Faith In Action closes after 8 years
By Correne Martin
Faith In Action, a non-profit organization that has improved the quality of life for older adults in the area for eight years, will close as of March 15. Funds have been waning in the last few years due to rising financial pressure, the loss of grant availability and declining sources. The organization has always been committed to charging no fees for its services and its Board of Directors has decided not to change that in order to stay in business.
Letters from the Board of Directors announcing the organization’s closure were sent late last week to those receiving care as well as the 62 volunteer care givers who have helped meet people’s custodial care needs for the past eight years.
“With your thoughtfulness and compassion to others, Faith In Action has provided priceless services to those in need in our communities. Since the beginning, Faith In Action ‘Angels on Assignment’ have traveled an amazing 144,000 miles and provided 22,000 hours of kindness. Currently, Faith In Action services are available to 210 care receivers. What can we say except, ‘Well done!’
“We know this decision will greatly affect you and all those in your care. We strongly encourage you to continue with the Faith In Action motto, ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors,’ and reach out to those needing assistance in your neighborhoods, churches and communities.”
Part-time Director Cathy Lund explained the basis for the board’s decision. “This was a very difficult decision that has been coming for some time. We’ve been discussing it at board meetings for three years, but it’s become more and more obvious. The availability of grants, especially to seniors, has declined. Sources have dried up. We’ve had other grant writers trying for us, and [the grants] are just not out there. We have also relied on our fundraisers, but where people used to give us $100, now it’s a $20 gift card. It’s not that people aren’t interested in supporting us; they just can’t. It’s the economy; it’s a sign of the times we’re in.”
Faith In Action started providing services in Crawford County and the surrounding area in July of 2005. A group of local volunteers saw a void in the region to fill the unmet needs of older adults, so those seniors could remain independent as long as possible.
According to Lund, who has been director for almost four years (following the first director Leigh Ann Judge), the group applied for a Robert Wood Johnson grant in 2004 and was denied. Then, in 2005, they rewrote the grant and were successful. That was the beginning of Faith in Action.
Services of the organization have included many, such as transportation to and from appointments, friendly visiting and companionship in the home, telephone reassurance, assistance with shopping and errands, light meal preparation, light housekeeping, respite care, yard work, help with paperwork, checking in during extreme weather, rides to entertainment and social gatherings and more. Senior citizens have mostly benefitted from the services, while some individuals with disabilities have too.
Transportation has been one of the volunteers’ largest commitments. In the early years of Faith In Action, many miles were logged in driving dialysis patients back and forth to places like La Crosse, Dubuque, Madison, Viroqua and Platteville. Lund said the volunteers have helped a great deal of cancer patients get to and from rehab as well. Care givers have taken seniors to socials, on shopping and fishing trips, to hair appointments, on picnics, to visit distant family or friends, etc. Volunteers have received stipends, but those dollars haven’t been much more than a gesture to keep them on board ($15 per trip). According to Lund, Faith In Action’s volunteers have given of their time for more sentimental reasons.
“No matter what they were asking, if we had a volunteer, we did it,” Lund stated. “If someone with a disability wanted help shopping and we could get a handicapped-accessible cab to pick them up and meet us at the store, we would do it. We always tried to make things work.”
Faith In Action was also involved with starting the Second Fifty senior social group through St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Prairie du Chien. They have participated in a variety of fun activities such as hearing speakers, going on boat trips and even making cards for overseas veterans. Lund said she’s sure volunteers will continue to help with Second Fifty despite the cessation of Faith In Action.
“It saddens me,” Lund said of the decision to close the organization. “There have been many great people doing such great things. It saddens me for our ‘Angels on Assignment’ and it saddens me for the care receivers. These people have made such wonderful friendships, and I think a lot of the care givers will continue helping their friends out. It’s the new people who will be looking for these services that will be at a loss.”
Lund noted that individuals seeking similar services after March 15 will likely turn to organizations such as the Aging and Disability Resource Center or Homeward Bound for assistance.
Significant financial and care giving contributors to Faith In Action over the years have included Gundersen Health System, Pete’s Hamburgers, United Way, 3M, St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church of Prairie du Chien, St. Gabriel’s and St. John’s Catholic Churches and WQPC Radio—which helped start the Faith In Action fundraising auction that has strongly supported the organization for the past eight years. In addition, the Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital and its board have provided Faith In Action’s office space and telephone, while the hospital’s employees have given the organization many referrals and served as volunteers and/or board members.
“We are so grateful for everybody who has supported us. They’ve been so loyal, giving whatever they could even when they didn’t have a lot,” Lund added. “From the bottom of our hearts, we’re very thankful. We could not have done what we have without their support.”