DUNEDIN – Dunedin Presbyterian Church Rev. Victoria ByRoade knows the frustration of failing to help people in desperate need for food, a place to live and other basic needs.
A member of the Dunedin Social Services Committee, ByRoade shared a story with the Dunedin City Commission May 1 about the plight of a family. The committee outlined plans to form a nonprofit corporation called Dunedin Cares that plans to operate a food pantry and other social services in the city.
ByRoade said that several years ago a young family was found living on the steps at her church. She was able to find them food and lodging.
But a warrant had been issued for the father’s arrest, and the mother said she couldn’t take care of the children without the father. Social services picked up the children.
ByRoade said she found the woman walking the streets and took her home. She stayed with ByRoade’s family for about a month.
“And I thought we were getting somewhere with her,” ByRoade said. “There was so much more help she could use if I could only get some partners in that – if I had known where to go and what to do for her. It still haunts me that she didn’t get to keep her children and her husband ended in jail. Hopefully, she’s all right,” ByRoade said.
Other members of the committee told similar stories and said a collaborative effort is needed among churches and other organizations to help people struggling to live. The churches get dozens of calls for help every week.
The Social Services Committee will be working to hire a volunteer executive director and other volunteers, said committee Chair Avery Slyker.
Other priorities include establishing a location for services by visiting different sites and recruiting residents for a board of directors.
“One of the things you need to know about Dunedin Cares is we are not recreating the wheel. We are taking best practices to ensure that all resources, that of Dunedin Cares and partners, will be maximized,” Slyker.
The committee hopes to open its doors in the fall. Plans call for Dunedin Cares to initially open a food pantry with a long-term goal of becoming a neighborhood service center.
The Rev. John Fullerton, past chair of the committee, recalled getting an email on a Sunday night from a woman who wasn’t sure how she could put food on the table.
He said he had a conversation with city officials about such problems and that the city can do better than sending people to Clearwater and other places for help.
“That was actually the impulse that led to the development of the resolution that established the Social Services Committee in the first place,” Fullerton said.
Ultimately, it has led to what the committee is doing that night, “saying for people like that woman you heard from that Sunday night, to be able to go here to our own place and be able to receive care – that seems really important to us,” he said.
Though the committee was seeking approval of its business plan without financial assistance, Mayor Dave Eggers suggested that the commission set aside $2,500 to keep the process going while a nonprofit organization is being established.
Eggers said early in the meeting that the work the committee has done is “exactly what we had in mind.”
Other commissioners agreed and voted in support of Egger’s suggestion for seed money. The committee had first outlined its plans to the commission at its Dec. 5 meeting.
“This is the second time you guys have been back, and I don’t want you to leave empty-handed,” Commissioner Julie Ward-Bujalski said.