Archive for Thursday, November 18, 2010

Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services embarking on most needy time of year

November 18, 2010

Though Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services is branching out into other ways of helping the community, its holiday Adopt-a-Family program is still the bread and butter of the nonprofit organization’s services.

As the group gears up for its annual drive to brighten the Christmas season for families in need, it’s looking for people, organizations and businesses to pitch in, as well as people who need help.

“We really want this community to get to know who we are, the services that we offer,” said Pat Matthews, chairwoman of the BLAS board of directors.

BLAS, which began in 1994, helps people in need who live in the boundaries of the Basehor-Linwood School District, USD 458. During the holiday season, it coordinates an Adopt-a-Family program that provides food, clothing and gifts to families who would otherwise have to go without those things.

“Probably our most visible program is the Adopt-a-Family,” Matthews said. “We’ve been doing that for 15 years.”

The last several years, the program has grown to help about 25 families per year, Matthews said.

Debbie Dearinger, coordinator for BLAS, said families adopted during the holiday program seek help for a variety of reasons: Parents have recently lost their job or had their hours reduced at work, a member of the family has an illness, or children are being raised by single parents or grandparents.

Dearinger collects information from families selected to be adopted, including clothing sizes and gift requests from children. She often has to dig a bit deeper to find out information about the parents, who think only of their children when applying.

“The few I’ve seen, the parents ask for next to nothing for themselves,” Matthews said. “The kids are a little more forthcoming.

BLAS distributes the families’ wish lists to organizations, businesses and people in the community. Some donors may adopt a whole family, and others may adopt just one child, Matthews said, depending on how much they’re able to contribute.

“The community has, in my experience, always stepped forward,” Matthews said.

The school district also organizes a food drive for the program, Dearinger said. This year’s food drive is this week. Dearinger said BLAS aims to give each adopted family about a month’s worth of food.

When the time comes in mid-December to hand over the clothes and gifts to the families — along with some wrapping paper — Dearinger meets them in person to present the gifts. Because of confidentiality requirements, she is the only person with BLAS to meet them or learn their names.

“I always get hugs,” Dearinger said.

Along with contributions for the Adopt-a-Family program, Matthews said BLAS was always looking for more people who might like to give time as a member of the board of directors, bringing new ideas and connections.

“We would like to broaden our community representation,” Matthews said.

BLAS helps families in need throughout the rest of the year, as well, including paying for people’s utility bills and a new pilot program at Linwood Elementary School where children are given backpacks filled with food when they go home for the weekend.

Marilyn McGown, a BLAS board member, said the group looked for any way to provide help to people who need it.

“The whole reason that this was started was because we had people who wanted to help people in the community, and people who needed help,” McGown said, and BLAS exists to connect those two groups.

Any groups or people interested in helping with the Adopt-a-Family program, or any other BLAS program, can call (913) 724-2077 or e-mail BLAS@sunflower.com.

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