Amid concerns that the Tioga Outreach Center might not survive into its second year of operation, the Catholic Charities-run ministry has received the necessary governmental and private funding to continue through at least the first half of 2005.
George Ferrari, executive director of Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga, said the proposed Tioga County budget had threatened to greatly reduce allocations from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare-reform program, which provides most of the outreach center’s funding.
The budget was passed in mid-December — pending final state approval — with $59,500 in TANF funding appropriated to the Tioga County Department of Social Services. Ferrari said Tioga Outreach Center would receive “the vast majority” of that allocation, noting that the ministry had an annual budget of $70,000, but “we could operate on a bare minimum of $45,000.”
Tioga Outreach Center is located in the former St. James School at 505 Clark St., Waverly. It opened this past winter and is the only outreach program of its kind in Tioga County, offering a food pantry; clothing; household items; financial assistance; prescreening for food stamps; assistance with transportation for employment; and a job-search service.
The federal TANF program provides funds for states to set up their own welfare programs. Ferrari said final TANF allocations are determined by state and local governments.
Because of the uncertainty over its funding, Ferrari said that he had considered closing the center when its one-year lease with Blessed Trinity Parish runs out at the end of February. Although Catholic Charities is a beneficiary of the diocesan Partners in Faith capital campaign, Ferrari explained that PIF allocations would not have reached Catholic Charities of Tioga/Tompkins in time to address the lease situation.
Despite the expected TANF allocation this year, Ferrari said that additional monies are needed in order for Tioga Outreach Center to survive in the long term. “We need to realize some private foundation support,” he said, adding that some funding of this sort has been arranged, but more is needed.
Ferrari encouraged individuals and organizations to consider making cash donations to the ministry. Tioga Outreach Center also accepts donations of food, clothing, household items, personal-hygiene items and baby supplies.
Despite the funding instability, Ferrari added that Tioga Outreach Center has been a welcome and positive presence in its initial year of operation.
“We are seeing increasing emergency services needs, and have been so fortunate to help many people in the Waverly area,” he remarked, noting that the agency recently provided numerous Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets.
The center’s narrowly averted financial near-crisis, also prompted Ferrari to urge that governmental leaders provide more consistent funding so such valuable programs aren’t threatened.
“This becomes a justice-and-peace issue. How do we, as a society, allocate our resources?” Ferrari asked.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To donate to or volunteer with the Tioga Outreach Center, call 607/565-7580 or toll free at 866/326-1373.