Thursday, August 02, 2001

New law boosts role of charities

By Travis James Tritten
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Churches and other faith-based community groups that provide services to needy Ohioans might soon have easier access to state money.

        Gov. Bob Taft signed into law Wednesday a bill creating a state task force, comprised of lawmakers, human service officials and leaders of faith-based groups, to free up funding and recommend ways non-profit organizations and state agencies can partner up.

        Supporters say the 21-member task force could level the playing field for groups that provide services to families in Ohio's poorest areas.

        Although many private, nonprofit groups already receive state funding, spending of that money could be more efficient through a stronger relationship with state agencies, said Lisa Hamler-Podolski. She is executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks, Ohio's largest private food assistance provider.

        About 10 percent of food supplied to the 2,776 Second Harvest member pantries now comes from the state, Ms. Hamler-Podolski said. But 80 percent of those member groups are volunteer and operate on less than $25,000 per year.

        Lack of funding is the most common barrier to faith-based groups starting outreach programs, Ms. Hamler-Podolski said.

        “Demand is at an all-time high and resources are at an all-time low,” she said.

        The task force will look at ways state agencies, such as the Department of Jobs and Family Services, the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, and the Department of Health, can assist faith-based and nonprofit groups who want to help the needy, Ms. Hamler-Podolski said.


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