Isaac Casto, Executive Director of the Upshur Parish House / My Buckhannon file photo

Upshur Cooperative Parish director estimates a 20 percent growth in neighbors seeking services

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur Cooperative Parish House has seen a rise in people seeking their services.

Executive director of the Upshur Cooperative Parish House Isaac Casto attended the Oct. 11 Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce meeting to discuss their continued growth and various programs.

“In the last year, we had over 2,500 food packages come out; some of that is coming from donations from Mountaineer Food Bank, and some of it we purchased through Mountaineer Food Bank, but most of that is just donations from within the community,” Casto said. “We do some grant funding, but most of our operations – like our Crosslines Helpdesk, pantry, utility assistance – that’s from community donations and community organizations, so we can only do these things because we have so much support from the community.”

The Parish House has also started a new program to help cover the cost of gas to attend medical appointments.

“We’ve come through a strategic planning process where we’ve identified transportation as being a barrier for a lot of our neighbors, especially those who don’t live within city limits, so we wrote a grant to buy gas cards, so if they’re ride-sharing, they can offer to help pay gas,” Casto said. “That program was used so well that we’ve realized that we need to make that part of our normal operating offerings.”

They have also recently started offering dairy vouchers since those items are harder to distribute from their food pantry.

“Grocery costs, across-the-board, are just out of sight, so some of those cold goods like milk, eggs, butter and stuff like that, we can’t necessarily give out in an efficient way through our food packages,” Casto said. “We do have partnerships with Rock Cave IGA, Shop ‘N Save and Wendling’s where they can take this voucher and go get some of those fresh products, and then we foot the bill for that.”

The Parish House covered about $63,000 in Crosslines expenditures last year, and they have seen a 20 percent growth across the board.

“Through the end of August, we’ve done just over $53,000 already this year, so we’re seeing a spike, especially in these last couple of months,” Casto said. “What we think is happening is the rolloff from SNAP benefits.”

“We’re really starting to see that in our community, so I know when I started, if we had 20 people through our doors in a day, that was a really busy day, but last Monday, we had 37, and this should be our slow time of the month,” he continued. “Yesterday (Oct. 10), we had 22, so the demand is growing and growing and growing every month.”

Their strategic planning process also found they needed an increased presence in southern Upshur County.

“It just so happens that Rock Cave United Methodist Church was closing around the same time we were looking for a space in southern Upshur, so that was really miraculous; I can’t think of a better word for it,” Casto said. “We are in the process of that property being transferred to us; everything’s been signed, so we’re just waiting for the deed to come back to us at this point, and there’s a few repairs needing to be done to the building, and then we’re going to have a satellite location out at Rock Cave where we’ll be able to do our pantry, and we’ll be able to do our utility assistance from there as well.”

They also anticipate distributing about 850 Thanksgiving meal baskets this year.

“It’s a busy time of year for us with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up,” Casto said. “Last year, we did just over 800 Thanksgiving meals, and this year, we’re budgeting for around 850. Chances are we’ll need to scramble at the end to get a couple more turkeys because it will probably even go above 850 if things hold the way they are.”

Visit the Parish House’s Facebook page for the most up-to-date information on neighbors’ needs and happenings at the Parish House. There is now a direct link to a Walmart registry where you can purchase items the organization needs to assemble Thanksgiving meal boxes for neighbors in need.

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