Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Lakota charity broadens reach

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. - Reach Out Lakota, a growing nonprofit social service agency serving West Chester and Liberty townships, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in November with no slowdown in sight.

        Since January, the agency has helped an average of 120 individuals and families a month, more than double the number of clients it saw on a monthly basis two years ago, executive director Lourdes Ward said.

        Mrs. Ward attributes the growth to increased awareness about the agency, personal circumstances, and the prolonged national economic downturn.

        Reach Out Lakota provides area residents in need with food, clothing, personal care items, household goods, holiday gift and food baskets, and school supplies.

        Everything the agency gives out comes from within the community. Lakota schools host food drives, residents donate gently-used and new clothing, and businesses in both townships contribute food and other living essentials.

        When Bigg's on Union Centre Boulevard opened this year, manager Mike Macaluso asked police Chief John Bruce what the store could do to help. The chief suggested daily food donations to Reach Out Lakota, and now the two work as a team to make that happen.

        This time of year, new school supplies are in high demand. The agency's school supplies program this year helped more than 250 students in Lakota schools.

        “What we get from Reach Out Lakota - coats, food, school supplies - is just fantastic,” Union Elementary principal Bob Winterberger said. “We have a really diverse population socio-economically, and for our kids to do well in school, we've got to serve them beyond academics.”

        Since its inception, Reach Out Lakota has outgrown two rental facilities and in June 2000 moved into a 4,000-square-foot building at 6561 Station Road.

        At the new facility, tutoring is now available, budget counseling should be in place by the end of the year and nutrition counseling will follow, Mrs. Ward said.

        Mrs. Ward is Reach Out Lakota's only employee. Volunteers provide the rest of the group's manpower.

        Reach Out Lakota is at 6561 Station Road in Olde West Chester. Mail should be sent to P.O. Box 362, West Chester Township, OH 45071. Hours: Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone: 779-7515.


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