need within 25 miles of the church located at Fort Hunt Road and Collingwood Road.

Over the past five years, interest from the fund and subsequent donations has made a difference in the lives of more than 300 of Aldersgate’s neighbors in need through the distribution of over $190,000. In 2014, the Not Too Far From Here (NTFFH) Fund provided about $92,000 to help 135 local people with emergencies or issues that fall between the cracks of larger agencies.

The donor remains anonymous with only the chair of the Aldersgate Endowment Committee, Roger Amole, knowing his identity. The Aldersgate Endowment Committee meets regularly to consider referrals and requests from congregation members and local nonprofit charities; it says it can respond in a couple days to an urgent need.

This fund is unique in many ways. It is substantial and thus able to actually help a number of people; it is governed by a single-page document; it covers gaps left by state and county human services agencies; and it is highly flexible, unbound by a myriad of qualification rules that can so frustrate clients of state and county agencies.

The one-page of directions bestowed by the donor stipulates that the funds be spent locally, that they assist with essential needs such as medical care, housing, food, and clothing, as well as mental health care, and that they help people and groups who have been overlooked, like the forgotten people identified in the song.

Although many private and government programs help individuals who have fallen on hard times, they don’t have the resources or flexibility to help in every situation. This gap is where the NTFFH Fund steps in. The Aldersgate Endowment Committee seeks out hard cases where someone has "fallen through the cracks" and has nowhere else to turn.

Those helped have been members of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Rising Hope Mission Church, and Wesley United Methodist Church, as well as some referred by other charitable organizations including New Hope Housing and United Community Ministries. Religious affilation is not a criteria.

Of the $92,000 spent in 2014, housing and medical expenses were most the pressing need. Nearly 50 percent of NTFFH funds were spent on rent, security deposits, and other housing-related costs. Medical and dental expenses, prescriptions and other health needs, accounted for the next largest category, 34 percent. The fund has also paid for transportation-related expenses, including vehicle repairs, car insurance, and driver’s license fees (4 percent) and for emergency debt assistance (5 percent).

Recipients remain anonymous, but a few stories of people helped, provided by the endowment committee.

The committee provided one of the many notes of thanks: “(We) are so very grateful to the church for the help it has provided. No question you have helped us stay in our home while I mend. In the future if there is anything we can do please just ask. In (all my) years I’ve come to know that words of compassion are healing, but actions and meeting needs are the foundation of a Godly life. Again our many thanks.“

Endowment committee members urge others to help neighbors in need. If funds are needed, contact the church office at 703-765-6555 for consideration. Requests submitted are followed-up confidentially by a member of the committee.

Keeping People in Their Homes

The Aldersgate Methodist Church Not Too Far From Here (NTFFH) Fund has helped a number of people and families stay in their homes during difficult times. Here are some of their stories from the Aldersgate Endowment Committee.

  • A single mom and her son had been living in a shelter. The mom’s pay, along with government assistance, enabled her to meet expenses in temporary housing pending assignment to permanent housing. However, she became sick and missed several days’ work that resulted in getting behind in her rent. The NTFFH fund was able to pay her rent. This assistance prevented the mother and her son from being evicted and having to return to the homeless shelter.
  • A young mother and her children were living with her grandmother but had to move out after the grandmother died. They hoped to find affordable housing. When this young woman came to us she was on the verge of giving up her struggle to make ends meet. The funds provided by NTFFH allowed her to buy essential items for her family and cover incidental costs needed to find a new job.
  • On a Friday, a panicked young woman called the church because she was days away from being evicted from her apartment. This young woman had custody of her little sister because her mother died during the sister’s birth. The young woman had just started a new job but hadn't been paid yet and needed help to "get over the hump." The NTFFH Fund was able to fund part of her rent, which prevented them from being evicted the following Monday.
  • A local man, after serving a long prison term, was living in the Kennedy Shelter on Route 1. He received rental assistance from Opportunities, Alternatives, & Resources (OAR), a local program that helps former inmates. However, he lost his job and needed assistance with his portion of the subsidized rent. After coordinating with his case manager, the NTFFH Fund paid the rent required to allow him to remain self-sufficient.
  • A grandmother and granddaughter were in desperate need of funds to prevent them from being evicted. The grandmother had cancer but still tried to work and her granddaughter also works when she is not in school. However, because the grandmother was unable to work during her cancer treatment, they fell behind on the rent. The NTFFH assistance paid the rent, allowing the granddaughter to stay in school and graduate. Now, she will be able to better support herself and her grandmother.

Helping with Medical Costs

The Aldersgate Methodist Church NTFFH fund has provided assistance to defray medical expenses other costs related to illness that can overwhelm a low-income family.

  • A local family was in serious need of help to deal with expenses when told their daughter required an organ transplant. The daughter’s condition fluctuates as she becomes strong enough to be placed on the active list to receive a transplant. The NTFFH fund helps the family while the daughter undergoes extensive medical care in preparation for a lifesaving transplant operation.
  • A family took into their care a girl who had been living with her mother and stepfather because the mother suffered from drug addiction and the stepdad from post-traumatic stress disorder. The girl had serious medical conditions and was without health insurance. With the help of this family she was able to get coverage through the Affordable Health Care Program. However, before her policy became effective, she required hospitalization. The amount due was well beyond the means of the family. The NTFFH fund assisted this family in paying the medical bill.
  • A woman in a local assisted living facility recently needed help. She lives frugally on her Social Security income, but has serious, multiple health issues. When she became unable to walk without assistance, she was required to move into another unit at her facility. Her rent was increased and she required frequent assistance that resulted in extra fees. The NTFFH Fund was able to pay the bill she owed to help her through the transition while she arranged to cover her increased rent.
  • A mother who had cancer surgery, was unable to work for several months while undergoing treatment. Because she was out of work for nearly six months and relying solely on her husband’s income, their bills piled up. They pursued other avenues for assistance but were denied. The NTFFH fund was able to help this family meet its essential needs during this period of crisis.