The LaGrange Personal Aid Association uses the donations from individuals, organizations and companies to provide necessities, and even a few extras, to deserving individuals and families throughout Troup County.
“People don’t have to be on food stamps to be in need of our help at times,” Paul Stedman, the association’s executive director, said. “What we give is based on a client’s situation and how many people are in the household. Seniors and veterans are who we have special care for.”
The Personal Aid Association was started in 1923 as the LaGrange Welfare Association. The organization had paper files that dated back to the late 1920s to the early 1930s. When Stedman went to a computarized system, the organization donated all the paper records to Troup County Archives.
“During the depression, many people were kept alive from the donations that they received through the association,” Stedman said.
Since its conception, Stedman is the first male of the eight executive directors that the association has had.
The association provides help for their clients in a number of different ways. The Personal Aid program provides support for families in time of extreme emergencies to help cover rent, mortgage and utility bills. The Interfaith Food Closet provides needed supplies for families on a temporary and emergency basis.The Dental Care Fund helps with the cost of emergency dental procedures, with preference given to seniors, working adults and children. The association also runs many other services, with the Empty Stocking Fund and the senior Christmas program being especially important this time of year.
The organization also covers expenses and gives aid to people for things that are not usually thought of.
“One woman just needed a battery for her car. She needed the car to get to work but couldn’t afford it, we got her the battery,” Stedman said. “I think of my job as removing barriers in people’s lives, the battery was the barrier for her.”
The organization relies on the generosity of its neighbors to help keep its shelves full and its clients fed. Kroger, out of Atlanta, gives support in the form of a check to the organization. Two times a week, Publix donates breads and sweets, such as donuts and muffins. The food bank in Columbus sells and delivers the organization food and supplies for 17 cents a pound. Support is also received from local churches and private donations.
Donations from a food drive at Ethel Kight Magnet School was delivered to the association by fourth grader Hayleigh Sebaugh and her mother, Leslie Sebaugh. Stedman happily assisted in the transfer of the canned and packaged food from their van to the agency’s storeroom.
The Rotary Club of LaGrange helped the association this year by again running its Soup Santa drive. The club was able to donate 726 cans of soup and bags of rice and just under $2,000 to the organization.
The association does receive national support, but the majority of its funding comes from the United Way.
“We have to be able to justify how all of the money we are given is spent, as we should,” Stedman said. “You have to do that if you want to be an United Way agency. We would not exist without the funding from United Way.”
Before the donations can be added to the shelves of the food closet they all must be sorted. The sorting of the items take place in the storeroom by volunteers from the different churches. Barbara Hand is the coordinator of the Interfaith Food Closet.
“Last year we had over 650 volunteers who helped us out,” Reanee Cook, the secretary of the association said. “The churches man the food closet.”
“We would like to thank everyone for their donations but would like to remind everyone to give throughout the year, not just on holidays. Our stocks get especially low during mid-summer.” Stedman said. “These donations mean an awful lot to many of our community members, thank you.”
Donations are always needed and appreciated, for further information please contact the LaGrange Personal Aid Association at (706) 882-9291.