ACIM is supported by financial and food donations from local churches, businesses, other organizations, and individuals. It also gets funds from the government and United Way. In 2009, it helped 1516 families (3177 people) with food, and dispersed more than $98,000 to help people pay their bills.
- An elderly man who supports himself and his wife on $600/mo + $16 in food stamps came with a final notice electric bill for about $285 that needed to be paid by next Tuesday or else his power would be shut off. ACIM rules allow Sue to pay up to $200 once a year, but the man did not have the remaining $85. Sue asked the man to return Monday after she'd had a chance to search for additional funds at other agencies.
- The second person, a woman, had asked for help before, and was turned down this time because she didn’t have the correct bill.
- The third was a young man who had been helped before, several years earlier. He had a termination bill for his electricity. Sue gave him a voucher to help with most of this bill, but told him he must take the budgeting class before he could be helped again.
- If a client needs food, an interviewer fills out a slip of paper with the number of people in the family, whether they are children, adults, or seniors, and whether they are to receive ACIM food, federal TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program, available to anyone who is receiving SNAP benefits), or both. In most cases, clients receive both.
- Pantry workers fill boxes with food for the family, without knowing who is getting the food. Clients receive one of each item per family member; they have no choice on what foods they will be given. We noticed a few foods that were in larger packages (macaroni and rice, for example), and these packages were only given to large families.
- After the boxes for a client are filled, one of the pantry workers helps the client load the food into their car.
There were no fresh fruits or vegetables when we were there, and we were told that little fresh produce was available. When ACIM does get produce, it’s usually quite old and needs to be sorted and used quickly. This isn’t practical for the ACIM pantry, so they usually give it to the local soup kitchen or set it outside for anyone to take.
The ACIM pantry has a different feel than some other pantries we’ve visited. The focus of the agency is clearly on helping people handle emergency needs and avoid financial emergencies in the future. It is not meant to help people with ongoing needs – for that, clients are referred to other federal or state assistance programs.
We were impressed by ACIM’s centralization of services. Because all the churches have gone together to support this one organization, individual churches don’t need to handle separate requests for aid, people in need have a single place to go for assistance, and the same rules apply to everyone.