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Makefield Women’s Association 2021 Beneficiary Awards meeting

by Lori Goldstein

Makefield Women’s Association (MWA) held its annual beneficiary awards meeting via Zoom on April 7th. Five nonprofit organizations and two senior scholarship winners were the recipients of funds raised by MWA’S ongoing events. Eileen Kirsch, chair of the Beneficiary Committee gave each organization’s representative the opportunity to describe how they were able to help the community despite the pandemic, in part thanks to MWA’s generosity.

Trish Rowen, of the Penndel Community Food Pantry staff, explained that normally clients shop for food items of their choice; to comply with social distancing regulations, the Food Pantry had to convert to a system of providing bags of pre-chosen foods. She reported that 60 pounds of food, or four bags per week, were given to each family. The weekly number of families increased from 100 to 115, or about 1800 people per month. Residents of Lower and Central Bucks Counties, and anyone else in Bucks County in need of food were eligible.

Lisa Clayton, the new chief operating officer of FSA Bucks County Homeless Shelter, spoke about its virtual outpatient therapy program as well as case management support for the opioid use disorder program.  “We’re very much recovery-oriented and advocates for harm reduction,” said Clayton. “We want to give people second chances, so we’re looking into opening more forensic programming to help people either to divert from going to prison or re-enter the community.” She also stated that, “we’re looking into a street medicine program so we can serve people where they are.”

Muriel Kelly, director of Housing Services for the Shelter, outlined changes made at the shelter to cope with the pandemic. Half of their clients were housed at the shelter, the other half at a hotel. They typically serve 75 residents a night; that number increased to 100. Costs for case management services, supplies, and food increased so that people staying in the hotel received the same services given to those in the shelter. “Over the past three months, we’ve been able to secure apartments for clients,” Kelly reported, and “First Staffing Employment Agency comes to the shelter once a week to help people connect to jobs directly. The most amazing feat was that no one” contracted Covid at either location.

Frank Burstein, Board chair for Bucks for Kids, reported that their organization is researching the possibility of expanding the timeframe that children may be under its auspices. Currently, children up to 18 years of age are serviced; Bucks for Kids would like to see that limit increased to age 21. “A lot of these kids that are in foster care may not go on to college or technical school,” Burstein pointed out. “They still need some assistance so we’d like to make sure we make as much funding that is available to these kids.”  

Nancy Larkin, a founder and executive director of Bucks for Kids, explained that the threat of the COVID-19 made it more difficult to place children in foster homes. On the positive side, she focused on the new program that makes state colleges and universities tuition-free to children in foster care. “A lot of our kids go to Bucks County [Community] College…so we’re trying to serve the wraparound needs of the aging-out kids, whether they need cars, books, or lab equipment…we’re trying to make it so that the obstacles facing [them] are lessened.”

Another Bucks for Kids project is the installation of a circular bench around the tree in front of the county courthouse. After a child is adopted or becomes independent, he or she will be able to celebrate by getting their picture taken beside the bench. They’ll honor their caseworkers or new family with a plaque on the tree.

Larry Newman, president of the 48-member volunteer Yardley-Makefield Fire Company, reported that they had 595 calls this past year, on par with their annual average of 600. Chief Glenn Chamberlain was present for 579 of those calls. Currently 43 firefighters are fully vaccinated. Four new members joined the company.

“Covid really changed the way we responded,” explained Newman. “We had 12 members who either had the virus themselves or were in contact with somebody they knew who had it, so they had to quarantine for two weeks.” With every call, even if it was a five-minute check on a faulty carbon monoxide alarm, the fireman who entered the house had to be decontaminated, his gear removed, and a pickup truck had to come by to remove the contaminated gear. 

The fire company also responds to residents in full cardiac arrest; two utility trucks with life-saving equipment, one from each station, are dispatched. If the resident had Covid, the fireman who treated him or her had to be decontaminated, as did the driver of the utility truck and the truck itself.

The fire company purchased a new ladder truck for the Yardley station.  “We’re always trying to be on top of the game with the latest in equipment.” The old ladder truck was sold to Quakertown, New Jersey, to offset the cost of the new one. Other expenses included improvement of the Yardley Station heating system and the purchase of two new automatic external defibrillators – to stay in sync with the ambulance squad.

Maryanne Lynch, executive director of A Woman’s Place, reported that domestic violence increased nationally by 10% this year, whereas in Bucks County it increased by 38%. They instituted a rapid rehousing program, moving six families over the past three months into apartments. The pandemic has been a mixed blessing, with virtual therapy making counseling more accessible to clients. 

A Woman’s Place also received funding to upgrade its computer system and improve the shelter with remodeled bathrooms plus extra security and safety measures. Lynch explained that their legal and counseling staff will expand, including another children’s advocate. She’s excited about a new program called “Breathing,” [which helps] “survivors of domestic violence on that next leg of their journey…empowering them to move forward.”

Every year MWA also awards scholarship money to two female graduates of Pennsbury High School. Alexandria (Lexi) Snyder, an honors student, was president of the student council. She has volunteered with the MS Foundation, her local library, and a nursing home. Lexi also played on the lacrosse team. She plans to study nursing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Elizabeth (Liz) Abst-Fraioli learned how to sew to make masks for her family and others at the start of the pandemic, and she cared for her ailing grandmothers. She is a commended student in the 2021 National Merit program. Liz has competed at the state thespian conference tech challenge, which involves all aspects of staging a theatrical production. She will march in two Memorial Day parades as a member of the PHS band. A volunteer for Red Cross, Liz plans to pursue pre-med studies at Temple University.

PHOTO CAP: MWA members at their Bingo fundraiser in 2019.

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