Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Charities Extend Hand for Alms Nassau: Cuts Force One to Deny Clients

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Charities Extend Hand for Alms Nassau: Cuts Force One to Deny Clients

Article excerpt

Byline: Allison Schaefers, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A downturn in the economy coupled with a dip in Nassau County tourism has some charities worried about surviving.

While many tourism industry workers are being laid off on Amelia Island, agencies like Barnabas Center, which normally could help them, report client volume has tripled. But donations and government funding are down by two-thirds.

"We're really worried," said Richard Smith, assistant director of Barnabas Center. "We're seeing clients that we've never seen before, particularly those who work in the tourist industry, and we're spending three times the dollars that we typically do at this time of year."

Finances are so tight the agency has had to deny clients, Smith said. On a recent Wednesday, there were no seats in the agency's waiting room as people waited to talk to a services counselor.

Other agencies are reporting similar woes. Sutton Place, a non-profit mental health agency that served more than 600 clients last year in Nassau County, is working with less money this year.

Sutton Place provides crisis counseling in person and by telephone. The organization also has several other support services.

"We have also experienced a decrease in revenues," said interim director Laureen Pagel. "Our doors will stay open, but it's a tough time right now."

Opening a line of credit has allowed the agency to pay off its bills, but if contributions don't pick up, the agency may be in debt again by mid-December, she said.

Even rumors that the non-profit is about to close are hurting revenues, she said.

"People don't want to sign up for treatment if they think we aren't going to stay open," Pagel said. "Everybody is experiencing problems right now. The economy is bad. The Ritz and Plantation had layoffs for the first time ever."

Sutton Place lost revenue from state funding cuts and the Nassau County School System's decision to cancel some service contracts. …

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