August 16, 2013
Rural Services expanding
Cincy organization becoming nonprofit, has new management team
CINCINNATUS — Five-year-old Miranda Hackett ran over to Norma Rathbone, her new backpack slung over her shoulders and gave her a hug on Thursday, after going back-to-school shopping at the Cortland Chenango Rural Services center on Lower Cincinnatus Road.
The only thing unusual about this shopping spree, was that it didn’t cost Hackett a dime.
“I just love it,” said 10-year volunteer Rathbone after seeing Hackett off. “It makes me feel so good. It’s worth more than any money in the world.”
Miranda’s two brothers, Jacob, 7, and Dakota, 11, joined her at the Rural Services center. All three left with new backpacks laden with school supplies for the year to come.
“It’s very helpful,” said Elizabeth Hackett, Miranda’s mother. “This way, I know they can have all their stuff for school if I can’t get it.”
Run by Sister Kathleen Heffron for the past 25 years, the back-to-school program gives away all manner of school supplies to low-income households.
“The kids come in, get a bag and they go ‘shopping,’” said Heffron. “We’re assisting, not giving them everything.”
The supplies are donated from local churches, individuals or purchased using grant money.
“I like to make the community responsible,” Heffron said. “They’re our kids. We want them to go to school. If everybody does a little, then we get what we need.”
Fifteen-year-old Katrina Druy, a junior at the Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, started volunteering for the Rural Services center a year ago and hasn’t looked back since.
“The people are so friendly, and I just love helping people,” Druy said. “Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”
Originally associated with Catholic Charities, Cincinnatus’ Rural Services is breaking off from their parent institution and seeking incorporation as a nonprofit organization.
The move will allow Rural Services to go after grants that will directly benefit its local efforts, as opposed to seeking funds through Catholic Charities.
“We can’t survive on what we’ve been going on,” Heffron said. “In order to access them (grants), we have to have our own position.”
Rural Services also has recently expanded its offerings to include a family counseling component to the other services it offers. All of the new services will be overseen by a new management team.
An integral part of the local community for the past quarter century, Rural Services is more important than ever, Heffron said.
“This year is unbelievable,” Heffron said. “There are more people that are unemployed or part time. I think people are scared. They’re panicking that they might not get what the kids need.”
“I think it’s very helpful for low income people who need the help,” said Elizabeth Hackett. “I’m very grateful for the help.”
In addition to its back to school program, the Rural Services center also runs a farmers’ market and its “Nearly New” shop, which offers clothing at substantially discounted prices.
Rural Services will be holding its yearly fundraising kickoff from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 28.
Featured will be music presented by The Old Timers Band as well as the stylings of Judy Barniak, pickle ball demonstration and games, and tours of the facilities will be offered as well as free refreshments.
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